Rfotofolio is pleased to share the work of Jerry Takigawa.

Would you please tell us a little about yourself?

I was born in Chicago, Illinois, largely as a result of the government relocation of Japanese Americans during WW II. My parents were sent from the West Coast to Jerome Arkansas. After their release, they moved to Chicago and returned to Monterey when I was five. As a child, I always enjoyed making things as well as drawing. I became an art major in college and later became a graphic designer professionally while continuing to work as an art photographer.


How did you get started with photography?

From an early age, I enjoyed making art. I was attracted to both art and biology in high school. On entering college, I decided to major in art because, at the time, I believed art was premised on creating reality, while science dealt primarily with observable, existing reality. Of course, I was to learn later that science and art are symbiotic, creative bedfellows. Still, I always felt I made the right choice. As an art major, I worked with a photo-real approach to painting and drawing. Consequently, I studied photography as a means to an end. After receiving a degree in painting, I migrated to photography as my primary art medium.

Would you share with us an image (not your own) that has stayed with you over time.

It’s tricky for me to identify a single image. I tend to like genres of work—the spirit of a series of related images. I suppose I’m in love with ideas, the motivational principle, as much as the final image. One image, Wynn Bullock’s Navigation without Numbers, 1957, was and is a memorable image.

Navigation Without Numbers,Wynn Bullock © Bullock Family Photography, LLC
Navigation Without Numbers,Wynn Bullock © Bullock Family Photography, LLC

Which photographers and other artists’ work do you admire?

With a fine art background, many of my early influences were painters. Neo-figurative artists such as Richard Diebenkorn, Elmer Bischof, and Joan Savo played an influential role. Photographers include Wynn Bulllock, who showed me that photography could be about abstract ideas; Josef Sudek and Paul Caponigro.

What has been your most memorable experience as far as your photographic work?

There’s a quote by Mark Twain that goes: The two most important days in your life are the day you are  born and the day you find out why. My “why” moment came when I learned how my upbringing in a post-internment Japanese American household shaped my point of view. Among other things, I learned that beauty and virtue do not simply befall us but are created through the very act of seeking them. This hybrid perspective blending two cultures influenced how I can work with ideas that are polar opposites and synthesize them into a harmonious whole. I see myself as an artist working in photography. I make art so that I may know myself. To make sense of the spirit of my art making process has yielded a deeper meaning and relevance to the work.

Please tell us about your Landscapes of Presence work.

We live in an information-rich time-poor culture. I see a society that is becoming more disconnected from nature—from natural rhythms, cycles, and seasons. Fascinated with the concept of time, I sought to understand the feeling that time is “speeding up.” This exploration led me to revisit the concept of “no time”—meaning no mind. Eastern philosophies profess that the present moment is the only “reality” and that past and future are an illusion. Being in the present becomes an antidote to the perception of “accelerating” time.  Practicing presence places an emphasis on doing rather than the result—although the result is permeated by the process. To understand presence is simply to be present. Photography is one way I can embrace the moment, suspend time and connect with being. Western art is about the subject, the individual and Newtonian fragmented reality, while Eastern art is about context, the group and wholeness.

My life as an artist has been committed to creating work that combines Eastern and Western attributes giving rise to an unfamiliar wholeness. In the beginning of this series, I was interested in working with familiar and familial objects. I was seeing pattern on pattern as a way of expressing the background as subject—making subject and background inseparable and equal. Later in the series, I began exploring the feelings of wanting to be more connected to my family and our history—to bring old memories into the present and make them new, to give them renewed expression and life in the present. The images incorporate family/friend photographs, both vintage and contemporary, along with artifacts and objects that are meaningful to me today. Portraying the past as soft-focus and combining it with relevant elements of the present, there is a resolution and integration of time and relationships, making the past alive and meaningful in the present. For me, this work is a synthesis of history, the present, and a trust in the future.

What image of yours would you say taught you an important lesson?

I believe every image holds a secret about its maker and it’s incumbent on the artist to reveal that secret. In keeping with my leaning toward concepts and ideas, I’ll propose a series of images (with the working title “50/50”) that had a lesson to teach. For years, I made images that were bisected vertically juxtaposing two independent, left and right “spaces.” I made these images over a number of years with the minimal understanding that they represented “parallel worlds”—found images that captured two contrasting worlds in one exposure. Years later, I recognized the viewpoint that my Japanese American upbringing had forged in me and I came understand this series in a new and revealing light.

© Jerry Takigawa
© Jerry Takigawa

What makes a good day for you creatively speaking?

Whether shooting in the field or in the studio, a good day is a relaxed day. A day with a lightly held agenda coupled with an open receptivity to my feelings. I enjoy acting on my emotional responses— whether to the surrounding environment or to possible elements waiting to become part of a still life.

What equipment have you found essential in the making of your work?

With still life work, I use a tripod. The idea of what comprises essential equipment in making my work is embedded in the Landscapes of Presence proposition. I believe the human capacity for presence, of being in the moment and not in the mind, is what I consider essential. You might call this “human technology”—self-knowledge. By example, I play tennis better when I’m in the moment, not thinking about how I want to hit the ball but to let body memory do the work. I don’t want to think about the racquet, or how to use it. The same applies to photography. The camera is a tool. We don’t need a camera to see. We do need a camera to share what we see. I prefer tools that are high quality, but simple to use and portable. I learn what I need to know so I can get on with the process of being present.

Is there one thing that you wish people would stop doing when it comes to the creative process or the photographic world?

Photography is a technological medium and while I recognize the importance of technology as an essential ingredient of the photographic process, I wish more photographers would embrace the importance of their own creativity and intention. Cameras make photographs—photographers make art. By this assertion, I would say personal growth is the same as artistic growth.

What’s on the horizon?

I’ve begun a series of images that explores my family’s history as I see it relating to my current life’s perspective. Is this point of view well represented among all who were raised in immigrant families living in the United States? There is the possibility that there are some common underlying themes that will emerge through discourse generated from the sharing of this series. This new work does promise to be the most personal series of images I’ve made to date and the preparations for this project have already stirred many deep-seated emotions. I hope it will speak to the elegance and beauty of “both/and” as opposed to “either/or” when it comes to solving human problems—and the importance of sustaining hope and imagination in the face of great challenge.

Thank you Jerry for sharing your work with us.

To learn more about the work of Jerry Takigawa please visit his site at Jerry Takigawa.