Taro Karibe: “Any desire can be satisfied in Tokyo”

“I gave Taro the prize because he was honest,” says the Magnum photographer Jacob Aue Sobol of the Japanese photographer Taro Karibe. “Working as a salary man, but longing so much to explore the core of his existence.

Karibe came top in a Tokyo workshop with Sobol, run by the Magnum Photos agency for his image exploration of Tokyo, both a “utopia, where any desire can be satisfied, and a dystopia, filled with something threatening.” Karibe says.

“Instead of focusing on the great photograph and looking for tricks to improve, he started a search within himself – using the camera as a tool to express his own inner life,” Sobol says.

“He started taking pictures to ask questions instead of trying to give answers. He put himself at stake and invited myself and the other students into his private universe.

“And he did it with soreness and honesty at the expense of the magnificent.”

Taro speaks to BJP about his Magnum workshop:

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

I had realized I had some limitations with my photography. No matter what I photographed, my work all seemed clichéd, a mimicry of someone else. By committing to a high-level and intense workshop, I wanted to expand my possibilities and find my own photographic language.

I love Jacob’s photography, especially I, Tokyo [Sobol’s 2008 book]. I really wanted to know how he creates – how he photographs, retouches, and edits. I wanted to experience a series of events of his creation.

What is your work in Tokyo about? Why did you choose the subject?

Tokyo is a utopia. Everything is super-organized, there’s nothing you can’t buy. Any desire can be satisfied here.

At the same time, Tokyo is a dystopia. This city is filled with something threatening.  Loneliness, tiredness, depression, and void. I wanted to capture those feeling of entrapment that appear and disappear in the city.

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

Before the workshop, I had to think to photograph. After, I could just feel.

I directed the lens at everything I saw, and everybody I met. Some significant changes occurred in me. My eyes started framing automatically without the camera. My imagination and curiosity became uncontrollable, running around my surroundings.

It totally changed my life. His advice was always precise, and he lifted me up to a high place I’d never before imagined. He taught me how to get involved with people and the importance of loving my subjects.

The best advice I got from him is: “When you photograph, forget about any rules, restrictions or limitation. Fly in the sky like a free bird. Don’t afraid to create your own world”.

What are you planning next?

To keep working on figuring out my own photography language. To fix the atmosphere of Tokyo in this era.

In the last decade, Tokyo has been facing huge changes – socially, politically, economically,  and environmentally.

I feel that this city is in a transition period. The atmosphere of entrapment is maybe because Tokyoites feel anxious about the uncertain future.

By fixing the atmosphere, I want to express a reconstruction of what is happening in Tokyo with a historical perspective.

The partnership between BJP and Magnum Photo, centred around the education of photographers, was announced in 2013. This year there were three workshops, in collaboration with The Nippon Photography Institute in Shibuya, Tokyo, each lead by a professional Magnum photographer.