COOL was born in hope of becoming a bridge to let the art lovers all over the world inspire each other, link together as one, and create a new future in arts. The main contents consist of interviews of both New York-based and international artists and creators, special feature articles, art reports from around the world, reviews and column series. We contribute to the cultural exchange through arts and to the development of the art industry so that people in the world can enjoy arts casually and New York and major cities in the world can connect through the media COOL.


Don’t want to wake up from this beautiful dream, C-print, 2008, 112cm x 300cm or 300cm x 800cm

2009.2.21(SAT) – 2009.5.10 (SUN) at DIESEL DENIM GALLERY AOYAMA

Sprinting Forward-2, C-print, 2004, 120cm x 152cm

Concept:The Panoramic View of Delusion – Great view of Self degradation and Spacious Craziness

The bizarre panoramic world of “self degradation” created by upcoming Chinese artist, Chi Peng are extended all around the gallery. Chi Peng is sprinting around naked. Using his own body to confront himself, he transcends the limits of oneself. This is the transformation, the new way of self expression of this new generation of young Chinese.

In this exhibition, the gigantic installation work will reveal the“panoramic view of delusion”.

Curator: Kimiko Mitani Woo / MW Company

Curator: Kimiko Mitani Woo / MW Company
Date: 2009.2.21(SAT) – 2009.5.10 (SUN)
Address: 6-3-3 Minami Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Tel: 81-3-6418-5323
Hours: 13:00~20:00
Holidays: Non-regular holiday
Host: Diesel Japan
Cooperators: Roland DG Corporation
Web: www.diesel.co.jp/denimgallery

Born 1981 in Shangdong, China. Graduated in digital media from Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing. Has presented numerous photographic series with himself as the subject, using disguises and digital effects. He has had several solo shows in Beijing, where he is based, as well as abroad.
Group exhibitions include the 3rd Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale (2005), Chinese Photography Today (New York, 2005) and China Avant-garde (Vienna, 2006). He visited Japan in March 2008 as part of a Yokohama-Beijing artists in residence exchange.

Kensui Arao  PROFILE
Executive Creative Director / Saatchi & Saatchi Tokyo, JAPAN
Kensui has been Senior Creative Director 2000 to 2002 at Saatchi and Saatchi Tokyo, 2002 to 2004 at TBWA\Tokyo, Executive Creative Director at EURO RSCG Japan, most recently at Publicis Tokyo and back in Saatchi since Oct 2007. He has been involved in innovative solutions for a wide range of clients including Air France, Emirates, adidas, Nike, Intel, GUINNESS, Renault, Toyota, Lancome, Pedigree, Kal Kan and so on. Renown as out-of-box thinker, he’s set a new standard of outdoor advertising in Japan demonstrated by a series of guerrilla advertisings for adidas 2002 Worldcup Korea/Japan in Tokyo. The latest awards won are Bronze at CLIO and Gold at PMAA for an integrated campaign for BEAMS 30th anniversary event called TOKYO STYLE CLASH/HOT OR NOT through which he’s showed an unexpected new way of connecting people on the streets and people around the world.

Kimiko Mitani Woo / MW Company  PROFILE
Independent Art Curator / Art Producer.
After a career at Wieden + Kennedy Tokyo as an account executive of Nike, Kimiko Mitani Woo follows her dreams working with“Asian art and design”. Having worked on a few art projects such as Akasaka Art Flower 08, the artist management for Nam June Paik Art Center Opening, she established MW Company in February 2009 and started working in art producing in Tokyo and Shanghai. The main role of the company is to expose young and upcoming artists who represent a unique and non-traditional perspective of the world. By doing so, MW Company provides and encourages opportunities and development of the East Asian art scene.

