Nightlife can be revealing. People who by day show their more professional and austere side, at night transform themselves by showing a more intimate side, devoid of precise intentions and above all devoid of inhibitions.
In a society that he himself considers too set and robotic, Yusuke Nagata AKA Nuts Tokyo, shows us the faces and nightlife in the vibrant Japanese metropolis.
In a dynamic metropolis full of traditions and counter-trends, Yusuke captures moments of carefree youth, drunkenness and moments of life that are normally not shown when talking about the Japanese capital.
In his spontaneous language, the photographer is brought to the same level as his subjects, showing the reality of the facts: “the photographer EXISTS there”.
This participatory first-person view takes us directly into the life of Nuts Tokyo, showing us a pure devotion to the moment.
Interview with Yusuke Nagata (@_nuts.tokyo_)
Hello Yusuke, I’m so glad that you accepted this interview. Let’s start with your story before diving into your photography style and career. Tell me something about yourself.
Thank you for inviting me for this interview with Jugaad magazine! My name is Yusuke Nagata, aka “nuts.tokyo”. I’m doing street photography and a co-founder of Tokyo-SPC, which is a community for street photographers based in Tokyo.
Actually, I don’t know how to explain my title. Because I’m working as a writer for some web sites, also doing marketing things and I’m doing some photography jobs too. And now I’m going to start a web magazine for artists like Jugaad! haha
Anyway I’m a guy who loves photography and art.
This is great! But tell me, each one of us started in a different way, so can you tell me what and when was your first approach to photography?
When I was a teenager, I was born in 1987 by the way, I had a strong desire to record whatever happened around me. So I always took photos with my cellphone of everything for my memories, like my friends, the cats I met on the streets, and even the weird people. Oh I miss my Nokia phone…haha
I think I can say that’s my first approach to photography though, it was 2015 when I started photography seriously. And I started because I needed it.
At that time, I was working as an editor for a web magazine, and sometimes I needed to take photos for articles. Then I purchased a Nikon D7100, DSLR camera and started photography seriously.
I can see from your image that you are very familiar with the visual arts, do you have any other disciplines, other than photography, that you can consider as a major influence in your work?
I’m definitely growing up under the influence of the movies. When I was a kid, my dream was to become a film director. So I was watching a lot of movies and I was working at the theater when I was a student because I could watch movies for free.
However, after graduating from the university and getting an ordinary boring job, I moved away from my dream of making a movie. Still, there was a strong desire for visual art in my heart. That’s why I’m doing photography, and I really want to make a movie in the future.
I haven’t given up on becoming a film director yet!
I love the eccentric vibes that your pictures can convey to the viewer, I found them energising! Your most common subjects are people partying, festivals or exaggerated expressions in some portraits. How did you decide to focus on this kind of topics?
I’ve been feeling that Japanese people behave inorganically during the daytime, just like robots. But when the night comes, they show their true colors, as if they were bathed in the moon light and transformed into wolves. And then I can realize they are not robots, they are alive and have their own personalities.
That is the reason I focus on people at night time. How can I say, I like and want to capture people’s emotions which I encounter. And, in that sense, I can say that I am a documentary photographer, by the way. And I don’t think a photograph that is just beautiful needs to be a photograph. If you want a beautiful expression, painting is enough. Rather, I think painting has more power than photography to pursue perfection. Because photography, especially candid photography, doesn’t give you control over everything.
The reason why I do photography is to prove that what is in the image is not a lie and to tell that it is true. Truth is stranger than fiction, right?
(Sorry for the messy sentences! haha)
© Yusuke Nagata/Nuts.Tokyo – All Rights Reserved, 2022
The use of the flash light in street photography is most of the time a very relevant choice regarding the concept of the shot itself. The colours looks way more vibrant and the subject is completely isolated in a dark area. Do you feel that this technique has a great impact on your visual language?
Nowadays people hate styles like Bruce Gilden. And I don’t want the subject to feel unpleasant as much as possible. That’s why it’s important for me how to build a relationship value that can use flash.
So you can find out the subject and I have a good relationship from my photo even with a flash.
But I don’t say you should get permission to take pictures. It’s enough to just show your smile without talking, or maybe just to raise a can of beer (this is my secret technique haha)
So to me, using a flash in street photography shows how photographers treat their subjects through photography, for example, with respect, or just like zoo animals.
I know some people think If the subject notices your camera, it doesn’t reflect the truth of that situation. But let’s think again. The truth is that the photographer EXISTS there.
So respect your subjects and raise a can of beer for using flash!
Do you have a specific theme in mind when you’re out taking shots or you go with flow of the moment?
When I take photos, I have a policy rather than a theme. That is to try to devote my life to the situation at that moment.
I told you before, the truth of the situation is I’m existing there. And when I try to devote my life to the situation, I think there will be some evidence in my photos that my heart has moved.
And I believe that the reason why photographers are photographers in an era where anyone can take pictures with their smartphones is that they are prepared to devote their lives to the moment.
If you think about your past, about your lifetime experiences, and about what you learnt so far of the world that surrounds you, can you find some elements related to your main photo visual identity and language?
When I was a kid, some of my classmates were very poor. The existence of such friends was still anxious in my heart, and I began to think about the structure of society, especially the structure of capitalism.
I think that kind of thinking has a big influence on my photography.
Your videos are an important part of your work and life as I had the opportunity to see from your YouTube channel. The documentary-like code that you applied to your productions made your channel like a place where you like to research and experiment with different technologies and people. Can you tell me more about the project itself?
Thank you for watching my YouTube videos! Haha
I started my YouTube channel because I wanted to show the stories behind my photos. And so far I’m not trying to make money on YouTube, so I don’t upload how-to videos or camera reviews. Just my stories behind my photos, my friends and my thoughts on art.
However, YouTube feels like my lab because I like trying new things. Therefore, I hope you can look forward to what I will challenge in the future!
Being a photographer is not just about taking photos, but also showing them, and you know this very well. You made a good number of exhibits during the last months despite the COVID-19 situation. What is your workflow for them?
I held six exhibitions in 2021, half of which were invited by galleries, art shops and friends. And since I always want to try new things, the contents of the exhibition are different every time.
However, the procedure is always the same, the workflow is to decide the concept and theme of the exhibition, decide from the size of the photos, and select the photos that fit the sizes.
The reason why I think about the size before selecting photos is that the size of the wall of the exhibition hall is decided.
I think the design of the photo exhibition is a spatial design, so selecting photos is the final process for me.
What do you think is the main difficulty for you as a photographer, regarding the process of the shooting itself and the whole distribution later with the exhibits?
Regarding the process of shooting itself, the difficulty is to keep my own mental strength. When my mind is weakened, “I can’t take good pictures today,” of course, even if a great opportunity to take a photo comes in front of me, I can’t release the shutter momentarily. So that’s why I always drink beers! Haha
And the difficulty of exhibiting is how to monetize. Especially in Japan, it is difficult to sell prints because there is almost no culture of buying photography prints.
However, it costs money to print and frame for the exhibition, so I think how to monetize it is very important for the continuous exhibition.
Last question. What kind of advice can you give to other emerging artists, who are trying to find their way? Do you have some kind of motto for them?
Don’t try to take pictures that everyone likes. Don’t worry about your social media followers. Keep taking photos of what you like fiercely.
I think that this is the strategy to stand out as a photographer.
Thank you very much for your time from me and the whole team of Jugaad.