Japan’s Underground Superstar: A Conversation with Taito Itateyama

Art Interviews 4 min read
Many things happening at [the] same time in Tokyo so I’m just trying to have [my] eyes wide open. I’m not trying to capture street culture. I’m trying to capture what I like. I always surprise myself [with] what I shot, when I get developed film back, it’s very fun to learn myself.
Taito Itateyama by Motoyuki Daifu for Supreme

Developing a distinct identity and producing work one can be confident in is a struggle for any artist, aspiring or established. For rising star artist Taito Itateyama, these things seem to come naturally. The photographer, skater, and model based in Tokyo is unabashedly confident in this photography work. His work is not only characterized by its colorful and stylized imagery, but also imbued with Taito’s characteristics, his easy-going nature, attention to detail, and lust for life. Inspired by life itself and his interests, his photography has an air of authenticity and spontaneity that separates him from most. Already having photography credits with the likes of Supreme and Kaleidoscope Magazine, working for the former also several times as a model, his rise is inevitable. His first photo book and solo exhibition launched last year, and he’s just getting started. I conversed with him about his photography processes and what inspires him about the art scene in his hometown.

How was your first book launch? What was the experience like finally seeing the physical copy of your collection?

Taito Itateyama: It was just a first book launch and I was already starting to think of what’s next, but it felt amazing. I could get real feedback and reactions and they weren’t [only] available to be seen through social media. I’m very excited to show my photos at the next show.

You said that making your first photo book was your biggest aspiration. Now that you’ve made “Dramatic Tokyou”, what are you looking forward to next in your career?

Taito Itateyama: Now, me and my friend Rei are making a DIY photo magazine called キザ(kiza) #1. Also, another two books coming out from different publishers Salt and Paperand “MPK Studio
Taito Itateyama, キザ(kiza) #1, photobook cover, book by Taito Itateyama
“キザ(kiza) #1” Book cover

Your work feels very spontaneous and freeform, but there is a lot of hard technical work that goes into what you do, what does your process of editing and postproduction look like?

Taito Itateyama: I’m trying to capture the whole atmosphere, it also affects how I edit. Whenever I edit my photos I’ll try to remember how this sense was, which color the moment was.

You’ve expressed before your admiration for Hal Jinushi, a fellow skater and photographer capturing Japan, what makes the street culture and design of Japan so enticing to capture on camera?

Taito Itateyama: Many things happening at the same time in Tokyo so I’m just trying to have [my] eyes wide open. I’m not trying to capture street culture. I’m trying to capture what I like. I always surprise myself with what I shot, when I get developed film back, it’s very fun to learn myself.

How has working as a model affected the way you compose your photos?

Taito Itateyama: honestly nothing

What’s the importance of color in your photography?

Taito Itateyama: Trying to effect my images [with] the color of the city and the moment.

Right, like for example often in your photographs, a piece sticks out juxtaposed with its surroundings, the color red many times.

Taito Itateyama: I learned myself though photographs so I learned I like red now, but I don’t think I’ll like red forever, my mind set also will change and it’ll effect what I will shoot next.

What about the fashion scene in Japan, what about street style compels you to capture it on camera?

Taito Itateyama: Fashion scene doesn’t compel me at all really.

In your own words, how would you describe the current underground art scene in Japan? What makes it so vibrant?

Taito Itateyama: Many [aspects of] Japanese culture is hidden and lowkey in a good way protecting them how they should be, so I can also say that to Japanese underground art scene.

What motivates you to continue creating?

Taito Itateyama: Now I have many good friends who’re doing their own stuff and they motivate me taking photos, I spend most of [my] time with them right now. Also we got our own space to show our stuff at my friend’s studio called @gokou_studio. I’ll make a book all around me now before I turn 30 years old. I’ll take break if I don’t feel that way but also, there is no way I could stop taking photos.

What’s your favorite photo you’ve taken?

Taito Itateyama: I’ve been shooting New York City and it will also coming out maybe early next year?

Who are some brands or creatives, any medium, that you’re a fan of locally?

@aoi_industry and @badjoefilms

Manifested seamlessly in his work is his pride for it, yet also his love for his friends and collaborating with them. Itateyama learns of his own interests through his work, and at the same time, he invites us to see the world through his eyes.

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