Tuesday, April 21, 2009

An Interview With Photographer Fumi Nagasaka

A shot of Cole Mohr that Fumi did for Dazed Japan.

Fumi Nagaska leads an enviable life. Working as a freelance photographer for magazines like Dazed and Confused, she gets to travel the world to shoot fashion editorials, in addition to working on personal projects about subjects that she loves and cares about---mainly her friends, and people who captivate her. I first met Fumi Nagasaka last year, through mutual friends. She had shot my dear friend Jonas for Dazed Japan, and it seemed like all of her best friends were male models. Even though Fumi subject matter usually revolves around fashion, her shots are more compelling than traditional fashion photography because they all are very personal and intimate, rather than looking like a staged shoot. Her subjects may be pretty, but rather than showing the most glamourous side of them, she focuses on their humanity. Fumi, who is based in Williamsburg, but currently at work for the next few months in Tokyo, was kind enough to answer some of my questions on her work via email.

I always thought that I had a really amazing job, but then I met you and realized that you had an even better one. You get paid to travel the world and take pictures of beautiful men and amazing bands. I would love to switch with you for a day! How did you end up doing what you're doing?
It just happened by accident. I'd never expected my job will be like this at all. But I don't always get paid for travelling, I think only 3~4 times so far. I spend money from my pocket for travelling and taking pictures. I am not rich and don't get any parental support of course, so it is very hard to continue travelling to be honest, but I have to travel to get inspirations for my photography. I don't really go out and eat out and shop in New York, because I know if I save money I will be able to travel again.

A documentary shot from Fumi's series Children of Smaland, all shot in Smaland, Sweden. I love this picture because it features a boy wearing a jersey belonging to my husband's favorite football team, Djurgarden.

I notice that you did a whole series of shots based on the movie Christiane F., one of my favorite films. I'm so impressed by the results, and the fact that you gained access to the original apartment of one of the main characters. How far will you go to get a good shot? What has been the most difficult project you've worked on thus far?
The project of Christiane F was such a great experience in my life. I am obsessed with the movie and did so much research about the real story. I read a book on the true story which the movie was based on and asked my friends who were born and grew up in Berlin to get information. People who helped my shoot were my friends and loved the movie, so it was very easy to make everyone understand what I wanted to do. Everyone watched the movie when they were in school back in the days in Berlin. When I had an exhibition of this project in Berlin, everyone knew it was about Christiane F even though we didn't really mention the movie. It was really great.

I have to say that all my projects are very different, so I don't know which one I can choose as the most difficult shoot, but I can say every project I've done was very difficult. When I shoot documentary projects, I always want to make them very special, so I spend money and time. Nobody can make real documentary images for a week.

A documentary shot from Fumi's Banhoff Zoo series, which was based on the film, Christiane F., and all shot at actual locations from the book and the film.

Most of your models seem incredibly at ease in front of your camera. Is it because many of them are your friends? What do you find is the best way to capture your subjects?
For my documentary projects, I always shoot my friends because I'm always interested in them. I think how much we trust each other is very important. I want them to relax and show me the real side of them. I don't wanna make images look like I just casted. I always need reality.

A shot from Fumi's documentary series Boys Keep Swinging, featuring Christoffer Fagerli at the 66S home away from home, Happy Ending.

I know that you're also really passionate about music, and DJ on the side. In fact, it seems like your career is at a place where art, music, film, and fashion all collide. Do you ever feel like your work as an artist is compromised by your work in fashion? A 0r do you feel like you can merge all the different mediums comfortably?
Yes. I always want to be in between music and fashion. I don't wanna be in just the fashion industry and I am not really a music person either. I don't really buy designer clothes and hate to follow trends. I don't like talking about fashion (so boring!) but at the same time I have to know what's going on in the fashion world for my work. Almost all my friends work for something in fashion as well. I always wear my favourite bands T-shirts and that's my style and I think it's more special and represent who I am.

M.I.A. in Brooklyn

Every time I talk to you, you seem to be traveling between New York, Tokyo, Berlin, London, Stockholm. What city are you finding the most inspiring right now?
Definitely London because I love British music and history, and all my best friends are in London. But I love visiting Berlin, Stockholm and Reykjavik, too. I go to Norway as well.

A shot of my good friend Jonas Sundstrom (he DJ'd my wedding) that Fumi did for Dazed Japan.

In terms of chasing you dreams, you've been very successful so far. Do you have any suggestions for other people out there who also have high aspirations, on how to reach their goals?
I think I am not successful yet. I think I am just getting closer to my goal little by little, but it's gonna be long way to reach my goal, but I still believe in myself and I don't wanna give up until I make it. Of course I am always worried and scared but I just have to wait for now.
So, if I can give some advice to other people, I have to say never give up and believe themselves.


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pangea said...

yourblog is the truth


Vern P said...

insightful interview. i like reading about folks who blur the line of work and play. sounds like she's livin' the life.

LuxiRare said...

fabulous interview. I had alot of fun reading it...

PS I was browing through your archives and saw your wedding photos!! You looked so beautiful, and your husband is so handsome!