Tomohide IKEYA is a Japanese artist whose fame is growing as time goes by. His work has been exhibited in France, Germany, New York, as well as across Japan. The infinite number of air bubbles visible on BREATH, one of his latest series, brings life to the unseen-before, to our consciousness. We are breathing, we are living while the Earth rotates, as sun and moon impel each other. But with MOON, photographer Tomohide IKEYA shoes how eager men are to change Mother Nature by altering the night. Find out why !
How did you start getting interested in photography ?
Tomohide Ikeya : I was a chef in a restaurant before I became a photographer. One day, a friend of mine invited me to scuba dive. It was such an amazing experience ! This moment shared with my friends will ever remain engraved in my memory. On that day, I tried to take photographies, under water I mean. I found it interesting and the work at the restaurant was painful. My friend told me then : « Leave the kitchen and get yourself into photography, you might become successful throughout the world ». This is how I started, by mere chance (laughs). After this first try, I attended courses in a school. And here I am today !
Do you go to seminars or attend professional trainings to perfect your skills ?
Tomohide Ikeya : I do and don’t (laughs). Actually, I am the one who holds seminars now. I also provide training courses in several art schools. Being a professor helps me develop my skills.
How would you describe your style ?
Tomohide Ikeya : Hum… I always try to plan my photoshoots beforehand, but I also leave an important room to chance in the creation process. Planning everything meticulously in advance through sketches, and other supports, is an easy way of crafting art. Leaving chance a room, as long as it is a measured, produces more interesting outcomes. Leaving too much to chance in the other hand would be chaotic. You have to offer an idea, a vision, a topic. My work is therefore a balance between these two vectors : planning and leaving in these plans a to chance. That is my artistic approach. As for the concept goes, I try to highlight the link between nature and men. This is how I would describe my style.
What piece of work are you most proud of ?
Tomohide Ikeya : As for BREATHE, I would choose this printed photography.
As for MOON, I would choose this printed photography. The hair produces an interesting texture. The result is less polished than the previous picture.
As for WAVE, I would choose this printed photo. This work is actually my favorite. The texture makes it more lively than the others. The broken glass gives the impression of frosting. It happened by accident though. I brought it on an airplane aiming to Germany. I had to host an exhibition in Munich at the time. It broke in the plane due to the air pressure, I think. I couldn’t sell it then, but I was happy with the outcome. I found it beautiful (smiles). It’s fantastic the way things pan out by chance. I would like to solidify the broken glass so it won’t fall down. I really love the texture, this icing texture.
What has been the most challenging picture to shoot ?
Tomohide Ikeya : They all have been hard to craft (laughs) ! As for the collection of MOON photographies, the most difficult part wasn’t to shoot the photography itself, it’s rather the models who have encountered difficulties. The model on the picture I mentioned earlier had to stay in the exact same position, very unconfortable position, for hours long. While she had to remain motionless, a stylist was in charge of fixing a stack of hair on her body. As for the collection of WAVE photographies, the models suffered quite a lot too. On the picture I shown you before, the model had to posed before my lens while she was thrown sand on the face.
Wah ! It must be hard to pose for you.
Tomohide Ikeya : It is, apparently (laughs).
What type of cameras do you shoot with ?
Tomohide Ikeya : I only use Phase One cameras. I’m endorsed by the company.
If you had to choose one lens which one would it be and why ?
Tomohide Ikeya : I would choose 55mn f1.8 from Phase One. I almost only use this lens !
What is your favourite photography accessory, other than your camera ?
Tomohide Ikeya : All my lighting kit from Broncolor which I’m endorsed by.
What strikes the most about your photographies is the importance of the movement, and as it happens the movement of the human body. What makes you so much interested in it ?
Tomohide Ikeya : Hum… Clothes prevent chance from playing its role. We are more vulnerable naked, which I find very interesting, more touching and moving. The richness of the body, their differencies, is a vector that I cherish a lot. Man body-type differs from woman body-type, and woman-body shapes differ greatly from one another. When we wear clothes, we can’t fully realize that all these differencies exist. The human body is of incomparable richness !
It appears to me that your work is somewhat similar to baroque paintings. Just like them, there are lively figures and forms through the contortion of the body, there are strong emotions and face expressions. Your work shows sensuality and grandeur. Is baroque movement a source of influence of yours ?
