Art Producers Speak: Kenji Aoki

We emailed Art Buyers and Art Producers around the world asking them to submit names of established photographers who were keeping it fresh and up-and-comers who they are keeping their eye on. If you are an Art Buyer/Producer or an Art Director at an agency and want to submit a photographer anonymously for this column email: Suzanne.sease@verizon.net

Anonymous Art Producer: I nominate Kenji Aoki. “Kenji has amazing work. I particularly liked the NY Times piece he illustrated with a tuna fish.”

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How many years have you been in the business?
I started my career in Tokyo 22 years ago and moved to NY 2 years ago. I began to only accept still life assignments 15 years ago.

Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
I studied design and photography at Kuwasa Design School in Tokyo. Their curriculum is heavily influenced by the aesthetics of Bauhaus.

Who was your greatest influence that inspired you to get into this business?
There is an opening scene in a movie directed by Alejandro Jodorwsky called EL TOPO, where a tree standing in the dessert, casts a long, bold shadow–I think it was this that made me a photographer.

How do you find your inspiration to be so fresh, push the envelope, stay true to yourself so that creative folks are noticing you and hiring you?
All of my inspiration comes from geometry. When you have an object that needs to be photographed with a certain concept, you always come across complex visual problems that need to be solved. By thinking of the object as a pure geometric shape such as a circle or square, the speed required to visually communicate the concept of the image and the object itself is accelerated. The space that it’s in, the color, the shadows — balancing all of these elements allow these sensations to penetrate a deeper place.

Do you find that some creatives love your work but the client holds you back?
Understanding the restrictions of any project is the most important factor. Making the effort to face these restrictions means there is a necessity to create work that is beyond my personal aesthetic sensibilities and to provide a better answer. It’s confronting the self and at times an opportunity to rediscover my own uniqueness.

What are you doing to get your vision out to the buying audience?
I think the only way to do this is to believe in your own work. Also my agent, Michael Ash has been making sure my work gets out there. His effort to do so has been beyond simply getting the job done.

What is your advice for those who are showing what they think the buyers want to see?
There are all kinds of photographers out there, which I think is a good thing for art buyers but my advice would be to avoid being swayed or influenced by technology too much, since this may dilute a photographer’s individuality as well as their pursuit for it. I believe it’s necessary to be very careful of this.

Are you shooting for yourself and creating new work to keep your artistic talent true to you?
As of now, I do not shoot separate work for myself. The reason is, I want to keep commissioned work true to my vision and as close to my own work as possible. If I were to create work that satiates this desire in my personal life, there is the danger that my commissioned work would be completely different.

How often are you shooting new work?
I shoot commissioned new work about once a week, if not more. In the future, I would like to meet a publisher and produce an archive of my work as a book.

Born in Tokyo, Kenji Aoki spent his formative years studying variousdesign disciplines at Kuwasa Design School. After 20 successful years inTokyo, Aoki moved to NY permanently in 2009. He has worked with many clients in the U.S. and Europe and was included in a comprehensivearchive of more than 30 years of the finest commissioned imagespublished in The New York Times Magazine. He has received awards from SPD, The Art Directors Club, Communication Arts, American Photography,The New York Times Magazine, and Lurzer’s Archive. Today, Kenji Aoki continues to produce comprehensive visual images.

He is represented by Michael Ash ash@michaelashpartners.com, 212-206-0661
351 West Broadway 2nd Fl.NY, NY 10013

APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s, after founding the art buying department at The Martin Agency then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies. She has a new Twitter fed with helpful marketing information.  Follow her@SuzanneSease.

 

Suzanne Sease

There Are 7 Comments On This Article.

  1. wow.
    ” I do not shoot separate work for myself. The reason is, I want to keep commissioned work true to my vision and as close to my own work as possible.”
    that is an amazing answer.

    • +1
      Certainly an counterpoint to all the reps/art buyers harping on how they want to see “personal work” from their photographers like its going to church on sundays…

      The longer you are in this business the more you realize that career advice is pure horse-ptooey.

  2. I’m late to this, but wow. Great thought provoking answers well beyond the usual. It makes me want to know more.

    Also, his work is beautiful in an unexpected way.