Hanafuda Shouzoku 3
© Shinya Masuda

Today we are pleased to share our interview with Shinya Masuda

Would you please tell us a little about yourself?  

After graduating from high school, I studied French cuisine to take over my family business and became a chef. I worked for 12 years, engrossed in cooking. Everyday, I tried to come up with new ways of presenting the foods, and I created many “works” on the plates. 

One day, I was interviewed for the magazine, and saw the work of a photographer; it captivated me and opened my eyes to photography. 

Next day, I went to buy my own camera right away, and as I started to take pictures of nature and people around me, I got deeper into photography.

To study photography more seriously, at the age of 38, I closed my restaurant and enrolled in art school.

After graduating, I worked at a design company as a commercial photographer. But gradually, my passion toward making my own personal work got stronger; finally, I decided to be a fine art photographer, and continued working since.

Where did you get your photographic training?

When I was going through a dilemma, wanting to make my personal work instead of commercial work, I met Mr. Hashi, the Action Still Life photographer in New York. 

He works on both commercial work and his own work, and he had his photography studio in Tokyo too.  So I studied under him for a year and half. 

While I was there, I learned the importance of having truly a unique idea, and how much fun it is to be thinking and creating without any restrictions.

Who has had an influence on your creative process?

It would be my grandmother. 

When I was little, grandmother was making art works such as traditional Japanese painting and dyed clothing. It was great fun for me to watch the delicate process of how they were made. 

Grandmother gave me the pieces of cloth and paper, and I often had chances to put colors on them or make small sculptures out of them; perhaps those were good exercises for me to give shapes to what I had in my mind. 

Why do you create?

To find beauty in the impermanence of decaying matter is one of Japan’s unique aesthetic senses; by reflecting such sensibility to my work, I would like people from various cultures to know more about Japan. 

Hanafuda Shouzoku 2
© Shinya Masuda
Hanafuda Shouzoku 58
© Shinya Masuda

What draws you to still lifes?

My grandmother was collecting antique art (particularly traditional Japanese painting and tea ceremony utensils). 

As a child, I was fascinated by the displays of folding screens and hanging scrolls that were changed every season;  they were filled with elaborate images of seasonal fruits and animals depicted with lively details, and I felt like I was being drawn into the pictures. Perhaps, this experience influenced my attraction to still life work. 

Fruit (1910),Kokei Kobayashi (1883–1957)

Please tell us about an image (not your own) that has stayed with you over time.

The work of Kokei Kobayashi. He was a Japanese Nihongapainter.

Hanafuda Shouzoku 4
© Shinya Masuda

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

This is memorable work for me since this is the first piece that cleared my doubt about the composite photograph. 

All the decayed subjects in the series are foods that my mother had sent from my hometown; there were a lot of them and unfortunately, I could not finish them before they rot. 

One day, I decided to turn my mother’s excessive love, and my feeling of sorry and gratitude toward the rotting foods, into the work. 

Even though they no longer have value as foods, a person’s feeling is still there. Before that feeling fade away and disappear, I wanted to let all those decayed foods to wear burial clothes for a proper send off. 

I chose Hanafuda, a traditional Japanese card game, as a motif to decorate the decayed subjects since it was the game I often played with my mother and grandmother. 

This was the first time I tried making the composite photograph; and unexpectedly, the unique colors of Hanafuda and the colors of rotten foods matched perfectly. 

By using the composite technique, I can combine the odd motifs, and I believe it can create the image that invite the viewers into the world they have never seen before. 

When people encounter the work that they have never experienced before, they would get confused for a moment, but at the same time, a part of their stiffened mind will be open to the new territory. 

Through the making of this work, I realized that photography can be much freer. 

What makes a good day for you creatively speaking?  

Many of my ideas come up in the bathtub. I draw every idea that pops up in my head on damply pages of notebook, and next day, I shoot the images based on those sketches. 

However, it never goes as I planned in the rough drafts; there will always be some troubles, and finally, the work comes out as something that I never expected. And, that is the most exciting part. This is the good day for me. 

Hanafuda Shouzoku 59
© Shinya Masuda

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

After all, it would be paper and pencil. These are necessary items for the source of ideas. 

Whats hangs on your walls? 

The small version of the  Hanafuda Shouzoku series, all fifty eight of them. 

Whats on the horizon? 

Lately, I saw the paintings of Rouault and I got interested in the outlines. I’m planning to bring in interesting outlines in my works. 

Thank you Shinya Masuda for sharing your work with us.

To learn more about the work of Shinya Masuda please visit his site at Shinya Masuda.

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