Tokyo-born fashion and advertising photographer Kazunali Tajima, who has also made many album covers for the music industry, presents an exhibition of pictures as well as a photobook titled Withered flowers through the Akio Nagasawa Gallery, and it is considered to be his debut as an artist. It is a dialogue with himself, having the flowers as the main subject, which he treats as real people and photographs them as if he were working on a fashion photography project.
You first gathered attention as a visual artist in the nineties in Shibuya’s pop music scene. What was the inspiration behind this period of your career?
I shot CD covers for Pizzicato Five, Cornelius and many other Shibuya pop artists in the nineties. My inspiration at that time was fashion, photography, music, and art from the sixties. It was very futuristic, colourful, and technological. Also, there were so many influences from Japanese eighties techno-pop music, from bands such as Yellow Magic Orchestra and The Plastics.
I am always interested in knowing the artist’s path because it is really important to understand them. What made you want to start a career as an artist and how were your first experiences in this industry?
First I wanted to be a graphic designer. I tried it but I could not sit in front of the table all day, so I decided to design through the camera finder.
Even though you have mainly been active in the world of fashion photography you are presenting this collection of photos of withered flowers. What do you like most about fashion photography and about photographing other objects such as flowers? What motivates you to focus on each branch?
I think there is no photography like fashion photography, it has so many elements inside it that you can do anything you want. The result depends on where you shoot, what kind of model you choose, the make-up, hair, attitude, props, lighting, colours, etc. That is why I like fashion photography, especially for fashion magazines.
I decided to take photos of flowers as if it were fashion photography. My mind treated it as the same. I shoot flowers as if they were people. I observe the angle by rotating the flowers like I usually do with people’s profiles, back-shots, and so on. In addition, the lighting and colour toning I use in this project follows the same method as my fashion photography.
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Photographing withered flowers seems very difficult due to the details you need to capture and yet you have managed to create a great project. Showing those beautiful purple tones with the water droplets must have been really hard. How long did it take you to get the final shot?
I started by buying flowers at an ordinary flower shop near my office. Then I put the flowers in the vase with water and I waited for a couple of weeks watching the flowers' condition. When the time came I photographed the flowers. That is the most difficult part of the project. If was busy shooting every day, I lost the chance to shoot the beautifully withered flowers.
How was the creative process for this specific exhibition? 
It took me 6 years to make it happen, from the first time I started shooting to the final exhibition, and also it took me a while to find and contact the appropriate art gallery in Tokyo.
I personally sense that the withered flowers might tell a story because of how the colours and elements are placed. Why did you choose dried flowers? Do they have a message?
I have been living in Paris and New York for about 10 years since I was 20 years old. At that time, I was sending photographs of flowers to my mother who lives in Tokyo as a gift. Back then I was shooting not fresh but withered flowers.
I love withered flowers because of their expression. Sometimes it's like an old lady’s or fisherman’s skin or many other things. It’s very interesting for me. Each flower is so differently withered, it's quite more unique when you compare them with fresh flowers. And there are many beautiful young and fresh beautiful flower pictures in the world that I don’t have to take photographs of them.
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If you had to choose only one of the pieces of this exhibition, which one would you chose and why?
I would choose a lily that I shot 6 years ago, which is on the cover of my book because I love the combination of colours, the composition and how it has withered.
So many people love art and dream of making a living from it. However, many people discourage young people to become artists because it really is a tough industry in which you need to struggle to get to the top. What would you say to those who want to pursue an art career?
Do whatever you want to do. If you find what you like to do, you can focus on that and have no stress, have more power, more energy, more people who love you, and more money. The most difficult part is to be honest about it.
Have you ever wished anyone would have given you some kind of advice about this industry or the art jobs in general before you started? Would that have changed your mind or behaviour?
Yes, I’m very lucky to have a great friend who taught me about the art industry. What I have learned is that it’s an industry, just like with commercial photography or any other industry. We are living in a capitalist world.
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