Photographer Ittetsu Matsuoka holds a solo exhibition, “Yasashii Dake,” at “Taka Ishii Gallery – Photography / Film” in Roppongi, Tokyo. In 2018, he published his first photo book, Marii, with his homonymous wife, as the main theme, attracting a lot of attention. There are about 17 works in the exhibition, combining pictures from “Marii” and new ones, all under the same theme of “pure gentleness.” Ittetsu reveals the reason for this theme, and what kind of feelings and thoughts are behind it.
——What made you decide to hold the solo exhibition “Yasashii Dake” ?
Ittetsu Matsuoka: Taka (Takaaki Ishii) of the Taka Ishii Gallery liked my photo book “Marii,” and invited me to his radio show in September of last year; that’s when we talked about my solo exhibition. Originally, we planned to do it a bit earlier, but due to the influence of the new coronavirus, we held it now.
——What feelings and thoughts are behind the theme of “Yasashii Dake?”
Ittetsu: In 2014, I held a solo exhibition with the same name as now at “Rurōdō,” a second-hand bookstore in Gakugei-daigaku station in Tokyo, and that’s when I decided I wanted to express a different kind of beauty that competes for intellect or sense, but rather a beauty that is only gentle. When I was thinking about a title for this exhibition, these words came up to me again, and it felt right.
——This solo exhibition comprises photos from “Marii” as well as new works, right?
Ittetsu: I took nine pictures from “Marii,” and the other six are new. It’s very hard to choose which photos to put up and which not to put up for an exhibition, and I couldn’t make up my mind right until I really had to. I have held many solo exhibitions so far, and in my case, the theme doesn’t significantly change each time, but rather slightly, and I think this exhibition successfully combines the works from “Marii” and the new ones. The new works are also a combination of previously taken pictures and photos taken just for the occasion.
All the new works are shot with my beloved 35mm compact camera “Olympus Mju” that I have been using for many years. I shoot both digitally and in medium format, but for some reason, many of my exposed works were shot with this camera. I want to show my photos as bidimensional rather than three-dimensional, so I think a flatter, compact camera is more suitable.
——I heard that your photobook “Marii” was produced over five years from its planning. Were you shooting Marii-San for the whole time?
Ittetsu: The editor, Mirei Hattori, wanted to publish a photo book with “Marii” as a theme. Even so, I was embarrassed at first to take pictures of my wife, so it was hard at first, but I figured I could take pictures of her spontaneously when she was sleeping, or with the dog. That’s when the shooting started. It’s not like she’s on every photo of the book, but the pictures are all selected from the negatives of her shoots. That’s why even the pictures in which she isn’t present, I took when she was there too, and when I’m with her I can be more gentle, or rather, the mood is unique.
——Your photo book “Marii” has more than 500 pages. I am really surprised they gave you the OK to publish it.
Ittetsu: At the beginning, I also thought I wouldn’t get the OK (laughs). I consulted with the designer and showed the editor-in-chief the pilot version of what I wanted to do, and I got the OK. There are many pages so it may look like a story, but I think each photo is also complete by itself. I made it to somehow feel suspended from reality, emphasizing the feeling you get when turning each page, so it’s printed on thin paper.
——You often take photos of actresses or TV personalities; is it different from taking pictures of Marii?
Ittetsu: The desire to shoot beautiful things as much as possible is the same. The approach is different, but there is no difference in my awareness. There are also photos born from my job.
——Is there anything you are consciously aware of while taking pictures?
Ittetsu: I think there is something, but it’s hard to put into words. However, if I really think about it, I unconsciously point at hands, fingertips, and looks.
——You previously said “I want to reproduce hope in my pictures, just like it is;” what do you mean by that?
Ittetsu: Photos are both realistic and fantastic at the same time. In my case, I want to show a slightly new world inside reality. For example, after watching your favourite movie, you kind of keep a bit of that world inside of you, right? That world has hope, and it can be encouraging. It’s gentle and beautiful. I want to express that feeling with photographs.