Yuri Shibuya: Perspective Reach

, 2010/04/27

The first in a new series taking a closer look at Japanese photographers.

Whether a photographer’s vision constructs the photographs or the it’s the photographs which construct the vision, Yuri Shibuya has achieved a style that allows her to operate like a Venn diagram, in intersecting circles of documentary, reportage and travel. Yuri Shibuya initially started documenting her surroundings, “with no preparation” as she frankly puts it. Although Shibuya’s initial interests in photography developed from early trips to New York as an art student, upon returning to Tokyo Yuri soon switched out of her design program at university for the adventure of photography.

One of the early forays into photography was coverage of the flourishing street-skateboarding scene in New York City during the 1990s. The story goes back to a chance encounter with then young and fresh-on-the-scene pro Quim Cardona. While waiting near Saint Marks Cathedral, a group of skaters happen to be seasoning, “I was a bit intimidated to be honest [laughs], Quim just came up to me, checked out my camera and asked if I wanted to take a photo of him doing an ollie. I agreed and then we exchanged contact details.”

Even though Yuri has stayed an average of six months a year in New York since 1996 and spent a good amount of time photographing at the famed Brooklyn Banks, Yuri is forward in stating that she is not an actual skate photographer, “I don’t shoot people doing tricks for skateboard magazines. I’ve always been more about documenting their life. I don’t really care about shooting tricks, to be honest [laughs].” Nevertheless, New York City has had a real impact on not only her work but edification as well- from the recent appearance of her photographs on limited edition skateboard decks to her own self-publishing, “when I had visited Printed Matter in New York, I saw a lot of independent zines produced by a lot of artists and they looked easy to make so I just tried to make one with photos I had. In Tokyo, I brought copies to On Sundays and they agreed to sell it.” Eventually, Yuri’s output of zines morphed into a sponsorship by Xerox to help in the production of her zines which featured reportage from a growing diversity of places on the globe. The extensive travels throughout Southeast Asia and scattered locales the globe over also developed into a now four year-running column in Warp Magazine which features tales and photography from her expanding travel diary; everything from a visit to Paqueta, a small island off the coast of Brazil to Yosemite National Park with Paper Sky.

With all that travel, one would expect returning home to Kichijoji, Tokyo to reset the biological clock and provide a calm sense of settlement. “When I’m traveling and taking photos, I’m concentrated and when I’m traveling I have a lot of time constraints and I just forget I have a body clock. It may get hectic but theres only one place that feels like home, and thats the home where I grew up. I’m still considering a move to New York where I feel comfortable with my friends and can also just see people from all over the world but I’m not sure if I want to stay for the winters, it’s the summer that brings the wanderlust. Looking back, being away is just a constant adjustment really. I just got back from Yosemite which was a good dose of some epic nature, it was really good for my spirit even though it was pretty hectic trip.”

Still in search of capturing the authentic, Yuri’s latest project crosses over into a new boundary. “I’ve been in Jamaica too doing a project with my friend Mike who has a shop in New York called REST STORE. We have a mutual love for Jamaica, he loves the music and used to go down there and take dub recordings and make mixes. Now we are working together on a book about Jamaican craftsmen who are making things like belts, or hats like you’d see in the film Rockers, you know, some real artifacts. It’s the kind of crafts which I think have been copied all over, but this style of craft is actually originally from Jamaica.”

When pressed on what her next adventure is, Yuri just answered, “I’d like to keep doing reportage and documentary-style photography but I feel like I have to be more conscious because the younger generation has a different style than with what I grew up. I have to keep moving on a bit as an individual and as a part of a generation too.”

Yuri’s zines were available at Tokyo bookstore, On Sundays.



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