Self-Portrait, Yugo Ito

Rendering The Spirit: Interview with Yugo Ito

Could you tell me your name?
Yugo Ito

Where are you from?
I am from Nagoya, Japan.

How did you get into photography as an art medium (as opposed to casual or professional use)?
Since I was born as a son of the fourth generation of my family-business photo studio, it was natural for me to get into photography. I have completed PGdip in photography at the University of the Art London after completing BA in Management in Tokyo.

Which alternative processes do you practice?
Wet Plate Collodion

What attracted you to alternative processes in general?
Because I thought that I needed to experience the same amount of difficulty taking a photo as photography pioneers had.

What drew you to the specific media you practice?
Because as being one of modern photographers, I felt I must know and respect how photography pioneers invented and developed photography.
And also, I thought that photography would have lost its reliability and its power of assuring the referent’s existence in future if we keep taking photos digitally. It is because, as we all know well, digital photography allows us to easily edit a photograph. Our offspring might not be able to trust our photographs to be 100% like us. The age of that photography tells the truth is over. To be more precise, the age has been already over with the advent of film photography. Thus, I decided to learn Wet Plate Collodion process to restore its essential features.

How does the choice of media influence your choice of subject matter (or vice versa)?
With a big influence of being as a son of the fourth generation of my family-business photo studio, I strongly believe that photography is ultimately a means recording our precious lives, times, things. So, that affects my choice of subject matter.

In today’s mobile, electronic world of instant communication and virtual sharing of images, how important is it to you to create hand-made images?
We feel we want to take a photo when we cannot digest occurrences going by too soon right in front of us. As a result, we are drowning in a sea of abundant photographs. It is a very tough work to pick up what we really want to keep out of them. Have you ever thought that how hard for family members to select which photo to keep or not after you passed away? I experienced such a situation when my grandmother passed away. I think that our impulse to take a photo is almost one of our instincts. Thus, we would need to think to add one more option to solve the problem, which is to create hand-made images. It would make it easy to select photographs for the sake of the future.

Is your choice to practice alternative, hand-made photography a reaction to, a complement to, or not influenced by the world of digital media?
Unfortunately, there were many victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake 2011 who lost their photographs taken over the previous ten years because they were only kept digitally. Although most of the photographs in their digital devices disappeared, many physical photographs such as prints and negatives were saved. This made me realize once again how important not to keep our photographs only digitally.

Do you incorporate digital media into your alternative process work?
I appreciate digital media in that its easiness to record something. Also, being able to store them on a Cloud-based storage system is its merit. So, I don’t suppose that we should choice only one of media.

If so, how do you incorporate it? Is it limited to mechanical reproduction technique, or does it inform/shape/influence the content of your work?
If in Japan, for example, I would like to offer an opportunity to make a physical photograph such as alternative prints, ambrotypes or tintypes by using a digital photograph of customers in order to increase the possibility that their photographs survive on natural disaster such as Tsunami. There is a limit on how many photos you can store on a Cloud-based storage system, and also we can’t trust those digital stuff completely.

What role do you see for hand-made/alternative process work in the art world of today? Where do you see yourself in that world?
Some say that uploading photos onto a Cloud-based storage system is the best way of preserving photographs. It is partly true and I agree with it only for the Tsunami case, etc… However, I strongly disagree with not leaving photos as tangible states. I sometimes wonder that the dignity of time passage mood mostly rising from old tangible printed photos itself would greatly contribute to the dignity of the photography referent. Japan has a unique aesthetics called ‘Wabi-Sabi’ (侘び寂び), which is described as finding beauty in imperfection and impermanent. It is very difficult to express in English. But, if I would translate it, Wabi (侘び) is a mind of accepting withering and lacking and the beauty of simplicity and commonplace things, not from luxurious, gorgeous or flamboyant things. Sabi (寂び) is the beauty from a withered state that comes with age. Wabi is the inner side and Sabi is the outer side. It is the beauty rising from negative sentiments. 侘(wabi) and 寂(Sabi), these Japanese characters are negative meanings. I think that this particular aesthetic represents the dignity and the affection toward aging printed photos. Due to that it has just been around 10 years since the digitized photography wave started, I’ve got questions. How much affection we feel toward old photos does time passage contributes to? Can we have the exactly same feeling by our old digital photos in future? The appearance of photos stored digitally never age.

If once people know the easiness to take a photo by a digital camera, it is difficult to teach them how important to keep physical photos, such as prints. But we learned how fragile digital photographs were from the Great East Japan Earthquake 2011 with a lot of victims. I suppose that hand-made/alternative process works appeal people better than just teaching people how important printing is. These old styles/techniques are new to them. It would be great if people could make a physical photograph in the end. Photographs do not exist for the past, photographs do exist for the future. As long as I treat photography in the art world, These are what I would love to share with people.

Self-Portrait, Yugo Ito
Self-Portrait, Yugo Ito

A reminder: Rendering The Spirit runs from March 18 to April 11. The opening reception will be held March 26 from 6-8pm at Photoworks, 7300 MacArthur Boulevard, Glen Echo, Maryland 20812.

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