1883 Magazine
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Japanese photographer Takeshi Suga is a self-titled “21st century wizard of light and colours.” But don’t just take his word for it. A glance over one of his latest series of photographs, Sakuramedlica, reveals his deft touch with light and ethereal shades. “I played with focus and light, occasionally applying in-camera double exposure or makeshift colour filters,” he tells me. “This resulted in a dreamy, euphoric and psychedelic rendition of the subject.” The series is subtitled ‘Fantastical Nostalgia’- a tagline Suga adopted from an American writer’s summation of his work, and it expertly conveys the atmosphere: “Nostalgia is definitely one of the key ingredients of my photography,” he concedes. 

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Suga’s Japanese heritage also plays a huge part in his work. Sakuramedelica is, after all, a study of one of Japan’s most beautiful natural sights- the season of the cherry blossoms. It is not the first time Suga has engaged with seasons either; earlier work includes the series Winter Wonderland, of stunning snowscapes. “This partly comes from my Japanese psyche. We’re very sensitive to the cycle of the seasons. Throughout the year, we have festivals and rituals associated with a particular season.” Sakuramedelica was the ultimate expression of this: “For us, cherry blossom is not just a pretty ornamental flower. Through observing its beauty and evanescence, we can get a glimpse of essential truths about the nature of human existence.” 

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Japan may play a heavy part in Suga’s work but he is keen to stress the breadth of his influences extends beyond his homeland. He spent almost five years in the UK, working for publications such as NME and says that British seaside towns remain among his favourite locations to shoot: “I have a soft spot for English piers too.” He says: “Standing there watching the sunset makes me feel complete.” His love of the UK, and emergence in Western culture, comes through in his work: “There’s always a perspective of a non-Japanese involved to some extent whenever I photograph my own country, both aesthetically and thematically. Yes, Japan is an important subject for me but as Ansel Adams puts it, I bring to the act of photography all the films I have seen, the books I have read, the music I have heard and the people I have loved.” 

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His work with NME had a lasting effect on him and it’s clear that music is a residing passion. He lovingly remarks that he is “a photographer who plays camera instead of musical instruments” and speaks of his experience with the magazine as a highlight of his time in the UK. I ask if his shots of bands, of people, strike him as more exciting than his landscapes: “Something tells me I prefer shooting people. But it might be that these days I’m shooting more landscapes than people?” he muses. Indeed, his other recent work, Sakura Fantasma, takes the concept of Sakuramedlica and incorporates human subjects. “In that respect, it was great to do Sakura Fantasma. I always wanted to shoot someone in the scenes of Sakuramadelica.”

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Next, Suga will be turning his talents to fashion, with an upcoming collaboration with Japanese clothing brand Ear Papillonner. He says he feels “very lucky” about the collaboration, where five of his images have been used for their catalogue, poster and ultimately limited-edition tote bags and pouches. “They picked me up because they thought my style of photography would suit the theme for their Spring/Summer collection, which was ‘Luna Park Desert’” he tells me, before adding: “There’s a strong sense of a utopia in my work.” He’ll also soon be returning to the UK. I ask him what he hopes to achieve here: “I’d definitely like to do a project on the English piers and of course I’m dying to shoot for NME again!” So take note: the 21st century wizard of light and colours is back in town.

Words by Marie-Claire Chappet 

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