Interview // Photographer Daisuke Yokota by Dan Abbe

A young Japanese photographer re-photographs his prints up to ten times, adding successive layers of handmade distortion each time around

When I met Daisuke Yokota for our interview in Tokyo's Shinjuku district, he said it was the earliest he'd been up in a while. It was already about 11:45 in the morning, and I wondered aloud whether he'd been working a late-night job. "Nope," he said. "Making work." Yokota has created a small image-making factory in his apartment, which he uses to create his haunting, distorted black-and-white images. Many Japanese photographers, led by Daido Moriyama, take black-and-white photographs with similarly strong, almost extreme contrast. At first glance, Yokota's photographs seem to fit neatly into this tradition. However, in talking with him, it’s clear that he hasn’t set out to copy this style because it looks cool. Instead, he’s been led there by electronic musicians like Aphex Twin, taking the musical ideas of echo, delay and reverb and applying them to photography. In practice, this means that to make the series "Back Yard" (featured in the gallery above), Yokota shot, developed, printed and re-photographed each image—not once, but about 10 times. That does seem like enough work to keep you up all through the night. 

How did you make “Back Yard”?

At first I used a compact digital camera, and printed the image out. Then I photographed that image with a 6x7 film camera, using color film, even though the image is later black and white. I developed it at home, in a way so that imperfections or noise will appear—I make the water extra warm, or don’t agitate the film. Even before that, I let some light hit the film; I’m developing in my bathroom, so it’s not even a real darkroom, which helps, but I’ll hold a lighter up to the film, or whatever is around. I’m always experimenting—the goal is to not do it the same way twice. So then, to produce more and more variations in the final image, I re-photographed the image about ten times.


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