Fumi Nagasaka’s insightful monograph “Untitled Youth” delves into a thing we’ve all experienced in life but often forget: youth. Through the art of portraiture, Nagasaka unveils a secreted reality, rarely experienced by outsiders. Her teenaged subjects visibly waver between adulthood and childhood; they are, as of yet, “untitled,” and that’s what makes them so compelling in front of her lens — each photograph, tinged with a sense of hyper-potentiality and pained desire. Fumi Nagasaka sits down with MONROWE to discuss her new book, which came out this fall, and the ever-evolving substrate of photography.
CS: How are you feeling now that your book is out?
FN: I’m feeling very happy! It’s finally out there. I waited for such a long, long time. It is nice to have something in my hand. I’ve been shooting for a long time and have never put my personal work together. So now I can show people the body of work I have created so far. It gives me more motivation to continue shooting and working on more projects.
CS: When was the first time you knew you were going to be a photographer?
FN: So, I started out taking photos for a street magazine, a Japanese publication, around 2003. I never thought I would become a photographer. I had a Russian toy camera called Lomo…. It was kind of my hobby to take photos. I never thought about this as a profession, but it was a great start. I wanted to meet more people and make more friends. Instead of focusing on photography, I wanted to be out; I wanted to be everywhere. I started to think about it maybe a bit more seriously when I started to see my name credited. My parents never understood what I was doing, but when she started to accept me that made me feel like it was something I wanted to do. In 2007 I met Robbie Spencer and he gave me first editorial shoot for “Dazed&Confused.”
CS: When you are shooting what emotions do you have?
FN: I forget about everything else. When I shoot, my world is just as small as the lens. I want to make sure everything makes sense, not only with the person but also with the surrounding. When I am shooting, I want to capture the moment; I try to make sure that the frame makes sense altogether.
CS: Ok, so now onto your book “Untitled Youth:” What inspired you to focus on the youth culture?
FN: Everyone, including us, used to be young. I like to shoot these kids at this age because it is a time between childhood and adulthood. Their minds are very pure and innocent; they’re discovering life, having dreams. The moment of pureness of feeling. Before I shoot the kids, I have a session with them. We become friends. I want people to feel what we talked about in the picture. Personal connection is really important to me. I have become friends with some of them and their families….
CS: What does youth mean to you?
FN: Youth is freedom. It is something we can’t keep forever. We had youth before and wish we could have saved it. It is a precious moment in everyone’s life.
CS: What do you think we can learn as a society from youth culture?
FN: We are just pure when we are younger. We just live in the moment. But when you become an adult you have to think about so many things: jobs, making money, health care. I think the lesson for us is to remember to just be ourselves — youth culture reminds us who we were before.
CS: If you had to pick a song that would go along with the images in your book what would it be?
FN: “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac
CS: Where do you feel photography is changing with the digital age and social media?
FN: Nowadays, anyone can take pictures and get jobs from Instagram, Facebook etc…. I am not too sure of what is going to happen, but I just have to stay true to my photography and my own style as an artist.
My success has been dreaming about making many books and having exhibitions all over the world.
CS: Is there any image of yours that speaks to you in a deeper sense? As if you were not the one taking the picture at all but rather that someone else was taking over you?
FN: Most of my work in this book does. But the cover touched me the most. I met Jakob at a train station in Stockholm when he was 16, he was visiting from Oslo. We became friends and I visited him in Oslo to shoot his documentary. The image is from that.
CS: What advice can you give an aspiring artist?
FN: Just, do not give up. If you have something you want to do, I think you should do it. If it is not working or you do not get accepted right away, I think it is important to continue. That is what I have been doing. In the fashion world and the art world, they have trends. Not everyone likes everything. Do not think what other people are doing or what other people are thinking. I think it is good to trust yourself. Everyone has a different path and speed; you can’t compare yourself to others. It is not a race; it is not a competition; no one’s judging. You just have to trust yourself and never give up. When I came to US in 2002, I didn’t really speak-English that much. I was carrying an electric translator around, I am pretty proud how far I have come, and I’m glad I didn’t give up. My journey is not done yet, I will keep on going.
“Untitled Youth” is currently available for purchase through Kahl Editions