Portrait by Isabel Muñoz.
Kyotographie’s co-founders reflect on their partnership, and their joint-success of building an international photography festival in Kyoto, the cultural capital of Japan
French photographer Lucille Reyboz and Japanese lighting artist Yusuke Nakanishi met in 2011, and by 2013 they had launched the first edition of Kyotographie.
The citywide event hosts exhibitions in unconventional venues, such as temples, teahouses, and traditional gardens. Its 10th anniversary edition opens this weekend, including tributes to two masters of photography, and a landmark exhibition celebrating a new guard of women photographers in Japan.
As co-directors and life partners, Reyboz and Nakanishi are guided by a mutual passion for photography and a mission to nurture an international hub for the medium in Japan.
Here, they share their story.
We met at a party in Tokyo in 2011. By chance, we were both reading the same book about Japanese ghost stories: Kwaidan by Lafcadio Hearn.
Our first collaboration was a series of photographs inspired by these narratives, titled Kyo-kaï. The power of nature had a strong impact on us.
Soon after we met, the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami struck. This propelled our desire to support the photography scene.
We exhibited our work in Paris the following summer, and made a trip to Rencontres d’Arles. The festival has become a mecca for photographers worldwide, but we were surprised that there were barely any Japanese people, and little information about it in Japan.
Japan has a rich and influential photographic history; it needed a festival like Arles. We wanted to create a place to exchange ideas and information, and give local photographers a stage to connect and show work.
Kyoto is renowned as the cultural capital of Japan, and is home to some 2000 temples and shrines. It was the perfect stage to convey our message, nationally and internationally.
In 2013, we launched the first edition of Kyotographie. This wouldn’t have been possible without the special setting of Kyoto; we were so inspired by the beauty and spirit of the place.
We got married at our local Shinto shrine in Kyoto, in 2016. It was a simple and intimate ceremony with just our beautiful children, Eden and Yuzen, and a couple of dear friends. It was a precious moment.
Our biggest strength as a partnership is that we understand each other without words. From the very beginning we felt it was natural to create together.
The main difference between French and Japanese culture is its approach to education. The French tend to consider situations broadly, whereas the Japanese are more particular on the details. Together, we are complete.
When we were children, there was a greater sense of surprise in our lives. Now, there is an overload of information; less opportunities for us to encounter what we haven’t seen before. We want to move people, leave an impression, and surprise them.
Photography transcends the barriers of language with a strong and direct message. It is the perfect medium to share stories that address social and cultural issues.
Music is our other mutual passion. At home, we are always listening to music, and while travelling we try to attend live concerts and jazz festivals. We would love to reconnect to music and collaborate on a project together.
The Benrido Atelier is our favourite photographic destination in Kyoto. It is a champion in the collotype process and has been a good friend of the festival since the start.
This city is like a treasure box – when you open it, you discover new things every day. The combination of tradition and innovation, the omnipresence of nature, and celebration of the shifting seasons is a daily joy.