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Interview with:

Ryuji Suzuki [rsuzuki] 

Do you have an online gallery where one can view your photos?
For how long have you done photography? How did you begin?
Since the spring of 1995. I started by buying an SLR kit. It was not an easy shopping because I didn't really know what I was going to do with it. But a friend told me I should start taking pictures. That advice changed my life.
Please list any awards for your work.
I won grand prize with $2500 cash prize for Vortex competition hosted by the Blue Man Group. This competition was a rather unique one, because there was no restriction on media, anyone could enter, and there was no entry fee. So they got a large number of entries. Each artist could enter only one piece, and the theme was specified: interconnectivity. The only reason I entered this competition was because I liked that abstract theme. I thought about this keyword for a few weeks, and one day I came up with an idea to shoot. I also won Best of Advertising and Judge's Choice awards in 2011 CIPNE competition. I also won many exhibitions juried by a wide range of judges. I could give a long list of names but I actually don't see much point.
What is your favourite type of photography?
I get most satisfaction when shooting images that offer a story. But it could be fine art photography, advertising photography or editorial photography. It doesn't matter much in that regard. But then there are several other types of photography I enjoy shooting commercially.
What do you try to express through your photography?
Along one axis: Story. Idea. Emotion. Concept. Absurdity. Along another axis: Elegance. Harmony. Richness. Simplicity. Clarity.
How do you choose your subjects?
I don't choose. Once I shoot something, it becomes my subject.
What type of preparation do you do before undertaking the photo session?
I do mental simulation of the whole process, with several possible scenarios, just like when playing chess.
Do you normally photograph with a purpose already in mind, or do you let yourself go with the flow?
It depends on who hires me to do the job, or who I work with for the particular project. I prefer to set a clearly defined objective first, but not everyone feel the same, and sometimes even I don't.
Canon, Nikon, Fuji, Sigma, Olympus, Sony, Pentax...which do you place your bets on and why?
You're the 1000th person to ask me that question. The answer is it doesn't matter 99% of the time. Certain tools make certain job easier and faster.
Describe your current equipment: cameras, lenses, computers, accessories...
What software and plug-ins do you use to retouch and manage your photos?
What measures do you take to protect your work against Internet piracy?
Each photo gallery should contain a couple of abstruse images to deter such piracy.
Are you a good salesperson of your work? In what should you improve?
Sales work is not too difficult for me. In fact, selling is easy if I have good stuff to offer. So I focus on improving my art and services; the rest will follow.
Which past masters of photography do you most admire?
Robert Frank, John Baldessari, Barbara Kruger, Paolo Roversi, many others.
Are technology and digital retouching reducing the gap between professionals and amateurs?
Superficially, yes. In reality, no. Everyone has a pirated copy of Photoshop, but how many people actually know how to use it? After all, people aren't as smart and creative as they think they are. Continuous stimulation and training is required.
Do you consider yourself more technical or more artistic?
Technical aspects come to my mind very naturally and transparently, so I actually never think whether I'm a technical person or not. On the artistic aspects, I have to be consciously hungry and seek new stimulation.
What have you learned about the art of framing and composition?
To me composition is a part of technicality - I don't really need to think. It just comes to my mind naturally, just like f-stops and watt-seconds. What's more interesting to me is that same scene can sometimes convey slightly different message, or different mood, depending on the composition. This, I often notice when I look at contact prints not through the viewfinder. My composition is often like a Japanese garden design. There are foreground-background, north-south and such, in relationship and variety.
How does one develop the instinct of knowing when to press the shutter release button?
Get a cheap rangefinder, load it with Tri-X and walk around in the city.
When should one use film, and when should one use digital?
Shoot film when practical. Shoot digital otherwise. I think many professional photographers actively tried to hide the fact that they loved shooting film, because many art buyers associated film shooters with high cost, inflexibility and technological incompetence that would not survive the digital era. Now, those guys are out of business and there is fresh air around film. So, I donít hide the fact that I love shooting film. Itís just that only a few projects benefit from it... digital is the right choice for most projects. I am two different photographers, when shooting digital and when shooting film. The differences in the workflow and properties of the materials make me so. This is a good thing. For some personal project work, I often shoot both a same scene in digital and film.

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Ryuji Suzuki
Boston, MA, USA

[rsuzuki] Ryuji Suzuki
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