Only existing in Tokyo and New York, DIESEL DENIM GALLERY is a store where denims are displayed as art works, providing creative shopping experiences. It also supports young artists actively, by holding art exhibitions in the store.
In this unique creative space, you can also enjoy DIESEL DENIM GALLERY Collection, which are the most prestigious items of Diesel. Since 2001, these rare items are released only in limited numbers every season, and they are placed as “wearable art”.
Moreover, at DIESEL DENIM GALLERY AOYAMA, there will be the store installations and art exhibitions featuring different artists each time on 1st and 2nd floor, the interior will have a complete new look twice a year by an art installation. On the 2nd floor, which is known as gallery floor, there will be art exhibitions for four times a year, and will be selling his/her actual artwork. Enjoy its unique innovation and originality that are evident around this new Diesel’s art space.
60,000 every 5 seconds. 106,000 every 30 seconds. 2,000,000 every 5 minutes. 426,000 every day. Can you guess what these numbers represent? In the consumer’s country U.S.A., 60,000 plastic bags are being used every 5 seconds; 106,000 aluminum cans every 30 seconds and 2,000,000 plastic bottles every 5 minutes are being thrown away; and 626,000 cell phones end their life every day. This is the unbelievable truth that embodies American society. Photographer, Chris Jordan cuts out to frame the grim face of contemporary society humans have created. Lawyer turned Photographer, see this peculiar artist’s real world.

Handguns, 2007 © Chris Jordan

COOL: How did photography get introduced into your life first?

Chris Jordan(CJ): My parents were both artists for many years— Dad was a photographer and Mom was a watercolor painter, so in that way photography was natural for me. But it stayed as just a hobby until I was almost forty years old. For my profession I was a corporate lawyer, working long depressing hours doing work that had little personal meaning for me. Photography was my creative escape, but I was afraid to take the risk of trying it full time and failing. Finally when I was about to turn forty, I saw that I was not fully living— that I was going to become an old person filled with regret, so I decided to leave my law job and make a go of it as a full-time artist. What has happened to me since then— only five years ago—has been truly astonishing.

COOL: What does art mean to you?

CJ: Art can have many functions, but the one I am most interested in is art’s ability to hold up a mirror to society, to show people things they might not have known about themselves. Art can help us wake up to what is unconscious in our behavior, either as individuals or collectively; like a friend of an alcoholic who says “I think you have a drinking problem that you are not facing.”

Art can be a powerful tool that way, but it requires the artist to be self-reflective, to respect and honor the complexity of the issues, and not be preachy or hypocritical or one-dimensional. When I look at myself, I have to admit that I am an American consumer, with feelings of greed--and lots of nice belongings to prove it, so I am in no position to preach to anyone about these things. But at the same time, I can speak up. Maybe the alcoholic’s friend is also an alcoholic himself, but that doesn’t mean he has to remain silent.

  Cell Phones, 2007 © Chris Jordan

COOL: What are the attractions of photography?

CJ: I think the medium of color photography holds the unique position of being the most representational of all art forms. Many photographic artists have explored the edges of this issue, trying to show that photography can never be truly objective. But compared with all other art forms, color photography is the most representational. So in this way, color photography has the power to serve as the clearest mirror possible for what is going on the real world.

Lately I have wanted to depict the true scale of our mass culture, and I discovered that this is impossible with straight photography, because our consumption and waste is spread out across our country. There is nowhere you can go to see it all in one place and photograph it. In that way, the cumulative effects of our consumption are invisible; the only evidence we have of it comes in the form of statistics. So for my Running the Numbers series, I began using computers together with photography to create photographic images that could not be made in the real world.

I am not sure these images can still be called photographs in the traditional sense, but people still think of me as a photographer. A couple of my Running the Numbers images were not even made with a camera—they were made with small photos that I downloaded from the internet.

COOL: What do you want the audience to think or feel by seeing your work?

CJ: On one level, my work is about presenting visual evidence of some enormous and frightening problems we are facing a society. The scale of these issues is difficult to experience via statistics alone, so I try to depict the issues visually in a way that can be felt more directly.

