Satoshi Fujiwara (Kobe, 1983) is one of today’s most grotesque and boldest photographers. Paradoxically, it wasn’t until he moved to Berlin three years ago that a string of events, including winning the Japan Photo Award or printing is images on Issey Miyake’s shirts, turned him into a promising name. We interviewed him on the occasion of the Code Unknown exhibition inspired on Michael Haneke’s film of the same name. The show will run until march 30 at Wer Haus.
You’re going to be portrayed today. How does someone who’s used to being at the other side of the camera feel?
Well, I’m not sure I should be called a portraitist in Code Unknown because I never ask people for permission when I photograph them.
Have you ever been afraid someone could sue you?
Yes, I have. I was caught once and forced to erase the photo. Obviously, I did.
Your photos are halfway through photography and painting. What process do you follow?
I always use natural light; I never use a flash. Then I retouch them a lot. I change the hair color or the size of the eyes until they don’t look like themselves anymore.
Code Unknown is inspired by Michael Haneke’s film of the same name. What exactly did caught your attention?
There’s a scene on a train in which a French photographer takes pictures of strangers. I did the same thing while I was in Berlin. I’d work from 6am to 8pm every day.
Big names like Issey Miyake are interested in your work. Did you ever think your portraits would be linked to fashion?
The truth is that I was surprised when Issey asked me if he could use one of my portraits on a shirt. At first I wasn’t interested in the projects, but I was kind of attracted by the fact that anonymous people could see their faces printed on clothes. I accepted because of I liked the controversial side of it.
You won the Japan Photo Award in 2015. Do you think your work is more renowned in Japan than in the rest of the world?
I’m not sure. When I was living in Japan, I was a graphic designer. I moved to Berlin three years ago when I decided to study photography. I’d never shown my work before sending it to the jury.
However, in the past three years you’ve shown your work in many places…
I did at the IMA, a concept store specializing on contemporary photography. They also run a small publishing house called Amana, where my book was actually published. I also showed my work at Issey Miyake’s space in Tokyo. Japan has always given a lot of opportunities to artists, which is much appreciated, as opposed to other countries where you have to become successful abroad so you’re taken seriously.
So is your photographic training European?
Yes, it is, but I’m also a self-taught photographer. I mean, I’ve never attended a school or anything. I read a lot about it and started taking loads of photos. I’ve worked a lot with experimental photography in Berlin. I did a job about how Japan is seen on Google and a world map with Japan at the centre.
Your career is short but intense. How do you see your future?
I’d like to do something more artistic. Right now I’m doing something in between Japanese conceptual and traditional photography. I’m also working on a series of photos taken on different places, thought they make sense all together. It looks like a series…
Your favourite hotspots are…
The metro and the UDK, Berlin University’s library, where there are tons of photobooks.
You never thought you’d end up…
Showing my work in Barcelona and in other European cities.
You can’t stop listening to…
Goldlink and Kendrick Lamar.