Daisuke Yokota

Interviewed by Kohei Oyama

Untitled from the series Vertigo, 2013

In 2013, Daisuke Yokota was elected for the ' Talent Issue' in the Foam Magazine, and followed 
by an exhibition at the Unseen Photo Fair in Amsterdam, he now has a solo show "site / cloud" at the Foam Museum. During this time, he had a solo show at the G/P Gallery, released his first photo book and has been nominated for the Ihei Kimura award, establishing himself both within Japan and abroad.  We asked him about his first exhibition in a museum, his ongoing abstract work and his latest artist book, "VERTIGO".

Firstly, congratulations on your solo show at the Foam Museum. It's been three years since the previous interview (INTERVIEW Vol.01 横田 大輔 / Daisuke YOKOTA, 2011) and the your surrounding environment surround have changed quite a bit.

Well, I remember when I had the previous interview, I'd also had a big change in my environment.  There is both a feeling that it's already three years and that it's only been three years. It's weird.

Please tell us about the exhibition at the Foam Museum.

The exhibition consists of three parts.   The main works are from the artist book "site/cloud", which was published from the art beat publishers, new work which I haven't showed called ' Lichen' and work I made for this show.

"Lichen" is a work I was making from 2012 to 2013. What I did with this work was duplicate an image of a mountain and layer an image of emulsion that melted with the heat development over it using Photoshop. I was aware of the texture like lichen eats normal skin as I titled the work "Lichen". The title "Lichen" refers both to the composite organism like fungus and the skin disease.  Both are phenomenon that erodes the surface of the skin, fungus growing to cover the surface of rocks and an inflammation that hardens the skin like an elephant's.

About the work I made for this show, I scanned  the image that managed to remain on the clear sheet where the emulsion had run off with heat development. In front of the clear sheet, there are dust and dirt that got in during the scanning process, and you see at the back, the remaining of the image that ran off with the emulsion.  

For this exhibition, I am focusing on the relation between the  materiality of the film in heat development, which I have been using in my recent work, and the image that is taken, and the changes that takes place.

Site/Cloud at Foam Museum, ©Shinji Otani

Site/Cloud at Foam Museum, ©Shinji Otani

Site/Cloud at Foam Museum, ©Shinji Otani

Untitled from the series Lichen, 2012

Untitled from the series site/cloud, 2013

Please tell us about the ongoing abstract work.

For this series, I tried not to take pictures, and tried to draw out the physical aspect of the film by layering unused large format films and heat developing them. By scanning the details of the film, like the taints from the boiling water eroding the emulsion or the chemicals that had remained between films during the developing process and crystalized I reproduced a more minute texture that I can't produce with camera.

I guess it is common to think that the documented image is what is real in photography, but by accentuating the materiality of the film, which by nature is more real than the documented image, the image actually becomes more abstract, and I'm interested in this reversed perspective. 

Emphasis on the physicality of the recording medium is considered a 'noise', an element disturbing the recorded image from the photo shoot.  The standard criteria for photography is that the medium needs to be neutral and not disturb the visual information of the image that has to be delivered to viewer. The recent development of digital cameras is symbolic of this.  It quickly and easily captures the scene in front of you, with more detail and clarity.  This can be understood as , whilst minimally maintaining the characteristic features of the camera manufacturers, we see/consider an image that accurately captures our average perspective of the world as 'reality = photography'.  

For this abstract series, I wanted to look at this situation paradoxically by replacing the materiality phenomenon which causes the  abstraction of an image with the documenting quality in a photo shoot and introduce work with the concept of "development = documenting = photography".

Untitled, 2013

Untitled, 2013

Your self-published book 'Back Yard' in 2011 was instantly recognized and this success helped you to expand your activities. A single book can have a huge impact.

Yes. I have sent work to overseas blogs and magazines before but I never got such a big reaction as 'Back Yard'. I truly feel lucky, because it was a bit of a coincidence that I made black and white work, and back then, I never expected to get such reaction  with them. I guess it's connected to the context of Japanese photography that Japanese make self-publishing book with Xerox copy, and people from abroad find value in that. 

I didn't realize this when I was working only in Japan, but there is an established market for publication abroad.Of course, simply because the global market share is by far bigger than the domestic share, it's not surprising. 

Also, with books, there is the possibility to show your work to more people, more quickly than the framed work in an exhibition, although I think books have a shorter life as a subject of a buzz.  

You are making so many works so quickly. I feel that the quality of each work is actually stronger because you make in such a short time. How do you think about the quality/strength of your image, the amount and the speed you make?

I'm really flattered.For me, it is important to make in quantities, and from then, think about how to enhance the strength of the work.

Regarding the number of works, the biggest reason is because I'm using snapshots. I take massive amount of photographs in one time, and since I took them, I would like to use all of them. Of course, this is difficult, so I review the pictures millions of times, as long as I can, to find as much opportunities as I can for the pictures to be used. By doing this, I'm trying not to overlook the various aspects of each photograph. 

Nowadays, I take one or two thousands pictures at one time, tops. The attention you pay to a picture inevitably weakens by taking so many amount, so I don't take pictures to use, but I take for the possibility to use. 
Photo shooting is a process where I tone down my ideals put more accidental elements on the image. Then I make it close to my ideal by editing and after that, I put accidental elements by developing. I think my work achieves its strength by the repeating these process. 

Does digital devise such as digital camera, Photoshop or Internet affect your thought process in the making?

The influence is big. I've used film camera and worked with developing paper in a darkroom since I started photography, but it didn't work out very well and I nearly gave  up photography. At that time, I couldn't understand what was wrong.  After a while, I thought, what the heck and bought a digital camera that I decided I would never use. And then, I took so many things with the camera for one or two years, and during that time, I started to use Photoshop as well.

The simpleness of the digital camera allowed me to shoot an amount, at a speed, without having my ideals and preconception to cut in. I also learnt that I can involve myself to various levels of image after shooting by using Photoshop. Being able to save an image a number of times or making different things from an original is quite natural to me as I spent a lot of time playing computer game and role-playing game when I was little. 

Also, the Internet is very important for me. I remember I bought my laptop when I was 22 or 23 yeas old. When I came back to home from work every night, I downloaded music and while I was waiting for it to complete, I was searching various information. I think the Internet is a kind of device which makes people amenable to desire. When you know one thing, you try to know other things, and it continues.  Change the genre and it never stops. Perhaps from this experience, I'm now less conscious about the difference in genre or medium. 

Creators nowadays have so many means to present their work. For example, various printing techniques such as ink-jet printing, copying, offset printing, silkscreen, and various media such as website, book, magazine and exhibition. You are also using those things, is there any thoughts about the combination of image, techniques and media?

I think about the combination after I start the work rather than before. There are so many tools for photography such as camera, film, and nowadays, it's common to use printer or scanner and so I believe I need to work with them. I feel like I exist more like a selecting person.  'I' decide what to use and how to combine them, rather than 'I' make the image.. Also, I think it's important to intentionally bring out  the imbalance and noise of each tool. From then, it becomes  important to consider why I chose them.

Untitled from the series Vertigo, 2013

Untitled from the series Vertigo, 2013

Untitled from the series Vertigo, 2013

Untitled from the series Vertigo, 2013

Your new photo book is going to be released as the first publication for the publishing label 'Newfave'. Could you tell us about it?

The title of the book is "VERTIGO", and it consists of, in a sequence, the physical state and time sensation of being in a vertigo.  With the work, I wondered if I could give the viewer a foreign impression of the situation of being off balance from the images that are intermittently organized in the book.

The loss of time sensation is of the same importance as the physical sense. For example, I often lose track of the time or date because I'm not living in stable temporal axis.  My day and night is reversed or the time difference between countries where I often visit for my projects recently. In addition, I often remember incidents in a dream or my past experience as if it happened yesterday. We share the same amount of time, 24 hours a day and 365 days a year, but each of us should have an independent temporal awareness. And then, each temporal awareness is intertwined in a complex way and the world goes around. I'm interested in the world where our individual time sensation is reflected. 

When I think back, we three, including Goshi Uhira spent so many times for meetings and production of your book since 2012. We all had the feeling that we wanted to value the process of making a book as we discussed about the design, the type of paper we use, the type of printing, the editing of your photograph. And then, you still have been making your self-publishing. 
What do you think about the differences between making a book privately and in a team?

About my self-publishing, I'm considering it not as a photo book, but as my work itself. Of course, it allows me more freedom in deciding for various things, but on the other hand, there are financial limitation and limits in the range of expression because there are only elements that I have. Compare with that, production that involves others have difficulty with judgment or change in details, but I can achieve higher quality than self-publishing. I need more objectivity for the editing process so I could raise the quality of the book as a product. And then, the communication we had in the process was really provocative for me as there were many ideas that I would have never thought of on my own.
It took longer time than I expected to complete the photo book, but I think it was good time to take a closer look at the works for me. Also, I think we constructed a good relationship among the three of us, as we developed ideas without leaning to one person's opinion.

Please tell us about your future activities.

Now, I have an solo exhibition at the Foam Museum in Amsterdam from  16th May to 6th July.  I'm releasing a photo book called "LINGER" from Akina Books in London in May, and going to release "VERTIGO" from Newfave in July. After that, I will release an artist book "Abstracts" which was produced by AM Projects and will be published from Adad books in London at the Book Market of Unseen Photo Fair in Amsterdam in September, and in November, I will have a solo show at G/P Gallery in Japan.

Translation by Chiaki Yamane

Daisuke Yokota

Born in Saitama,Japan,1983

2008 New cosmos of photography (31th competition) ; Honorable mention
2010 1_Wall Exhibition(2th competition); Grand Prix
2013 Outset | Unseen Exhibition Fund

MP1『Expanded Retina』/ G/P gallery,Tokyo
TOKYO FRONTLINE, 3331 Arts Chiyoda, Tokyo
Unseen photofair, Unseen collection(G/P gallery) / AM Projects(East Wing) Amsterdam
Solo Exhibition "Site/Cloud" G/P gallery Tokyo 
AM projects "All Colours Will Agree in the Dark" at Noorder Licht  Amsterdam 
Actual Colour May Vary / AM Projects "Artist as Curator Projection Programme" Belfast Photo Festibal Ireland
Unseen photofair, from "G/P gallery", Amsterdam
Paris photo, from "East Wing", Paris
「The Outset | Unseen Exhibition Fund」Solo Exhibition "Site/Cloud"  at Foam Museum, Amsterdam

Back Yard (Self Published)
Site (Self Published)   
Nocturnes "AM projects" (Dienacht Publishing)
site/cloud (artbeat publishers)
Untitled (Goliga Books)
Linger (Akina Books)