On another level, I hope my work might help to affirm the viewers’ sense of their own place in the world. Each of my Running the Numbers images is made of many individual things that combine to make up a huge collective. When you stand back, you can see the collective, and then when you walk up close, you can see the individuals that make up the collective. The collective is nothing more than lots and lots of individuals. I know this might sound obvious, but there is an important truth in there: every individual matters. This is something that is hard for people to really feel in our society that is so incomprehensibly huge and complex. So the hope behind my work is to affirm for each viewer that they matter— they have a valuable place in the collective. This is a subtle way of attempting to influence others into looking at their own behaviors that may be contributing to the collective problems of our culture.

COOL: What initially got you interested in environmental problems?

CJ: That issue actually found me, quite by chance. I took my first picture of a pile of garbage for purely aesthetic reasons. I made a big print and hung it on my studio wall, and my friends who saw it would start talking about consumerism. At that time I was not interested in consumerism, only aesthetic photography, and so I was annoyed when people misinterpreted my photograph! But after awhile, I realized I could take my work in that direction, as a way of engaging more deeply with the contemporary world. Ever since then I have become more and more interested in consumerism and issues of mass culture. It was a kind of waking-up for me, to discover these enormously important issues that I didn’t care about previously. Now I know what it means to be an engaged citizen, but this is very recent for me; just a few years ago, I didn’t care at all about my consumerism, or my environmental impact, or even to vote in our elections.

COOL: What's your main focus right now?

CJ: I continue to work on new pieces for Running the Numbers, and I am also doing a lot of public speaking and traveling at the moment. I feel a bit overwhelmed lately, trying to expand my working capacity by hiring some people to help manage my studio. The response to my work has been wonderful, beyond my dreams, but also I am discovering that with each set of new experiences comes a new set of problems. Now I have a new respect for people who start small businesses and grow them into bigger companies-- I am having some growing pains.

COOL: What is the most exciting moment in your life?

CJ: I think maybe it was back in early 2007, when I posted my Running the Numbers series on my website for the first time, and within a few weeks the site began to receive hundreds of thousands of visits. It was thrilling to see my work spread virally across the web, reaching an enormous audience within a short time. I think the response to my work is the result of a craving that many people feel, for a more sensible and ethical way of being in the world. I think we all sense the insanity of what we are doing collectively, and yet we have trouble making the leap to changing our own individual behavior.

COOL: What is the most impressive work you've done?

CJ: One piece that shocks me every time I see it is the one called “Prison Uniforms.” That is a huge print that shows 2.3 million prison uniforms, equal to the number of Americans in prison in 2005. America has the largest prison population of any country in the world, measured two ways: by the absolute number (no other country has that many people in prison, including China and India, with four times our population), and also per capita, meaning that we have the largest percentage of our population in prison of any country in the world.

In the print of this piece, each prison uniform is tiny—a few millimeters tall by one centimeter wide. But even at that tiny size, to show 2.3 million of them requires a print that is three meters tall by eight meters wide. It is shocking to stand in front of that print and realize the enormity of this uniquely American version of “liberty.”

COOL: What is your future vision?

CJ: That is a scary question because it reminds me that I eventually will have to step back into the unknown again. This year I will be traveling and doing lots of public speaking and exhibition of my Running the Numbers series. But I also see the end of that series coming in the distance, and it will be time to move on to something new again. That is always a frightening time for me, when I wonder if I have run out of ideas, and if I will ever do anything creative again. But that is a risk that I prefer over the alternative: staying in the same place, repeating successes, fearing to try something new. I did that as a lawyer for ten years, so I know what security feels like. For me its price is too high.

COOL: Message to your fans, please.

CJ: I would love to exhibit my work in Japan! I hope there is a way for that to happen.
And thank you for reading this.With my warm regards from across the Pacific.

Interview by Sei Koike

Michael Kenna, the titan of landscape photograph, keeps attracting people with his unique prints which reminds of Japanese ink printing. He visits Hokkaido almost every year, and this winter he conducted photo shoots at Lake Kussharo, which he explains as the ‘most memorable place’ for him. He shot the black-and-white pictures of ‘the most beautiful moments’ taken out from his encounters with nature in his own and unique way. COOL looks into his aesthetic, which is backed up by his brilliant sense and spirit.

