Chika Okazumi, a Japanese photographer, is one of those rare finds where she inhibits a super perky, fun personality coupled with a powerhouse of talent. Her photography is high in demand, as it should be, as her photographs say more than a thousand words! I sat down with Chika to discuss Tokyo fashion, Los Angeles weather, and how in the world did she become such a fabulous photographer holding an Art History degree???? Scroll below for the full interview.
How are you enjoying your time in the States compared to overseas?
Chika: L.A. has the perfect weather! There is a lot of sunshine. I think that is the huge advantage of living in L.A. I often go to the beach at sunset. I really love to photograph at dusk. The sunset’s amber tone is amazing. It makes me feel nostalgic.
What is it about photographing Tokyo fashion that interests you?
Chika: Tokyo fashion is now very chaotic, so it’s hard to describe. But if I talk about picking my favorite style, I prefer fashion that is modest and simple but at the same time avant garde. I love fashion that is super kawaii , but also has progressive taste. Comfort and eco friendliness are qualities that have become important in recent years. My favorite Tokyo designers are Potto and RERE, Theater Products, Takayuki Suzuki, LIMI FEU, and Comme des Garcon. When I photograph these kinds of Tokyo style, I try to be sensitive to the concepts of their design.
Explain the process behind a typical shot.
Chika: This is a shot of Ann Watanabe ( actress, model ). It was for a food magazine. The theme was “wagashi” ( Japanese cake ). I decided the visual concept should be “plain, white, clean, with sensitive decoration” which I found to represent wagashi. I wanted her pose, expression, dress and styling to reflect this concept. Finally I added visual effects to it.
What is typically in your camera bag?
Chika: Canon 5D mark 2, Nikon D200, Mamiya RZ, Deardorff 8×10 and 4×5 with Kodak commercial ektar lens.
Did you go to school for photography?
Chika: No. My major was Art History ( Japanese and Western art ) in college in Tokyo and Paris. When i was a college student I wanted to be an art curator, but somehow, I started to want to express myself. As I had been taking photos since I was in high school, and photography was a familiar art to me. When I was in Paris I was deeply impressed by works of Serge Lutens, SATOSHI SAIKUSA and Eric Traore, then started to think about being a professional fashion photographer.
But I did not know how to become one, so I bought my favorite Japanese magazine called High Fashion by Bunka Public Bureau and found their phone number and called them. Then I asked how to be a photographer. I was so lucky they hired me as a studio assistant for their publishing company. That is how I began my career. And I was a 1st assistant for many different fashion photographers in Tokyo and NY. Then I became an independent photographer in 2003.
Have any favorite anime or Asian films?
Chika: A lot. The first anime films to influence me were Galaxy express 999, and then, Urusei Yatsura ,Patalliro, and Akira. After 2000 Metropolis, Ayakashi bakeneko and Papurika are my favorites. I am a big fan of the original manga of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind by Hayao Miyazaki. My favorite manga artists are Osamu Tezuka, Noki Urasawa.
Tell us about the music clip composed by Mika Kobayashi!
Chika: She is a Japanese indie singer song writer. and I love her music. When i’m listening to her music, it reminds me of some images of Japanese girl’s manga, which I used to love. The Japanese girl’s world has 2 sides. One is extremely kawaii, but the other is dark and goth. I have loved that paradoxical harmony since I was a teenager, and I believe that many Japanese girls share that kind of double structure feeling. So I tried to express these feelings and ideas in the music clip. [Also,] Jena Zanelli added the wonderful animation in the beginning of this clip.
Whats up next for you in 2011?
Chika: As I just made my first music clip, I would love to try some other video works in Japan and in LA. Also, I have started to get to know stimulating people. [Lastly], I am planning some portrait projects and working on several fashion projects.
What is (or was) your greatest challenge as a photographer?
Chika: My greatest challenge is to be a successful Japanese photographer in L.A. L.A. is the entertainment capital of the world. That is why I came here. L.A. has many opportunities for celebrity and fashion photography.
Would you like to give any final words of advice to photographers who want to improve their photography?
Chika: As love and trust can be the most important thing for human activities, those 2 things are also important for photography too.
Sense the good qualities of the subject and try to capture them as you see them in your mind’s eye. Because life as a freelance photographer is sometimes difficult, you have to keep believing in yourself all the time and follow your heart. Finally, if your creativity can contribute to society or culture, I think that is the best thing above all.
What to keep tabs on Chika’s photography? Follow her cookie crumb trail below: