Magnum Photos Workshop Showcase: Takamoto Yamauchi

Last year, Magnum Photos and British Journal of Photography announced a special partnership around education that sees the world’s longest-running photography magazine work with the participants of Magnum Photos’ international workshop programme to showcase selected portfolios online.


Initiated in 2007 as part of Magnum’s 60th anniversary celebrations, the workshops provide opportunities for photographers at different stages in their careers to benefit from the vast experience of Magnum’s established photographers.

Recently, Magnum photographer Jacob Aue Sobol hosted a workshop in Japan. At the end of the event, he selected Takamoto Yamauchi’s portfolio to be featured in British Journal of Photography.

“When I look at Taka’s images from the workshop in Tokyo, I feel at home,” says the Magnum photographer. “Not because his work reminds me of my own, but because he leaves space for me as a viewer to use his images as a mirror. They do not dictate how I should feel or think, instead they ask questions and challenge me to look at myself – to use them as a reflection of my own world. Taka’s approach is irrational, naïve and playful. He doesn’t watch – he experiences. It is like the camera is taped to his forehead, he is so curious about the life in the city he lives in, and we are with him all the way. I am not sure my edit of his work justifies the material he turned up with every day – every day, more than a 1000 images from his encounters with people, places and objects in Tokyo. I was attracted and fascinated by his curiosity. Playful, yes, but in a serious and vulnerable way that made me feel invited inside, made me feel human.”

We speak to Takamoto Yamauchi about his work.

BJP: What is your story about? Why did you choose this particular subject and how did you go about shooting it?

Takamoto Yamauchi: I see photography as a fragment. For this series, I gathered fragments of Tokyo. They are simply ‘fragments’’. Tokyo is a big city and it’s not my hometown. I am actually from Osaka and I do feel very isolated here, but I guess it is probably the case for many people. Photography captures the object and at the same time reveals the photographer himself. So this story is pretty much about isolation. I wanted to look at the city where I am living and find out more about myself, so I went out and photographed everything I saw.​ And also this series is homage to Jacob’s I, TOKYO.

BJP: Why did you decide to sign up to the Magnum workshop?

Takamoto Yamauchi: I feel strongly attached to Jacob’s pictures.​ I sympathised with his work. So I really wanted to meet him and see what he had in mind.

BJP: How was the experience of learning with Jacob Aue Sobol? What’s the best advice you received from the workshop?

Takamoto Yamauchi: Ten years ago I stopped photography because I had to work​ to sustain my needs. For 10 years I haven’t taken any single picture. I couldn’t, I felt paralysed, like a dead man. I met Jacob and he really inspired me. During the workshop I was at last able to take pictures again. I actually shot thousands of pictures in just four days. It was like as if I couldn’t stop any more. Jacob woke me up and brought me to a higher level. I felt like I was just reborn! I was too fast at shooting sometimes, so because of that my pictures can be a little superficial. Jacob told me that it was good that I was being really productive, but that sometimes I should try and go deeper. I have the accelerator and the brake under control now, so I just have to find the right balance for me.

BJP: What are you planning next?

Takamoto Yamauchi: I am going to shoot more fragments of Tokyo and gather an edit for a book that I would like to publish as ‘Tokyo fragments’. After that I want to photograph fragments of other places in the world.​

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