KT: You have championed the art of exploring the Japanese stereotype with your unique way of self-portraiture. How did you get into photography? When/what was your first encounter with photography?
TS: My first encounter with photography was when i was a child. I started making photographic work and self-portrait during my photography class in the university.

KT: You have published many photobooks including ‘ID400’, ‘Omiai’ (both in 2004), ‘School Days’, ‘Masquerade’ (both in 2006). With 3 more publications in 2015 – ‘Facial Signature’, ‘Kawaii’, ‘Recruit’ and your recent one with Nazraeli Press. What do you like about photography in a book format? What is the collaborative process between you and your publisher considering you have worked with a very wide range of publishers?

TS: I do like photography in a book format because it is easy for anyone to collect my works in the form of books. Anyone who is not able to collect my actual prints can easily purchase my books. The book is not just a catalogue for me. It is one of my important artwork almost like as a sculpture.
First, I already have some ideas about the book (which series, in what shape and form… etc). Then, I propose and discuss further details with publishes to start collaborating.

KT: In your recent book, your work had a very interesting underlying message,”“All people—despite having different types of so-called “added values” such as nationality, race, religion, and language—are essentially and naturally equal human beings. This fundamental underlies my photographic work: I aim to point people euphemistically to the fact that humans share 99.99999% of the same genes.” Please comment.
TS: That is my underlying idea for all my works and its my basic line of thinking about the concept.

KT: You explore the idea of real identity within a controlled environment, your work emphasizes the unique characteristics of the photographic image to shape both the identity of the sitter and the viewer. What is your seduction with ‘Self-portraiture’?

TS: My works are mainly (not only) “self-portraiture” because it is the best way to explore my ideas and express my thinking. Self-portraiture can visualize and organize my ideas.

KT: As you have mentioned earlier that you are interested in the relationship between inside and outside, your self-portraits questions the politics of identity and personality. What is your ‘Ikigai’ as an artist? What do you want to achieve from your photography in the end?

TS: My work doesn’t question about specific issues. For me, making artwork is the process of thinking. I always produce my work to show what I am currently thinking. I don’t have ‘Ikigai’ as artist. Being artist is my ‘Ikigai’.
To understand what I was thinking through my artworks.

Images©Tomoko Sawada, courtesy MEM, Tokyo