Masahiko Kishino is a Japanese-born professional photographer who now splits his time between Japan and France. He refers to himself as a “stateless person.” He has previously exhibited at the Leica Gallery Tokyo Ginza and shoots mainly with the Leica M6, Leica M7 and Leica MP. He spoke to us about taking photos of unknown people met by chance.
Q: When did you first become interested in photography?
A: I learned to work as an operator in the film industry in Kyoto, and around the same time I made my first pictures. I started as a focus film assistant and it was a good way to understand how actors work.
Q: Did you have any formal education in photography or any specific mentors?
A: I learned by myself and never entered a school. My favorite movie is “Pather Panchali” directed by Satyajit Ray.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about your past work and working style?
A: I have worked for Hermés, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Louis Vuitton. I’ve had the pleasure of making portraits and pictures in Hermés workshops. I did the same for Van Cleef & Arpels. Vuitton requested me to make series of photos representing journeys. All these works were published. I also had a book about Michelangelo Antonioni published. I always develop my film by myself and I only use film I think are a part of my style.
Q: How did you first become interested in Leica?
A: After a robbery, a Japanese company lent me a Leica M6. I was very enthusiastic about it and understood the quality of Leica and later bought Leica cameras for myself. I can thank the thief!
Q: Why do you prefer the M-System for your work?
A: I think a handheld M camera means I can have an easier access into people’s lives.
Q: What approach do you take with your photography or what does photography mean to you?
A: Photography is my way to communicate with others. I hope I can someday make something for people such as a book I would call “The Beauty of Buddha Tears.”
Q: Can you provide some background information on these images?
A: Some of the images were taken in France like photographs of people at school festivals, the Montmartre festival in Paris. During these moments, they are unknown persons met by chance. I always get the feeling of persons who wanted to communicate a little part of themselves.
Other images were taken during travels in Asia and Africa from China to Nepal and Ethiopia.
Q: There is something very retro or perhaps timeless about the images in this portfolio. One gets the feeling that many of them could have been shot 50-60 years ago and a number of them transcend time in the sense that they take you back in time like a time machine. In particular, many of the images you shot in Asia and Africa seem to capture a lost world. Do you agree, and may we please have your thoughts on this?
A: I think the spirit of some places is eternal. A travel through Egypt two hundred years ago and Japanese samurai saw the Pyramids. I saw the Pyramids from the same place.
Q: This image is a lovely grab shot portrait that has a transcendent quality of innocence, directness, and capturing the decisive moment. It was obviously shot at a wide aperture and the shallow depth of field gives it a luminous quality. Can you tell us about it?
A: I shot it with PolyPan F black-and-white film, which I always use. I always want the same depth of field and it should be the same from portraits to landscapes.
Q: This is a magnificent scene showing a herd of animals grazing in a field in the foreground, and a body of water with distant mountains in the background. What really makes this picture compelling and draws the viewer into it are the adept use of space, the wide-scale tonal gradation, and the two animals in the foreground, alert with their ears up, staring straight into the camera. Where did you shoot this remarkable image and what is actually going on here?
A: This is a shot of alpacas saying good morning in Peru. It was a lucky instant in the mountainous country near Lake Titicaca.
Q: The picture of two young boys with goats standing in the foreground of a crowd of people is very engaging and compelling because it really reveals a way of life, and that is emphasized and defined by the subjects’ traditional mode of dress. Where did you shoot this image and what is the technical data?
A: It shows the Ethiopian lifestyle in Lalibela at a live stock market. It was shot with PolyPan F black-and white film on my M7, 35 mm f/1.4 ASPH.
Q: Overall, how would you describe your photography?
A: Kindness of the world. During my last exhibit in Tokyo that I called Main d’Or, reporters and some people started to cry. A young visitor wrote in the visitor’s book that she cried of happiness and sadness when looking at my pictures.
Thank you for your time, Masahiko!
– Leica Internet Team
You can connect with Masahiko on his website.