Ariko Inaoka is a Japanese photographer. She was born in Kyoto and studied at Parsons The New School for Design. She has been documenting two Icelandic identical twins girls, Erna and Hrefna, since they were nine years old in 2009. This yearly project of Ariko’s will be ongoing untill they are sixteen years old. Her intentions are to capture the very precious period of their growth from child to teenager, physically as well as psychologically. I had the extreme honor of catching up with Ariko and chatting about creative processes, locales, and photography in general. Read below for the full interview…
I’ve featured countless graduates from Parsons the New School for Design but you might be the first one who emerged as a photographer. Could you tell us a bit about their photography department, and if formal education benefitted you?
Ariko: I graduated 1999 from Parsons. My graduating class was about 35 students. It was small. It was getting bigger when I was leaving. There were a few really good photographer when I was at Persons including Ryan Mcginley even though he was not in photo department he was always around. Sharing my works with good photographers and also having inspiring artists friends and living NY was great.
What was the transition like at 17 years old to move to California? Was the culture shock overwhelming?
Ariko: I wanted to leave japan since I was thirteen. My mom used to live in paris in the 60’s which inspired me to live in different culture. I went to high school in San Diego and there were many grateful deadheads. Those hippies were very nice and I enjoyed hanging out with them.
What is the main difference between commercial photography and fashion photography. Does each area require a certain mindset or ‘eye’ to be successful in each genre?
Ariko: Fashion photography is commercial photography to me. Anything I shoot for clients are commercial photography . I did that for long time and enjoyed very much. Commercial work is collaboration with my clients . They chose me to shoot their products and people with my ‘eyes’.
And why particularly did you move away from those areas and settle upon personal photography?
Ariko: I still shoot commercial work sometimes if I am very interested in. I moved my base from Tokyo to kyoto last year because I needed to involved with my family business , which is the oldest SOBA noodle restaurant in Kyoto (http://www.honke-owariya.co.jp/) being run in my family for 550 years. I have started to get involved from three years ago but last year I moved my base to kyoto. This is the biggest reason why I don’t shoot commercial as much as before . Also I still only shoot with film so naturally I started to focus on my personal photography.
How important is it for you to travel pertaining to your work? Iceland, Japan, New York, Guatemala, just to name a few…does this provide inspiration?
Ariko: I love traveling with my husband, is a photographer and writer (www.seanlotman.com). We often travel for Japanese traveling magazine TRANSIT. For my photography Iceland and India are inspiration place.
What are some of your favorite Asian films and have any inspired you to be a photographer?
Ariko: I used to like Wong Kar Wai.Please enter the url to a YouTube video.
Most people know you for your twin project that is really interesting. You said you wanted to photograph Erna and Hrefna over the course of 7 years. Capturing their physical sense is apparent but how will you go about photographing their psychological growth?
Ariko: They are still very very close in their relationship. If it starts to change I think it will be appear with my photography.
With photography being very personal to you, yet at the same time photography is very influential, how do you want people to perceive your work? Do you leave it up to their own interpretation or would you rather they gather the spiritual side of it as well?
Ariko: Yes, I leave it up to their own interpretation.
What is the status of your India project. Do you have a completion date in mind?
Lastly, any advice you could offer up to an amateur photographer out there?
Ariko: If you know yourself more you will be better with what you do.
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