Tomohide Ikeya : Oh, thank you ! You are certainly right because I enjoy baroque paintings very much for the reasons you just mentioned. Being precisely fascinated by these points, it must affect my work somehow. I like baroque art movement in general : not only the paintings, but also the movies and the music from this Era. I am deeply influenced by art in a general aspect. And I just realized, listening to you, that Baroque art is a great source of influence of mine. Definitely ! Thanks.
Water has been your choice to enhance the movement of the human body. What do you like best about this medium ? What are the pros and cons of shooting under-water, if any ?
Tomohide Ikeya : I have liked water for as long as I can remember ! I have always worked under water. Water made me want to get myself into photography. Water is special to my heart. Being able to perceive the movement through a static medium is something I like very much. Water’s absolute advantage is to be able to enhance the movement. What was really difficult when I started was to shoot with all of the diving gear on the back. The model wouldn’t wear anything, and therefore we were never in synch when getting into the water. When you dive, your body slowly flows up to the surface. Having very different body weights due to the diving gear I would wear, we would always rise to the surface at different paces. I don’t wear any diving gear now for that reason. I wear the less clothes as I can in order to be at the same level for as long as we can. You have to take a deep breathe at the same time the model does, you have to dive at the same moment too, you have to be in complete harmony time-wise, and take the photo at the right time. I guess timing is the most challenging part of shooting under water.
It’s very strange that this under-water collection is named « BREATHE ».
Tomohide Ikeya : I wanted to highlight the breathing. I wanted to highlight life. Thanks to water, what is usually invisible to the eye becomes visible.
I see. How about « MOON » ?
Tomohide Ikeya : The relationship between the Sun and the Moon sets rhythm to our daily lives. The Sun suggests the idea of the daytime whereas the Moon connotes the idea of the night time. During the night, we are supposed to sleep, we are supposed to rest but we unconsciously do our hardest to counteract this, to counteract nature. We rather go outside to have fun, we rather turn on the TV and other electronic devices than what nature is expecting us to do. The MOON collection is only composed of female models because women are closer to the cycle of life, to Mother nature, than men. They experience menstrual cycles for example. So, MOON is about the tendancy of men to counteract nature and, as for me, the quintessence of this idea lies behind our willingness to turn the night time into daytime. It must be somewhat difficult to understand but here is my vision. As for the hair goes, it is quite symbolic. Hair contains DNA which carries genetic informations about us, very personal informations. It’s an important part of the body but we don’t take care of it. We dye it, we cut it, we change it as soon as we want. Hair also symbolizes sensuality and erotic charm of women.
How do you select your models ?
Tomohide Ikeya : As for WAVE, anybody could have fit the job. I just worked with a person who was available at the time. It happened more or less by accident. As for BREATHE, I needed people who were able to understand the concept, to understand my vision. People who were fully aware of the difficulties and harship lying behind the achieving of the concept. I met all the models during exhibitions. In general, I need to work with people I get along with. On a physical aspect, I usually work with people who tend to be extra-thin.
Whether under WATER or on the MOON, we aren’t in control of our bodies. Do you want to convey weakness of humans, the lost of control or our resistence against Mother nature ?
Tomohide Ikeya : Actually, both. It depends on my mood. Showing resistence, the strength of the body or showing its weakness depends on what I want to enhance through the photography. I love both ideas.
Can you briefly describe for the readers your photographic workflow after a shoot ? Is computer-editing an important part of your work ?
Tomohide Ikeya : I don’t really edit my work. I never change the lighting composition nor the colors. I only take off dust such as disturbing hair, ungraceful pimple and dirt that can be found under water.
What are you currently working on and what are your upcoming plans ?
Tomohide Ikeya : None of my collections will ever be finished. I am constantly working the series. Creating a collection from scratch is very, very, tiring and demanding. I never finish a collection of photographies and start a new one. If I don’t feel inspired by one, I put it aside for a while and work on a collection that makes me feel creative, that inspires me. I always go back and forth. These collections will then never be done. It’s an on-going process. Even after it was presented in a gallery exhibition.
There lies again the idea of movemen. Thank you for the interview.