Hiromi Uematsu is a 22-year old Filipino-Japanese photographer and a filmmaker in the making. In between takes and juggling school, passion and excursions he is also the official editorial photographer for The Local Folke Co. Good thing he was able to squeeze in this long and tedious interview to share his experience and insights as he grows into his craft.
I guess your pre-quarter will always be your most creative years and it's the most exciting part of going through this life. Being creative gives you that glow, that wide bright-eyed facing the world and I guess it's important to hold on to that and to keep that passion alive and burning.
TLF: How did you develop an interest in photography?
H: My interest started when my father left his Nikon DSLR with me around 3 years ago when he came to visit the Philippines. He told me that he would get it back when he comes back in December of 2014. For a month, I didn’t touch the DSLR at all. I used to borrow it to take photos during travels but when he left it at home I really didn’t have any interest in it. After a while, though I felt like it would be just a waste sitting in the closet so I started watching YouTube videos on the basics. After some videos, I started practicing by doing some street photography and eventually, my interest grew.
TLF: What does photography mean to you?
H: Photography for me is a lot of things. It is a way to freeze a single moment in one’s life and also a medium for expression. It’s a medium for storytelling and a medium for giving awareness to something. Photography is flexible and can be used in many ways. It’s up to the photographer on how to use it.
TLF: What course did you take up in college? Does it affect your chosen path now in some way?
H: I am currently taking up Computer Science in SLU. It’s a course I thought I would love but then I realized that it isn’t for me. I sometimes wish that I took Mass Communication because that course is closest to my passion but recently I realized that maybe it’s a good thing that I didn’t. I feel like through my decision of choosing the wrong course, I have a better appreciation for my passion because it’s not related to what I’m taking up and that I’m still able to pursue photography because I really love it and not because I’m obligated to do it as part of my academics.
TLF: Among your works, which one is your favorite? Why?
H: My favorite photo would be a photo of a dog carrying a monkey on its back while walking down session road. I took this around 3 years ago during Session in Bloom. I was still fresh in street photography and this was my first photo that I was really proud
TLF: What makes the good picture stand out from the average?
H: I’ve read an article that a good picture stands out from the rest when it has multiple layers of interpretations and I do agree with that. When a photo can make the viewer stop for a moment and have different interpretations from others, it can strike conversations and leave an idea in their mind, an impact to their lives. If a photo is just visually beautiful, it can amaze the viewer for a moment but that won’t last long. If a photo is trying to send a message to the audience but it’s done in an in-your-face way or done in a not-so-subtle way, it leaves no room for other interpretations. Right now, I’m still stuck with photos that just goes for the visual aesthetic but I do want my photos to have some depth as well.
TLF: What is the one thing you wish you knew when you started taking photos?
H: I wish I knew how to be more open to criticisms and comments. I used to be afraid of my photos not being liked or not being pleasing enough but I realized that by listening to what others think, I can really improve myself.
TLF: Who are your greatest influences as a photographer? and how did they influence your thinking, photographing, and career path?
H: There is this photographer whose work I found online by accident and I immediately fell in love with the dark and surreal tone of his photos. I can’t remember anymore what his name was and I can’t find his photos anymore online but I remember wanting to start doing creative photo shoots because of him. Before that, I used to do a lot of street photography and that time, I was inspired by the works of Robert Capa and Henri Cartier Bresson. Even until now, I love doing black and white street photography because of those 2 great photographers. I also get some inspiration from Wes Anderson and his films. I just really like the color palette in his works and his symmetry in each shot. Emmanuel Lubezki also inspires me with his breathtaking wide shots. I really love film and sometimes I would watch them and try to see if I can incorporate any of the styles into photography.
TLF: Do you have any formal training?
H: Nope haha. What I know are either from YouTube videos, online articles and just shooting. YouTube helped me a lot to understand the basics and also find inspirations but what really helped me grow the most were the people who I’ve collaborated with.
TLF: Colour vs. Black and White. Why one over the other, and is the photographic process different?
H: I used to shoot a lot in BnW before because I just simply liked it. It was more of an aesthetic choice. Right now, I shoot more in colour already and again, it’s really more of an aesthetic choice. I sometimes still shoot in BnW and that’s because BnW can give off a different vibe to a photo that a colour can’t. I choose one of both depending on what kind of feel I want from my photos. I don’t have any technical reason on which one I choose. I really depend on what I feel would be right.
TLF: You have a signature style and feel in your photos. How did you come up with your style or decide on one?
H: I’ve tried experimenting with different styles over the years and I think that’s what helped me bring out my own. Honestly, I’m not sure what my signature style is. I do notice that I really like doing portraits and putting my subjects in the center of the frame. I think I got that from the style of Wes Anderson’s films. I’m still experimenting and all. It’s difficult to describe how my style looks like but I did get comments before that I have a “mysterious” and “unpolished” look in my photos. I guess I really do and I really don’t mind it. A lot of times, I take my shots and color grade it depending on what kind of vibe I’m trying to go for. I base on what I want the feel of the photos to be. I still continue to play with lighting and colors also. I’d really love to hear what people think my style is though. I find it really interesting.
TLF: What challenged you most about photography?
H: Standing out and adding depth into my photos. Until now I’m still figuring my style and I’m trying to experiment with different concepts and ideas in photo shoots. I want to be unique. I want that when people see my photos, they will know immediately that I’m the photographer. I also want to have an impact in my photos. I want there to be a message, a story in my photos and not just being visually pleasing.
TLF: How do you educate yourself to take better pictures?
H: I educate myself further by exploring and studying more about photography. I still watch videos about photography, read articles about it, and constantly shoot while at the same time experimenting. Collaborating with people is a great way too since you get to see how others shoot and they can offer some good advice.
TLF: Are there any books or any people whose work you'd advise newbies to look into?
H: I don’t really read photography books since there is the internet and it would be easy for me to recommend great photographers to newbies which they can easily search online. What I would recommend to newbies instead would be to go online and search different photos by different photographers and find what kind of style they liked the most. Through that, they can figure out if they are into portraits more or landscapes and once that’s figured out, just go online and search for tutorials. That’s what I did haha.