top of page

Interview with Hiroshi Yamaoka


Q. Welcome to u1 gallery. We are so grateful to be able to interview you.We can never thank you enough. Could you introduce yourself and your works? How did you begin creating art?


A. Since I graduated from a western painting course at an art college in Kyoto about 30 years ago, I have been working as a gallery staff, art college and high school teacher and other art-related jobs in Kyoto. I first became aware of photography as a work of art when I was asked to photograph a classical ballet class about 20 years ago. I became aware that the composition I was capturing was a little different from others, and that was when I started creating works of art.

Q. Could you describe one artwork or series from your oeuvre that you feel it was pivotal in your career?


A. I don’t know since this exhibition will be the first time, I introduce my work to the public. However, the “Paris” series was the impetus for me to realize that I want to master photography in the future, and in that sense this series may be said to play an important role.

Q. Could you talk about the process of creating and the way of expressing your work?


A. My production concept is “Once in a lifetime”. It is a Japanese proverb derived from the tea ceremony, meaning to cherish the “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity”. The subject of my photography is the environment, including all the people and things that surround me, and I encounter them only once in my life. They always change and pass away. There are hidden “scenes“ that we tend to miss. I am attracted to the idea of bringing these “moments” to light thorough the medium of “photography”, which captures them in a “square” format. I am also attracted to the fact that these actions are outside the control of the artist. For example, the act of adjusting the position of a motif is the expressionist’s “involvement in a chance opportunity” and becomes “artifice”. I believe that at that moment, it would be a mockery of the spirit of “once-in-a-lifetime encounter” and “the spirit of respecting encounters”.

Q. Are there any artists or works that have influenced you?


A. I have met so many artists and seen many works. All of them have been an inspiration to me. If I dare to mention one name among them, I was greatly impressed by the work of the photographer “Seike Tomio”. It all started when I saw a photo of Seike Tomio’s work in a photography magazine, in which a building in the distance is reflected through a window frame, and I was struck by that work. In all of Seike Tomio’s works, most of the street corner snaps are of everyday scenes, but he sublimates the scenes very casually but firmly into something appealing. The portraits also seem to exude their personalities, emotions, and situations. I would like to express myself in this way someday. I want to reach this height. That’s what I thought.

Q. Where do you get the inspiration for your work?


A. As mentioned above, in the spirit of “once-in-a-lifetime encounter”, I refrain from approaching the subject of the photo shoot on my own. I create images as I encounter them. For this reason, I try not to have any illusions about what I want to photograph when I shoot. Therefore, in order to keep my defenses wide open and to be able to notice any “once-in-a-lifetime” encounter no matter when it comes, I try to be exposed to as many excellent works of art, not limited to photography, as I can when I am not shooting. I believe this is what inspires me to create my work.

Q. What do you hope that the audience takes away from your art?

A. The sensation of encountering a work belongs to the viewer. Therefore, I would like the viewer to feel a “once-in-a-lifetime encounter” when he or she encounters a work of art as well. I would be happy if you had some kind of “awareness” from the work.

Q. What is your dream project? Could you tell us your plans and aspirations as an artist?


A.There is always a conflict when creating a work of art.


When taking photography, I always keep in mind the questions, “Isi it my own style? What kind of composition should I use within the frame? How do I assemble brightness, color, shape, movement, atmosphere, etc.? What to include and what to omit? The combinations are infinite. It is up to me to decide, so it is meaningless unless I express myself in my own unique way. However, setting a framework of “what is unique to me” is also an act of getting stuck in a rut and formatting.


It is always the conflict between such “decision” and the “trap of falling into contradictory acts” that torments me. 


The only way to solve this problem is to constantly continue to develop myself so that I can look back on my work and find questions, things to fix and the next challenges. However, it is difficult to know how much I am growing by myself in a short period of time. Therefore, it is necessary to make presentations on a regular basis so that we can view myself objectively. Therefore, I would like to continue presenting my work in the form of a solo exhibition on a regular basis, as I did this time. Then I would be able to know what to do to achieve the next step.

Q. Would you like to add something readers should know about you and your art?


A. I have chosen “Paris” as the theme for this solo exhibition. Many photographers have held exhibitions or published photo books with the same title, but in my case, I feel that there is a slight discrepancy with the aims of others.


The scenes reflected in my works were certainly captured in “Paris”. I present the result as a “once-in-a-lifetime” event that can only be expressed at that particular location. However, expressing the “characteristics of the place” is not the most important aspect of my work. In other words, I do not consider only expressing the scenes of “Paris” to be my first priority. This is where I feel myself to be different from other photographers.


What I am conscious of, at the same times as the aforementioned in confronting the fate of the photographer, “What kind of composition should I make in the frame?”. I want to emphasize the importance of this very natural act.


However, for me, it is impossible to separate “expressing a place” and “placing importance on composition”. The fusion of these two, and the “progress report” of the act of pursuing expression that only I can do, is my first priority.


“Context” is considered important in today’s art world. Many outstanding artists are currently working along this trend. On the other hand, for now, I am not giving priority to following this trend. I would like to analyse what context I am following when I am able to look back and observe myself after a few more years of activity. I would like to continue my efforts so that as many people as possible can observe my “acts of commission” in the future.

bottom of page