Photographs in Reflection
April 25, 2017
Shun Aizawa '17, a New York native, is an engineering concentrator. On campus, he enjoys restaurant hopping, dressing hip and taking photos. Over the summer, he is excited to explore Europe and Japan.
How did you get started in photography?
I started taking photos for fun when I was younger. I would always try to borrow my parents' camera whenever we travelled and just took pictures of random things. I became serious about photography junior year when I studied abroad in Hong Kong. It was the perfect city, with skyscrapers, bustling markets, and nature trails all within minutes of each other on the MTR. It was in Hong Kong where I really pushed myself to go out and shoot everyday. Didn’t do so well in my classes though.
Who or what inspires your work?
When I started out, I would especially try to imitate instagrammers who I thought had very distinct styles or did cool things with their grids. As time went on, I started to get a bit disillusioned by what I was seeing on instagram; a lot of the photos I saw started to look the same - portraits with creamy bokeh, desaturated urban scenes with crushed blacks, etc. And I realized I was doing the same. I got caught up with making sure I was taking “nice photos” but couldn’t understand what made photos “compelling”. So I guess that’s been the inspiration for my work recently — figuring out what makes a compelling photo and trying to find my own style in doing so. Instead of worrying what other people think or do, I just want to make stuff I’m proud of.
How would you describe your style?
It really varies! When I first started, it very much fell into the category of “street photography,” focusing on people and architecture I saw on streets and trying to document new cultures and places. Now, it's a lot more project driven, for my classes at Brown and RISD. I still enjoy street photography and want to continue shooting casually when I’m walking around, but I’ve also been trying to push myself out of my comfort zone in photography. Whether that’s shooting more portraits, something more editorial-like or more narrative-based, I’m just trying new things.
Pick out your favorite photo that you took and explain why you like it?
I don't really have a favorite photo but I do have a lot of photos I like, which you can find on my Instagram *ahem*. Generally, the photos I do end up liking more are those of moments or perspectives people wouldn’t have seen unless they were actively looking for them.
What kind of impact do you hope to make in photography/or the fashion world in the near future?
I definitely don’t have any expectations of making an impact in either world (laughs), but my personal goals for both go hand in hand I think. I want the photos I take to make the viewer feel something, and it's the same with fashion yet slightly different. An important thing for me to think about is "why does this make me feel this way?" I want the audience to take something away because I took this photo, to feel some way because I added something to it, whether it’s experience, understanding of a subject, perspective, anything. With clothing, I don’t expect people to feel anything, but the goal is to convey a sense of intention. Why does someone dress this way? What emotions or ideas does this person want to convey?
What does fashion mean to you?
Fashion is fun. Fashion to me is who you are and how you express yourself. It's a lot of unexplainable things that becomes a part of you and speaks to who you are. In school, most could care less about what they’re wearing with everything else there might be going on. Personally, it's both a challenge and fun thinking about what to wear and showing the side of myself that I want to show.
What do you think about fashion in the world?
I feel that a lot of people buy clothing just to follow trends and buy whatever is in season or wear certain pieces because they can afford to. Part of it is probably because I’m just salty I can’t afford those things, but when someone’s look becomes a mashup of hundred dollar printed tees and jeans, it’s hard to see where a person’s individual style comes into play. On the other hand, I don’t really like to make comments on what people can or should wear just because my opinion is irrelevant anyway (laughs). People should, and do, wear whatever makes them feel comfortable and that’s the most important thing I think about fashion in the world.
How important are perspectives in photography?
So I had to read this book for a class that talked about the inherent characteristics and problems of photography, and one of them was perspective. To me, perspective is what gives your photos an identity, what makes your photos unique. Anyone can take the same photo from the same location and point of view but it takes serious thought on the part of the photographer to come up with a unique perspective. That’s not to say it should be some contrived perspective by holding your camera at a weird angle. A unique perspective I think shows what the photographers have to say about a subject, what they’ve thought about and hoped to convey.
How do you decide what to capture and how to capture it? Was there a certain perspective or theme you want to convey to the audience? In other words, what is it you want to say with your photographs and how do you actually get your photographs to do that?
To me, having a single photo is hard to show emotions and so it takes a body of work and all the photographs you decide to include, to capture the emotion or idea you are trying to convey. Perhaps to others, the photos [they] choose to show may not be special, but as long as you can argue for yourself why you took a particular photo, or set of photos, that’s all you really need. Also, a lot of photography isn’t as easy as one would think and people spend a lot of time scouting locations, finding the right angles, and editing, to create that one frame that someone might spend a second looking at.
Pick out 3 of your favorite photos and give a brief explanation of what they are, what angle you decide to capture it from, and why?
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?
At the end of the day, photography and fashion are very personal things. Sure there’s going to be people who don't like your photos or don't like the way you dress, but I think it’s important to have fun, find your voice and “do you” as we say at here (laughs). The cool thing about photography and fashion is that because it's so personal, you can get a sense of people's tastes and see what these people paid attention to. And seeing different people's perspectives, seeing what people put thought into, I think, is pretty neat.