Photo Essay – “Creativity is the ability to invent a new future out of the raw materials of the past and present” wrote once great poet Yosano Akiko. With the Where They Create photo-project and book, Australian photographer Paul Barbera explored the of Japan creative scene by capturing daily routines, working spaces and the meticulous alacrity of some of the country’s leading designers, architects, artists and fashion designers.
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Barbera toured Japan for two months visiting and interviewing the creatives. The research is published in the Where They Create book [Frame Publishers, Amsterdam] which features forewords by influential experts such as Monocle’s Tyler Brûlé and Fashion Editor Formichetti and, of course, Paul Barbera himself.
“There was one common denominator that I observed: their unwavering work ethic. There are few places in the world where I feel that a community, or even the country as a whole, has a constant craving for absolute perfectionism”. Explains Paul Barbera. “This ideal permeates through street cleaners all the way to world-leading creatives. It further fuels my admiration for Japan as it is so deep-rooted and is something that cannot be taught.”
Each studio-portrait is complemented by tailored interviews written by Kanae Hasegawa on professional lifestyle, cultural imprints and approaches to experimentation. Here we extrapolated six inspiring comments from the publication.
TADAO ANDO – Architect
Tadao Ando on the importance of making architectural models while designing architecture. “Crafting architectural models of walls using your own hands and experimenting back and forth when you are not satisfied with it, is an integral process at the core of architectural model making. These processes are creative in a true sense, although some may say obsolete”.
TAKAHASHI HIROKO – Kimono designer
Takahasi Hiroko on the uniqueness of Kimono-ware: “Kimono designs allow to express freedom within that restriction. The Japanese have been expressing individual identity through original patterns of decoration within the restriction of the identical form of a kimono, and trying to find joy within the given environment that is inherent in the Japanese way of acting or living”.
NENDO – Design studio
Oki Sato on managing 200 projects running at the same time: “After speaking with the client I will probably reduce an initial 20 to 30 ideas to four or so. Then I return to the office and allocate a designer to the project. I only have one designer working on each project. We don’t work in groups, nor do we do brainstorming with several people giving ideas”.
SCHEMATA ARCHITECTS – Architecture practice
Jo Nagasaka on his employees conducting their work by standing. “When you have hours of desk work, a standing posture is better for your body. Besides, once you sit down, it’s easy to be reluctant to get back up. If a staff member is standing, it is easier to move and things start to go around quicker I feel”.
SHINJI OHMAKI – Artist
Shinji Ohmaki on rekindling with Nature in his new atelier in a fishermen’s village 2 hours away from Tokyo. “[The 2011 catastrophe] made me realize the fragility [and] impermanence of things and reminded me that each second and moment is constantly changing. This is something we all know, but one is likely to forget when living in a civilised, urban environment far away from nature”.
MARIKO MORI – Fashion Designer
Mariko Mori on creating a tea house in her studio-apartment: “The tea house is a place where people become one through tea ceremony. I see the tea ritual as an act of purifying one’s spirit and sharing feelings of consolation with others”.