© Michael Kenna/RAM

COOL: How did photography get introduced into your life first?

Michael Kenna: Well, I was born in 1953 in Widnes, Lancashire, England, the youngest of six children in a working class, Irish-Catholic family. There was certainly no tradition of art among my family at the time. Growing up I was highly impressed by the Catholic church and at just under 11, I entered a seminary school to train to become a priest. I left the school when I was 17. Art had been one of my strongest subjects and I was accepted at the Banbury School of Art in Oxfordshire. I later went onto the London College of Printing, where I studied photography for three years. After that, I did some assisting and b&w printing for an advertising photographer, and continued my hobby, landscape photography, on the side. It was really only when I went to the USA in the mid seventies that I considered the possibility of making a living in the fine arts. There were photography galleries in New York and there seemed to be a higher acceptance of photography as an art form. I decided to base myself in San Francisco, and subsequently lived there for many years, before moving North to Portland, Oregon in 2004.

COOL: When did you first start taking pictures and how did it happen?

MK: I think I took pictures in my mind from when I was a child, but my first serious efforts were made while studying at the Banbury School of Art in the early seventies. Photography was one of many art mediums that I was exposed to as part of the coursework. I made images of my surroundings. It was very exciting.

COOL: Who were influential photographers and artists for you?

MK: Initially I studied more commercial aspects of the medium; fashion, advertising, sports, still lives, photojournalism, etc., and did not know about the rich tradition of landscape photography. Later on I saw the works of such luminaries as Bill Brandt, Josef Sudek, Eugene Atget, and Alfred Steigliz. They were profoundly impressive and influential. I had studied the history of art in other courses and I was particularly entranced by the painters Casper David Friedrich, John Constable and JosephTurner. But who knows where influences come from. I am sure that there have been thousands of painters, sculptors, photographers, writers, musicians, poets, etc., who have greatly influenced me. The list would be very long.

COOL: What are the attractions of photography?

MK: Imagine being out at night, alone, under starry skies, listening to silence, watching the world slowly move, all senses alive, thinking, imagining, dreaming. The camera is recording, creating, documenting, seeing what the eye cannot see - cumulative time. Or, the sensation of being in a field as the snow falls on a single, exquisite tree. White all around. Just the sound of snow falling. I love almost all aspects of the photographic process - except perhaps processing film! Traveling, searching, image making, seeing the first contact sheets, printing, exhibiting, making books, everything. I am a very lucky person to have found this path through life. I cannot think of a better way to spend my time.

Kussharo Lake Tree, Kotan, Hokkaido, Japan, 2002 ©Michael Kenna/RAM

COOL: In what moment do you feel the urge like “wow, I want to take pictures of this” ?

MK: There are moments when things come together; conditions, place, subject matter, inner connections; moments that are singular and special. It is a privilege to be present at such times and to have the possibility to integrate into the scene and subjectively interpret. It is an experience that defies description, at least from me.

COOL: What were the impressive places or things that occurred while you were in Japan this time?

MK: Hokkaido was exquisite as always. Cold, expansive, solitary, white, graphic. It seemed every time I saw something that I wanted to photograph, the elements would be kind to me; snow, wind, mist. In-between the sun would come out again. I think the highlight was revisiting Kussharo Lake Tree which I had previously photographed in 2002, 2004 and 2005. We got there when it was still dark. The stars were out, a startlingly clear morning. As I circled the tree, making my presence known without disturbing the snow, the clouds moved in. A gray mist descended. Silence, for awhile. The nearby swans woke up creating a wonderful dawn chorus. I photographed for some hours, slowly, getting ever closer, having a conversation. Finally I was able to touch the tree and wish it her a Happy Valentine’s Day. It was, after all, the morning of February 14th.

COOL: Why do you think you get so attracted to the scenery in Japan?

