Tatsuro Nishimura: Art, Food Porn & The End Of Nations

Tatsuro Nishimura is highly regarded in the world of photography for his precise timing and effortless talent. He is, like so many photographers today, obsessed with food. The only difference between him and all the other people haplessly snapping away at dinner plates is that Tatsuro is paid a lot of money to take photos of food.

This got us wondering, if he isn't perhaps the best food porn photographer in the world today?

 

I like shooting studio still-life in general, but the food photography is a lot of fun. I like putting a little bit of humor in the pictures, something in the image that can make people smile. Eating is fun, right? So why not have some fun in the photos as well? That’s basically my approach to my food photography. Also, it’s nice that I can eat the props after the shoot!

 

Recently Tatsuro was commissioned by the folks over at New Scientist magazine to create some cover art for their latest spread. The team wanted a piece that would represent Globalisation - the process of devaluing individual countries or states and focusing on broader world issues and governance through institutions like the United Nations.

The pieces made (below) beautifully convey the death of the old world order and the shift we all appear to be making towards global unity.

We were so impressed by the work that we caught up with Tatsuro, the king of food porn, in Japan where is working on his next project:

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Tatsuro Nishimura For New Scientist Magazine

K | How long have you been a photographer? What influences your particular style of photography?

TN | It has been 15 years since I started taking pictures. Of course, many great masters of photography such as Irving Penn, Robert Maplethorpe, Richard Avedon, and Hiro have influenced my photography. Not only that, I think that anything I have seen in my life has influenced my work. Movies I have watched, books I have read, people I have met, my family and friends - all these things are reflected in my work.

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Tatsuro Nishimura

Besides your obvious talent, what is attractive about photography for you? For instance, what does it allow you to do that another medium would not? Have you ever worked in other mediums?

I think I am very attracted by mysteriousness of photography.  I still shoot with black and white film and process and make prints by myself in my darkroom. My favorite moment is always when an image appears in the developer under the dim red light. I feel like the darkroom can bring me back to the time when I clicked the shutter. I can look at what I was thinking, what I saw, and how I felt.  This also actually applies to digital photography. When I work in post-production, it is like I am re-building the moment I captured. I have never worked in other mediums, so I am not sure if there is this sort of mystery in other mediums. I just love photography, and there is still so much left for me to explore.

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Tatsuro Nishimura

What did you think of the globalisation piece in New Scientist about a world without borders?Do you think countries are useless these days? How were you approached/commissioned to do the piece? Why the choice of colours (red, yellow and blue?)

I love how the picture came out. An art editor from New Scientist called me for this assignment and told me about the concept. I immediately loved it. I was talking to her about how to approach making the concept have strong visual impact. We worked together through the shoot to post-production. I have been working with her in the last couple of years, and her creative mind always inspires me.  I really enjoy working with her. We picked the colors based on the colors of flags. I was working with a great painter, Norman Kirby. He layered acrylic paints on a thin piece of plexiglass and made the map look as if the paints were flowing.  Then I bent the plexiglass and gave it an a-spherical feel. The flag and paint-dripping parts were shot separately and put together in post-production.

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Tatsuro Nishimura

I don’t know much about politics, and there might be so many opinions about globalization, but I personally feel that countries are still necessary. I came to New York from Japan almost 10 years ago, from a homogeneous culture to so many different races and cultures.

Yes, the Big Apple has so many diverse cultures and races from all over the world. New York actually makes me think about my identity, what my roots are, who I am, and what cultural background I have. New York also makes me respect my culture and all other cultures, religions, and people. As I mentioned in the first question, these are all things that actually influence my photography too.

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Tatsuro Nishimura

I am fascinated by the “self portrait” section of your website, can you tell me a little about this?

This series was shot about 5 years ago. That was 10 years after I started photography. I had been just shooting and shooting for 10 years, and I didn’t really have a chance to think about what photography was to me. This series was totally personal. I wanted to immerse myself in the mysteriousness of photography and wanted to see how photography saw me. All the images are done with a large-format camera with black and white film. I might want do this again in five years (20 years’ anniversary of me doing photography).

What are you currently working on? What does the future hold for you?

I currently have three ongoing projects. One is a book project for Billykirk, a hand-made leather company. We collect “worn-in” items such as wallets, bags, and belts from their customers over the world, and I shoot them in my studio. Aging leather is very unique, and each item has its own character. It not only shows the history of Billykirk but also reflects how individuals use the items.

The second one is a documentary of my friend. He has been diagnosed with a very rare disorder. I have been photographing him for a year. He is also a photographer, and he has been shooting self-portraits and people in the hospital. It’s a collaboration of how he sees himself and how I see him.

Tatsuro Nishimura

Tatsuro Nishimura

More work from Tatsuro can be found here.

advice, tips and death threats to jordan.gold@konbini.com.