Photographer Shohei Ito has been shooting some of the biggest names in music for the past ten years for record labels Sony, Universal, EMI, and Warner and magazines Rolling Stone, Fader, and Tokion, among many others – as well as contributing landscape and fashion editorial for numerous fashion and culture publications while splitting his time between his hometown of Tokyo and New York City. Starting out working at Japan’s largest news agency, Kyodo Tsushin, as a photojournalist before going freelance, Ito has shot artists Justice, Sean Lennon, M.I.A, Run DMC, Beastie Boys and Jay-Z in locations all over the world, including the USA and Hawaii, UK and Europe, China, Cuba and Jamaica. Recently exhibiting his landscape photography in an exhibition in New York alongside renowned photographer Ricky Powell, Ito’s eerie and beautiful imagery caught our eye – he talks creative journey’s and weird and wonderful Japanese fashion with Sex & Fashion.
Indigo Clarke: Who do you shoot for, and how would you describe your photography style?
Shohei Ito: I mostly shoot musicians – I do a lot of album covers and promotional photographs for posters and billboards, and shoot bands and artists for magazines in Japan and abroad including Rolling Stone Japan, Brutus, Sotokoto, Warp, Fader, Esquire Japan.
Indigo Clarke: What has been some of your recent work?
Shohei Ito: I shot some reggae artists’ album covers recently in Okinawa, which is a really beautiful island in the south of Japan, that has a unique and cool culture. Also I shot a rock band from China —that was kind of interesting — and I photographed Sean Lennon and Cornelius for the cover of Rolling Stone a little while back.
Indigo Clarke: How did you get started as a photographer?
Shohei Ito: While I was doing a media/communications degree at university, I got a photojournalist cadetship at Japan’s largest news agency, Kyodo Tsushin. I would mostly photograph people – in government, sports, all kinds of people. After three years, I decided I wanted experience in fashion and music. I started assisting some photographers in Tokyo for about two years and was also doing my own work. I moved to New York for almost four years when I was 23 and started shooting musicians for American magazines like Fader, Tokion, and Elle U.S., and a lot of Japanese magazines. I was also shooting artists for music labels. When I moved back to New York recently for two years, I was also shooting some fashion look books for my friends at Nom de Guerre, DJs and musicians for Nike, G-Shock, Casio. Aside from this, I am always taking personal/art photographs – I hope to make them into a book soon.
Indigo Clarke: Highlights of your career so far?
Shohei Ito: I feel lucky to have been able to do what I do – to travel, meet interesting people all the time, have freedom with my work, and spend a lot of time in both New York and Tokyo. Some highlights for me have been shooting Jay-Z, M.I.A., Mos Def, Beastie Boys, Run-DMC, Justin Timberlake, 50 Cent, Erykah Badu, and Snoop Dogg. It was also such a great experience going to Jamaica many times to shoot reggae artists at Bob Marley’s original studio, and going to Hawaii to work.
Indigo Clarke: Tokyo fashion seems really unique – what do you think of it?
Shohei Ito: I think fashion seems really cool in Tokyo; there are so many styles, so many labels and stores, so much vintage clothing, especially for guys — I have never seen so many menswear stores in any other city. But at the same time, I feel like a lot of people look the same because they follow a fashion trend so closely – they don’t personalise it or make it unique. I feel like they aren’t expressing their personalities in the same way people do in cities like New York or London. But anyway, people love fashion here and really enjoy it – they spend so much money on clothing and seem fun with it, so it supports young and independent fashion labels.
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