I have always felt that the world is an erotic place. As I walk through it my senses are reaching out and I am drawn to all sorts of things. For me cities are enormous bodies of people’s desires and as I search for my own desires within them I slice into time, seeing the moment. That’s the kind of camera work I like.
This is the entrance to my office. My workspace is downstairs. I can’t possibly show you around. It’s really messy in here. I am a little embarrassed. This room is even messier. I am so embarrassed that it is so disorganised in here. I don’t use a large camera. Instead I always use a compact camera. I mainly photograph in the street and this doesn’t make people feel uncomfortable. It’s easy to shoot with.
I see Shinjuku as a stadium of people’s desires. I like the intensity of the city’s character when its overcrowded and jumbled thoughts and desires are whirling. I can’t photograph anything without a city. I am definitely addicted to cities.
Be careful with the stairs. I think of this place as my room in Shinjuku. I told the bar owner below that I’m going to live until 80 so keep this place as it is. Japanese people often talk of home as a place where you are born, grow up and everyone is there but I don’t have such a home. I’ve been moving a lot since I was a child. I am creating my own home by connecting pieces of images from my imagination and things I saw as a child. That’s how I feel about my work.
Oh…it’s like this in here… In this room I store the work that came back from exhibitions and piles of prints I made for making books. I don’t want this to be misunderstood but I only have a small sense of my prints as works of art, they are just one element of my printing process. I have been doing numerous solo exhibitions both in Japan and abroad but my true interest in photography is producing books. There is no definite rule on where you should start or finish. In a way it could start here and end with this page, so I don’t get overly stressed about the overall structure of the book. There are exceptions, of course. I am not even sure if these pages should have been like this but it just happened this way.
I basically walk quite fast. I like taking snapshots in the movement of both myself and the outside world. When I walk around I probably look like a street dog because after walking around the main roads I keep on wandering around the back streets. I took this photograph when I went to Misawa in Amori to work for a camera magazine. I stepped out of the hotel in the morning to go out for a photo shoot; the dog was just there so I immediately took several pictures. I realised later in the darkroom when I printed the image how amazing the dog’s expression is. Snapshots are all about an instant moment and this dog instantly became a part of me. I’m actually honoured to be compared with that dog.
Skip it. Skip it. Make that one black and white. The reason why I think black and white photography is erotic is completely due to my body’s instinctive response. Monochrome has stronger elements of abstraction or symbolism. There’s perhaps an element of taking you to another place. Black and white has that physical effect on me, that’s just the way I respond to things. Colour is something more vulgar. Because the colour is making the decisions, it feels vulgar and that seems to me to be the difference. Skip that one. Skip that one.
When I made Farewell Photography I felt like the world was fragmenting. At the time, especially as I was very young, I was unhappy with a lot of things and many things seemed wrong. I was constantly irritated thinking, what is photography, or, why am I taking photographs? There were a lot of negatives my friends threw away on the darkroom floor. I started to pick up all those negatives, thinking, why are these on the floor let’s use them too. I said to myself, these are also images of the world. That simple thought was the starting point. Once I thought that way anything was possible.
I think that the most important thing that photography can do is to relate both the photographer and the viewer’s memories. At first sight a photograph looks straight forward as it slices of a scene or a moment in time, but the images that photography captures are actually ambiguous and it’s because of this ambiguity that I like photography.
My friends or critics are often surprise and ask me why I never got bored walking around for over 50 years, but I never get bored. I often hear it said that people, even photographers, do their best work when they are in their 20s and 30s. I’m 73 now but I could never see the city with an old man’s eyes, or as if I understood everything. Everyone has desires. The quality and the volume of those desires changes with age but that desire is always serious and real. Photography is an expression of those desires, so that way of thinking or speaking is nonsense to me, completely meaningless. That’s how it is.