MK: There are characteristics of the Japanese landscape that resemble and remind me of my homeland England. Japan is a country of islands, surrounded by water. It is a place that has been lived and worked in and on for centuries. It is geographically small and spaces are quite intimate in scale. The people are fastidious and disciplined, friendly and welcoming. I feel there is a powerful sense of atmosphere that resides in the Japanese soil and I identify with it. I like to photograph memories and stories, and I feel strangely at home wandering around this beautiful land. I could happily return many, many more times.

COOL: Why do you choose to use 7 1/2 x 7 1/2 inch sized prints?

MK: It is a fairly intimate size that reflects the way I like others to view my work. Our eyes see about 35 degrees in focus so my prints usually mean viewers stand 10 inches away to view them. That is pretty close. I like that engagement. Larger prints would mean a greater distance. I have made prints pretty much the same size for a long time and like the thought that a print from 30 years ago can happily live with one I make today. One big, happy family....

COOL: Where do you want to visit next, out of all the places that you have never been?

MK: The places I photograph are like friends. I like to revisit them over and over to deepen the friendship. I don't need new friends all the time. They would take up a lot of time. In general I would prefer to spend more time in places I am currently photographing, particularly in China, India, Japan and Korea. We will see where the winds of travel take me. I am happy to go anywhere, anytime. I love to travel.

COOL: In what moment do you feel the pleasure of being a photographer?

MK: When I read your question I thought you said “pressure” instead of “pleasure”! Sometimes it is difficult to juggle and prioritize all the aspects of a life well lived. There are not enough minutes in a day or days in a year or years in a lifetime to do everything that one would like to do. So, yes, there is some pressure at times. There is also a lot of pleasure. I love what I do and it gives me great satisfaction. Being a photographer means that I go hunting for experiences. I feel them and photograph them. I act as a medium for others to see them. I touch them with my own subjective interpretations but I am really a guide. I get to point out aspects of the world that are wonderful, mysterious, inspirational, beautiful, at least in my mind and eyes. What greater pleasure could there be?

Pine Trees, Wolcheon, Gangwando, South Korea, 2007 ©Michael Kenna/RAM

COOL: What is your favorite camera?

MK: Right now I use pretty old and battered Hasselblads. They are fully manual, no batteries, no digital displays, fancy bells or whistles. They can function in extreme conditions and are generally reliable. They are versatile and don’t weigh too much, which is an important consideration for me. I get a decent sized negative which I can print whole frame or crop as required. I have used these cameras for the last 20 years so know them quite well. We get along together. Until the digital revolution dictates that no more traditional film or printing paper is manufactured, I will probably stay with my friendly work horses..

COOL: Messages for your fans, please!

MK: If there is one thing I KNOW, it is that I don't know anything. I receive many e mails these days asking for “answers”. How to photograph? How to live? How to break into the art world? How to get an exhibition? How to have a book published? I wish there were answers. I don't think there are. Well, at least I don't have them and I always feel frustrated trying to write back. Perhaps there are no secrets to living a good life or being “successful”. Work as hard as you can. Live in the moment. Be responsible. Enjoy life, you might not get a second chance! And, treat others as you want to be treated yourself. Be well. Thank you for this interview.

Interview by Kyoko Kobayashi, Photo © Michael Kenna/RAM

Michael Kenna Official Site

On a snowy day in January we visited Ricky Powell’s house. This charismatic photographer whose name also has become well-known in Japan, is famous for taking the snap shots of many celebrities, tour photographs of bands and more. Although I became nervous when I was invited in to the house in which he and his cat lives, his first words "What is the first question?" in a friendly voice relieved me, and it started our interview smoothly.

COOL: What’s new with you recently?

RICKY: Well I have a new book that just came out called “frozade moments”…A postcard book… Just hit on “Ijammy.com”.

C: Could you tell us about yourself?

R: I am a native New Yorker. I am 43 years old. Freelance writer, photographer and I’m also working on a book coming out later this year. It’s going to be called “Public Access”. It’s going to be a 20-year retrospective of my work. And in this book there are a lot of collaborations. I had artists collaborate with me… Here’s the cover for my new book. That’s me (on the cover). This photographer named Spencer Tunic took this picture of me… He shoots all of the people on the street without clothes on. This is a picture of Keith Haring holding up 2 beer cans. And you know Russ from SSUR? He painted that. Dalek painted on this one…(Showing the card) It was called “Funky Dope Maneuvers” where I had artists paint on my black and white photos. I am excited about the book. It will be out in September on “Powerhouse Books”.

