I recently had the opportunity to have a chat with Dutch media production guru, Rudy van Os.
Kakudai: Describe your experience with cameras / photography.
RvO: I started with making videos. I was a big movie-fan in high school, and during college I worked in a video rental store as well as the music and film department of Rotterdam’s library. I studied audio-visual design, and made a few short documentaries. After getting my bachelor of arts. I moved to Japan where I started to work in video production.
Feeling suffocated by loads of digital video work, I began shooting photos on a film rangefinder. I liked that is was not a digital device, it didn’t feel like work. And photography worked because I could do it in small bits, and all by myself. It was more “pure” to me.
I shot during my commute mostly. Now I combine digital and analog photography, but am trying to switch do digital for 95% of my own work. This is because I want to focus on other things too, like getting back into making my own videos.
Kakudai: Who or what have influenced your style of photography?
RvO: Living in Tokyo is a big influence to me. The buildings, the transport system. It feels infinite. There are always new things to discover, new people to see. I haven’t checked out many photographers, but I look at a lot of random photos on the internet. I like Alex Web, though. And Chis Marker, who recently died. When I saw his pictures it felt as if he had been my influence before I even knew about him, it was eerie.
I also think my professional work changed the way I look at things. I try more to think about the audience viewing the picture. I might know what a scene looks like when I am there, but when someone views a picture, they might not understand. I always keep that in the back of my head, because usually I want to tell a story, rather then just showing a beautiful visual. It also comes from my documentary background.
Kakudai: How did you end up in Japan doing photography (or production) work? How has your experience up to now?
RvO: After I put some photography online, the people from my work saw it. At that time they were thinking to expand the business into photography, and they asked me to take it on. So we build a small studio, and now we are shooting thousands of products a year, along with the occasional model or event shoot.
This work for me is about speed and efficiency. I like to think about little solutions in the studio to save an extra few seconds per shot. It’s pretty much the opposite from my personal work. I keep making videos for a living, too.
Kakudai: What are things in general (or specifically in Japan) that you would like to document?
RvO: I like to shoot urban life. How cities affect people and vice-versa. It’s about portraying culture, I think cities are the strongest signs of this. Everywhere you look there are cultural clues.
Here in Tokyo, I want to portray how the vastness of the city has an alienating affect on people. How it tires them , and how they can feel alone amongst millions.
It’s not all negative though. I like to show people interacting too. I like to shoot at parks, which have a great atmosphere here (much better then in Holland). It’s also why I like to shoot the anti-nuke protests. I’m not even anti-nuclear, but I like how they get together and give the demonstrations a positive and creative vibe.
Kakudai: When you look back at your work done in Japan, which photos or series are you particularly stand out for you personally?
RvO: I think that would be the photos in the train, and train stations. For my daily commute, I spend about 1 1/2 hours in the train. It’s a substantial part of my live. So I’m not just a spectator, these images are very personal to me, and often reflect my own feelings. In the train you see all kinds of people, especially in Tokyo where cars are not used that much for commuting.
I also think the train has great lighting, both above the ground when the daylight comes in through the sides, and under the ground too where the lighting creates a mysterious atmosphere. I like how trains are long and symmetrical from the inside. It confirms how I see the Tokyo’s infinity. I like to shoot pictures that seem to have no end, that the current space, and social situation, is continued out of sight. I don’t just want to show a sleeping businessman, I want to show that Tokyo is tired sometimes.
Rudy van Os