Little Box conversation 


Tatsuo Suzuki

Hi Tatsuo, please tell us little about yourself. 

I've been a street photographer since 2008. I quit a job from an IT company in Japan. I'd been in sales there for 25 years. But I feel the best fit now is as a photographer. I think my decision is the right one. Last year in 2020, my first book 'Friction / Tokyo Street’ was officially published by Steidl.

When did your passion for photography begin, why did you become interested in it, and why is it important to you? 

During my high school and university years, I was involved in expressive activities through music.
 But when I became a businessman, I was so busy that I forgot to how to express myself. But one day, I got a digital SLR camera and I started expressing myself again. This is what I should be doing I thought - the act of expression through photography.

Please share with us about what it is like to be a street photographer in your hometown? 

It's not clear whether Tokyo is my home town or not. At the moment I live in Yokohama, near Tokyo. I was born in Tokyo and have lived in and around Tokyo since I was 18, but I feel like I'm drifting through it. It's home, but there's always a sense of being away. But I think that by concentrating on photographing one place - Tokyo - I can capture not only what I see, but also what I feel.

Do you prefer capturing specific subjects and is there a style of shooting you prefer? If yes, why so?

I don't think there is a specific subject. I would like to be able to take pictures of scenes and subjects that make me feel inspired when I am walking around. Taking photographs is deeply related to my own mind, so the scenes and moments I photograph will change depending on how I feel.

However, I have been an ordinary businessman for a long time, so I like to photograph ordinary scenes with people. I also think that there is a lot of attention to minorities and things that are usually overlooked. 
I think this is because my favorite music has never been that of the majority's, and there is always a minority opinion in the way people think, which is deeply rooted in my senses.

Your work is in black and white, like a lot of other Japanese street photographers. Why is it that the use of black and white seems to more common in Japan?

Black and white photographs contain less information. But it is possible to emphasize the presence of the subject. It is also a way to unify the world of black and white. Colour photographs can sometimes say too much. It's also a way of unifying the world of black and white, which is something that doesn't exist in the real world, so it's more likely to arouse the imagination of the viewer. And I like black and white photography itself. That's a big reason too.

In Japan, both colour and black and white photography are used by many street photographers. I think it's their own choice. Each form of photography has its own charm.

Street photographers sometimes talk about getting into the zone while shooting. Does this happen for you and if so, please share your experience.

Sometimes, when I've been shooting for a long time in a day, I feel like I'm not afraid of anything, like I can shoot anything. And then my senses will sharpen and I'll be able to capture a scene that I know I'm going to get. Or more likely, I'll come across that scene. Sometimes I think I'm attracting those scenes somehow. I think this is more likely to happen when my five senses are heightened.

Have you ever faced any negative encounters or scary situations while photographing? If yes, please share the incident. 

I have, but there has never been any serious damage. I have not been punched. Not only in Japan, but also when I shot in Germany and Italy.

Do you have any projects you are currently working on and if so, can you tell us a little about them? 

I have been publishing a 100-page zine on a regular basis since 2019. Volume 4 has currently being published. Due to the impact of COVID-19, the publication has been delayed, but the project will be completed with the publication of Volumes 5 and 6. More street portraits are included in this series. I have also included some neighborhood photographs. One of my aims is to show the city of Shibuya, Tokyo in a more multifaceted way by using street photography and portraits of the same places.

What do you think are the most important qualities or elements of a memorable photo? 

It's not about something unusual, it's not about impact, it's not about technique. It's about being able to capture that moment of synchronisation between my own mind and the scene of the city I'm crossing. It's a very personal thing, but if I'm able to do it well, I think it's possible to bring in social aspects and the trends of the times. And I think that universality can also be achieved. That's how I see it. And as I said before, I think it's about whether beauty is inherent.

Please tell us about your recent published book ‘Friction’. How did it feel when you saw it in print for the first time? 

I witnessed a test print of the printing in Göttingen, Germany, in 2018. I was really surprised by the excellent quality. The paper is an original Steidl paper, called ‘Kamiko'. I really like it. I am very appreciative of the opportunity to publish this book. I hope it will be seen by many people.
 I think it's a great start for my first photo book.

But many people say that after publishing their first book, they stop doing photography. There are many reasons for this, but for me this is exactly where I started, and I intend to continue from here.

Thank you very much.

You can see more of Tatsuo's work on his instagram account @tatsuo_suzuki_001