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Takako Noel is a Japan-based photographer. After studying at the London College of Fashion, Noel quickly became attracted to the world of photography, creating breathtaking images and capturing an endless world of imagination and fantasy. Describing herself as more of a visual artist rather than a photographer, Noel’s work is a representation of self-expression and emotion. Today, we discover better who she is with this interview as well as the exclusive editorial shot for METAL online.
Photography can mean different things to different people. What does it mean to you?
It means the world of imagination and fantasy where you’ve never been before. It gives us the power of life, like art.
How does your personal life have an impact on your work?
I really like to photograph in nature (you can see that I’ve never included buildings in my personal works) because when I was a child, my parents would always take me camping and hiking in the forest. I started painting mountains, wild flowers and clouds when I was four or five years old. Since then, I like to devote myself to the imagination; I always create a fairy-tale story. Also, the world and the environment have always had an impact on me. The anxiety of future, death, relationships, and love are always my source of creation and inspiration.
How long have you been a photographer for and what got you interested in this industry?
I’ve been taking photos for five years now. I studied Photography at London College of Fashion and I was attracted by this world. While I was studying, I noticed that photography is the best way to express my feelings and emotions, which I can hardly describe by words or music. I would say I’m a visual artist rather than a photographer because I’m not into techniques and equipment very much. Photography is just one of the ways to express myself, so it could be filmmaking, painting, fashion design, or installation in the future.
Looking at your work I sense opposite attractions: the bold colours and use of light represent movement and life, and yet the models seem to be ‘ghost-like’ and still. Would you agree?
Some point yes, but some others no. I always think about the meaning of life and ask myself “Why do I exist?” Right now, my answer is creating and sharing visuals that inspire and encourage people that express, “Life is really beautiful and we can do whatever we want!” Bright colours and natural lighting are ways of expressing these emotions. So I never thought of my models being ‘ghost-like’ and still. Maybe it’s because the models live in the fantasy world in the photo, which doesn’t exist in real world.
Is there a particular emotion you aim to portray through your work?
Life is hard, unexpected and sad but yet it’s a miracle that we are born on this beautiful planet. And we can do whatever we want if we strongly believe it.
I see a similarity between your work and Ryan McGinley’s. How do you feel you relate to him as a photographer?
I got inspirited by a lot of his photography. I cried when I saw his photographs for the first time, I felt the full of positive energy and emotions. I think him and I have a similar value about life so I’m glad you see a similarity between our works.
When working with someone it can be very easy to adopt his or her style, did you ever work with him? And if not, is there any other artist who inspires you?
I’ve never worked with him before, but I have many books of his. There are a lot of artists who inspire me, especially Yoko Ono, Pipilotti Rist, Mike Kelly, Cai Guo-Qiang, Henri Matisse, Corinne Day, Lina Scheynius, and Xavier Dolan.
What equipment do you like to use for your photography?
Thank you very much! I’m happy to hear that. ‘Virginal’ women are like sakura (cherry blossoms), the moment is really short. I feel it’s the beauty of the momentary and temporary.
This is not the first time you use ‘bridalesque' dresses in your photography, what do you think this represents to people and why does it fit so well with the purity of nature?
The dresses are always essential for me to evince my fairy-tale world so that people can immerse their emotions in nowhere.
What do butterflies represent to you?
The beauty of nature, freedom, recklessness and dreams.
In many of these images from your latest shoot, the model has her eyes closed, and if not closed, they seem to be rather dazed and unfocused. What mood did you want the model to portray and why?
During my shooting, I often asked the model to be dancing, running or have her eyes closed so that I am able to capture her in a daydream and being reckless.
Some photographers like Nick Knight, for example, have a certain aesthetic where a big amount of production is required. When I look at your work I see more intimacy and purity, as though it’s just you, the model and a camera. What is it about being in the raw materials that appeals to you? Does working with natural light become more challenging and unpredictable?
Actually, most of my personal works are just the model and me, so that she can be more relaxed and careless about the camera. I’m interested in capturing the moment when the model shows her inner emotions and unexpected body movement. Also, I love the natural light, which we can never control. It is all about experimenting what happens between the model, nature and me. I believe that documentary photos have a strong power to touch people’s hearts.
How important is body language in your work? Do you generally have a certain pose in mind?
Yes, it’s really important to me. I don’t want the model to just be upright. I’m inspired by modern dance and ballet. I want to convey emotions through body language so I ask models to keep moving during the photo shoot.
What is your relationship with the model? How much communication is required during the photo shoot? How often does your work end up being what you’ve envisioned? Do you ever have any happy surprises?
In this case, we went to the same university in Japan. I often ask friends to model for me, or I search for models on Instagram. So before the photo shoot, we like to share certain values (for example, music, movies, painting or food). I’m really happy when something unexpected happens. To create an unexpected photo, for example, I often use a smoke ball or fireworks to capture the model’s natural reaction.
How does your work grow as you grow as a photographer?
Paradoxically, as I grow as an artist, I’ve become more carefree about my past memories and experiences to know who I am and to provoke my feelings.
Is there anything more you wish to speak about that I have not asked you?
I’m now working on my new book. In it, I’ve painted photos with watercolours, glitter and flowers, and I try to create ambiguity between the media of painting and photography. It will be probably published next year!