C: Which camera do you use?

R: I use a Minolta Auto-Focus. Sometimes I use a Pentax.

C: What was your most exciting moment as a photographer?

R: There are so many…I don’t know the most exciting moment is just when I catch a good shot on the street. Right now my main focus is street photography, so when I catch a moment (and it’s real hard to catch anything on the street) that makes my day. You know, not necessarily shooting one person, especially like a celebrity. I shot a lot [of celebrities] so it’s hard to really narrow it down. These days it makes me happy when I have my camera and I’m walking and I see something on the street…It could be anything, a dog, a person…Little moments like this (showing a picture).

C: Sometimes do people try to stop you from taking pictures on the street?

R: Yes. That happens sometimes. It’s funny. I’ve been taking pictures like that for years
without…well usually I like to ask. This past summer I took a picture of a lady smoking a cigarette on the street and she saw me and I said “I hope you don’t mind”. She said, “I DO mind!” She got real mad. She started screaming at me on the street. “Who do you think you are? If there was a cop here I’d have you arrested! You can’t go around taking pictures of people without asking.” A couple of months later – I’ve been taking this class on TV production. I was talking to this guy who told me “Yeah man, you have to ask people on the street if you can take their picture because their could be some legal problems?” I said “What? I’ve been shooting people on the street without asking permission for 20 years!” He said, “You’re lucky you didn’t get arrested ever.” So for now on I basically ask. You know, ask first shoot second. But it’s funny, you know one of my photographers that I look up to, Ron Gallella. He shoots many celebrities over the years. His philosophy is “Shoot first, THEN ask…” (laughter) So he’s gotten into trouble in the past

C: When you ask people…

R: You loose the moment. Yeah, that can happen.

C: What is your most favorite subject?

R: Animals. They’re beautiful…I don’t know. They’re just natural. I have this special sound I make when I want to get dogs to look at me in the picture like this (tilting his head with a confused look). That’s when I take the picture.

C: What kind of animals?

R: Dogs mostly.

C: How about your cat?

R: Yeah, he’s alright. I had some other cats that passed away. They were real fun. I had a black cat named Blackberry. He was a long-haired Persian, and I used to give him haircuts…So he had the lion haircut…I have a backyard with a garden in the back and he used to go back there and run around. I use to take pictures of him running free. We have some animal shots in this book…Animals are definitely part of the repertoire.

C: Is there anyone who has influenced you strongly?

R: Yeah. Linda McCartney. You know Paul McCartney? His wife... She had a famous book. I like her style because she hung out with a lot of famous people, but she was very humble. She didn’t act like a big shot. I like the little captions next to her photos. That was a big influence on me, that book.

C: You shoot using film, right? Do you use digital?

R: No. 35mm…because I don’t have a computer or anything…I did a campaign ad for Canon Digital Cameras, but they didn’t give me a camera.

C: What’s the reason that you have for producing your book?

R: Well…as a photographer that’s basically what I live for. I don’t get called to do much work, to do shoots…The only time I get paid is when people email my website at RickyPowell.com looking for photos. They’re like “Did you shoot this?” or “Have you shot that?” or “Can I get a print of that?”…A book for me is like -- it gets a lot of people to see your work and it acts like a portfolio for you out there…So books are very important.

C: You visited Japan in 2003? What did you think?

R: I loved it. I did a three city tour – Tokyo, Osaka、Fukuoka. It was nice. I must say. Getting over there…the plane ride was rough. I always have a good time when I go there. Japanese people are very nice, very respectful…Much nicer than the people here. You know, it’s weird. I don’t really like people here.

C: Why?

R: Bad attitudes. Especially the people who just moved here. The new people…Just stupid. They act stupid. That’s why I stay home a lot. That why I basically just photograph animals.

