Meet Shinya Masuda, Japanese fine art photographer

30 August 2016

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Dressed in blue jeans and a white linen shirt, Shinya Masuda appears relaxed as he stands with his hands loosely clasped together in the lower front. But there’s a hint of excitement in his eyes as he shares a private conversation with his wife, Masako amongst the chatter as the earlybirds mill about at the vernissage of his solo exhibition at Artemis Art Gallery. The intriguing aura about Shinya naturally prompts curiosity and conversation by those around him.

Originally from Nagoya, Japan, Shinya’s works have been exhibited internationally and have received recognition by The Center for Fine Art Photography (C4FAP), Colorado; East West Art Award Competition EWAAC in London; and the Tokyo Graphic Passport Photography in Tokyo.

His solo exhibition, named Katsuko, after his grandmother, which is held as part of Focus Japan KLPA2016, features works from three of his projects. The common element that binds them together is food – sent to him by his parents.

Sat smack in the middle of the gallery and with the assistance of fellow photographer Mayumi Suzuki, the default unofficial translator for the evening and exhibiting photographer at the KLPA2016 group exhibition happening at the ground floor below, we talk to Shinya about books, rotten tomatoes and ‘shogyo mujo’.

I have had a long career but I feel like I’m always experiencing a new phase like a beginner.

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Tell us a little bit more about your creative background. 

I first started in visual design before photography. At that time I studied videography and took photography class as well. I was interested in design and photography. I’ve been doing this professionally for about 18 years.  I have had a long career but I feel like I’m always experiencing a new phase like a beginner.

In your artist statement, the term ‘shogyo mujo’ is often referred to. Can you tell us a bit more about that?  

I live alone in Tokyo. My parents sent me some food from Nagoya, which I didn’t eat, so the food would go bad. And at the same time I was thinking about shogyo mujo. Shogyo mujo comes from a way of thinking, which comes from my grandmother. When I was a child, she always said, “all things with shape will pass away”.

At that time I didn’t understand. But as I grew up, I then made the connection and really understood what she meant. While other people think that it’s just damaged food, to me it’s something important because it came from my parents.

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How does this ideology of shogyo mujo play a role in your everyday life? 

Normally I don’t really think about shogyo mujo in my everyday life. But I always remember that one day when I got a box of tomatoes that had already turned rotten by the time I opened it. It had such a bad smell, but when I saw it as something beautiful it then reminded of the saying, ‘shogyo mujo’ by my grandmother.

How do you start your creative process?

I usually travel a lot for my job. I love to meet people in different areas and to see the countryside. Those environments always have an influence on me.

In my apartment, I always have a few boxes, or care packages from my family, which I usually keep on until they rot. My house is so small and it always smells bad. I have a wife, but we need to live separately because of the smell. But I want to concentrate on my work.

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So, you still leave boxes of food to rot on purpose until today?


What cameras do you work with?

For this project I used a Canon EOS-1Ds Mak III and a medium format Pentax 645D. For vacation, today, I chose the Nikon D4S for travel.

What do you do when you face a creative block?

I love reading. I got my inspiration from Haruki Murakami’s novel, ‘Nejimaki-dori kuronikuru’ (‘The Wind-up Bird Chronicle’).

So this image [gestures towards the Nejimaki-Dori piece of an upright fish and dried flowers] came from the book and I named it after the book. I really recommend reading this book.

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What are you reading now?

Now, I’m reading another Haruki Murakami book, ‘1Q84’. But I am actually reading three Murakami books right now, which I interchange.

Interview by Dee May

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