I’m following my instinct – interview with Hideka Tonomura by Matúš Zajac

Intimacy, passion and learning through the camera. These photos take us further from reality and the world is approaching us artists from Japan Hideka Tonomura.

What made you decide to study art and photography? What was the study like on Osaka Visual arts school?

At Osaka Visual Arts, I specialized in broadcasting and moviemaking. I mainly made family documentaries and experimental works with 8mm films. Basically, I tried to realize my impressions of the happenings in my family since I was small. For my graduation piece, I made this 8mm film work titled “Light within the Heart of Darkness”. It is the origin of my creative career until this point.

Do you follow the works of Japanese photographers like Moriyama, Kitajima, Takanashi, Araki and others?

Since I originally only kept watching film works, I only came to know of these photographers’ works after I have started making photography. Surely they all make wonderful works.

Provoke? Is it important in your creative process?

Provoking itself is necessary in life – and by saying so I mean this specifically, since the continuous act of provoking oneself is extremely important for creating.

Your photos concern women and their intimacy. Do you include yourself as well in your creative process?

I do not focus on women purposely since this planet consists of both genders, but the first time I had the urge to photograph female was because of my mother, I can say she was the starting point for me to photograph women. From my personal observations, the demon, the Sutra, the Bodhisattva and the Holy Mother exist in women and that deeply intrigues me, so I want to know more about them through other women and myself.

Mama 恋 love is such an intimate book. What inspired you most when writing it?

Nothing inspired me at all. When something happens that triggers your instinct as a photographer, won’t you want to capture that? I photographed by simply following my instinct.

Your photos penetrate black to white. It accentuates sexuality to new levels. What does this all mean to you?

I am not conscious of sexuality among other things. Rather, I see it simply as something essential to our lives, like how we eat and excrete every day.

Your book They Called Me Yukari is a departure from real to abstract photography. What was your inspiration?

For “They Called Me Yukari”, I took these colour photographs while I was working as a hostess with a small digital camera. Like every single human in the world, living our daily lives are our “documentary”. My own documentary continues for as long as I am alive. And by chance, I have become a photographer, so I make my own work.

Depending on the camera, I decide what to take with the specific camera and experiment with it. For these colour photographs, it was my first time working with a digital camera so I tried to switch my way of shooting with the specific camera, hence the change in the results.

How do you feel about color in photo in the aforementioned book?

The photographs are red in general as I cover the strobe light my hand as I shoot. The redness in the photographs represents the redness of my blood.

Do you also like European photo? If yes, which artists?

Jan Švankmajer and Alejandro Jodorowsky are my favorite filmmakers.

What does a documentary photo mean to you?

It realizes my everyday life and reaffirms me how the reality is an illusion.

Please elaborate on your upcoming book?

My new book was published in November, 2018. It’s called “die of love” and it’s a love story between me and photograph, as a piece of paper, woven by all the happiness, sadness, difficulties and ridiculousness in life. I suppose it can be considered as my own “theatre of love”. To me, love has no form. Life itself is ridiculous like a tragicomedy.

Hideka Tonomura (*1979) was born in Kobe, Hyogo prefecture. She graduated from the Broadcasting and Filmmaking Department of Osaka Visual Arts School and began photographing in 2002. In 2008, she published her first photobook „Mama 恋 love“ with Akaaka Art Publishing, revealing her deepest pain and the dark, hidden secrets of her family and leaving an unforgettable impression on everyone. In 2013, she published „They called me Yukari“ with Zen Foto Gallery, in which she has documented the life and people around her when she was working as a hostess girl in Kabukicho, Shinjuku. Now she actively presents her work in and out oj Japan.

All photographs © Hideka Tonomura.

Matúš Zajac

Matúš Zajac

documentary photographer, mentor and curator

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