C: Is there any other thing you would like to try?

R: Yeah. A TV Show. I used to have a TV show. I have a new DVD out of four old shows, including the first ever. And some bonus footage of me on some other TV shows. So I want to bring my TV show back. I want to be a host of a talk show. I’m going to start taping at the end of March. We hope to have the show on the air by Summer, and repeated in the fall. I am going to make 13 shows. 13 is a season. It’s going to be a talk show about NYC. I am going to have mostly people who grew up here and we’re going to talk about NYC.

C: Regular people or famous people?

R: Mostly famous, and some not. I want to get high profile people to the show, like Fab(Five Freddy). People like that. New York characters…and just talk about New York City. What happened to it. It’s changed. Change isn’t necessarily bad, but I don’t like the way it’s changed. It’s lost a lot of its flavor. It’s happening around the world though. It’s not just in New York. It’s the modern world. I don’t really like it. In New York when Mayor Giuliani came in I hated him. Because he took out gardens and put up ugly buildings so the rich people could move in. Shit like that….and the new Mayor Bloomberg…Their idea of “quality of life” Is not my idea of “quality of life”. It’s like, where you grow up if you see a change and you don’t like it, you get mad.
Instead of telling my friends on the street corner how mad I am, I feel I need a bigger forum, a bigger audience. That’s why I’m bringing the show on…to put my voice out there and say “I don’t like it.” It’s not going to be a whole negative show. That’s why I want to let people tell there version. Everybody knows my feeling. I want to let people show their feelings.

C: What do you think is the most interesting point of photography?

R: One, the interaction between the subject and the photographer. And for me, the backgrounds. Since the city is my studio the backgrounds are important. I like to use nice backgrounds like brick walls, the park. I like rustic backgrounds.

C: Where do you shoot mostly?

R: Down here. I use to go around a lot but I don’t really go around the city that much anymore. I’ve become reclusive…but I have my good days.

C: How do you think the future will be?

R: Well I hope I’m rich. I’ve been very broke. The last two years I’ve been struggling. No work. It’s been rough. But I’m hoping to make a big rebound. People’s careers…no one stays the same. It’s always up and down. So I’m coming out of a two year low and I’m hoping to come back up. Whatever happens, happens. I’d like to make some money because that’s what you need, but as long as I do what I like I can be pretty happy for that. I don’t really want to have a regular job. I can’t really work. I get crazy. …The only job I can really have is a job as a bike messenger. Doing that you can be free. I was a bike messenger for 15 years on and off. One of the things I am known for in the Rickford Files book, whenever I had a job as a bike messenger or bus boy I’d bring my camera with me. It lightened up the mundane part of the job. It made it interesting.

C: Also the TV show is coming too.

R: So I’m hoping with the TV show and this book, this year in 2005 I can have a rise, because last year, 2004, was the worst year of my life...professionally, financially and spiritually. My show is going to be half in the studio and half on location. My partner, DB Toujani, is my oldest friend. He’s doing the show with me. He’s the technical guy…I’m very lucky to have him. When the show comes out it will be called “Laughing with the Rickster”.

C: We’ve heard that recently you are making your own brand of T-shirts and also sneakers.

R: Yes T-shirts through “Upper Playground”. And sneakers. Only 100 pairs were made.

Then Ricky showed us stylish sneakers covered by his black-and-white photos. After the interview, Ricky said, "All right, let's go to the backyard to take photos!", and energetically ran into the snowy backyard, posed with trumpet in hand. We had a really great time during the interview and were thankful that Ricky welcomed us so openly.

He first got attention by taking photos back in the Golden Age of Old School Hip-Hop in the late 1980s, and then got attention again by publishing two collections of photographs, "Oh Snap" and "The Rickford Files", and by touring and private scene with RUN D.M.C, BEASTIE BOYS, LL COOL J and others.
Recently, his postcard book "Frozade Moments" won critical attention.

text by Sayako MAEDA, photo by Naho KUBOTA
English / 日本語
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