INTERVIEW WITH YOSHIKI SUZUKI (PEANUTS & CO, YOSHIKI SUZUKI PHOTOGRAPHY) [ENG]

Sometimes spontaneously taken decisions, which seemed a minor trifle, entail global and interesting consequences. So, once, pictured his trip to the USA, Yoshiki Suzuki decided to continue photographing American life in every new trip. After 10 years of western trips, Yoshiki published the book “UNION”, full of contrasting essays about everything that surrounded him in that country.

October 14 in the space of the Moscow store BELIEF, was the opening of two exhibitions Yoshiki Suzuki, in which he presented a book and a series of photographs “UNION”, as well as a trunk-show of his jewelry brand PEANUTS & CO. We talked with Yoshiki about traveling to the USA, his love of tattoos, and how it all relates to PEANUTS & CO.

Photo: Leonid Sorokin

Mr. Suzuki, your exhibition, as well as the book, is called “UNION”. Presented photos are devoted to your trip to the USA. Tell us how you decided to go for it, and about the most memorable case associated with it.

I decided to go for my first trip to the US with my friend. I had many reasons to go: I really wanted to see America with my own eyes, get to know its culture more closely, and also make a few memorable tattoos. One fine day of my staying in the US, I suddenly met an American with whom I discussed tattoos and motorcycles for a really long time. Sharing stories that happened with me and him, we were equally amazed at how much his life in America was similar to my life in Japan. Well, we became a good friends… At that moment I found a really kindred soul.

In your photos, there is a contrast of calm and explosion of emotions, monochrome and bright spots. And how the unity of your works is expressed?

Yoshiki Suzuki “UNION” Exhibition. Photo: Kirill Sidorov

For me it’s just a compilation of what I like: American culture and life, as also the photos of friends with whom we had a great time… I really hope that despite the diversity of my pictures, people will look at them and feel this unity laid in every frame.

The book is full of shots showing the dark side of American life. Drunken debauch, gatherings in strip clubs, life of bikers … Why did you pay special attention to this?

It seems to me that for such simple people as me who went on a trip to America (or, for example, in Russia), it is important to see something real and genuine. This street culture, sometimes “punk” and dirty, shows us life as it really is.

Yoshiki Suzuki “UNION” Exhibition. Photo: Alexey Eruslanov

You paid no less attention to tattoos. You photographed everything connected with them, including the work of tattoo artists and tattoo parlors. What attracts you to tattoos and do you have them?

Here, for example, one of my first tattoos [shows a calligraphic inscription on the hand in the “Chicano” style], which I did a long time ago. Even then I became interested why people tend to express their feelings, thoughts and experiences through the prism of numerous tattoos, sometimes covering the entire body. So I discovered a new world — a world of tattoos. I like almost all the famous genres: American Old School, traditional Japanese style, Russian criminal tattoos … They are all so different, and it makes me loving it even more.

In addition to your interest in photography, you also own your own Peanuts & Co. jewelry brand. Why did you decide to create a jewelry brand?

The more trips I made, the more friends and fellows began to surround me. At one point, I wanted to do something that I could proudly present to each of them. Developing this idea, I decided to create a jewelry brand PEANUTS & CO with an exclusively local character. The very first products, by the way, just became gifts for all those who supported me in this.

PEANUTS & CO Trunk Show. Photo: Leonid Sorokin

The concept of PEANUTS & CO is based on the image of an ancient American circus. He is also present in the very products of the brand, depicting clowns and other gay characters. Why did the circus become your main source of inspiration?

In general, I have a special passion for various ancient things, including motorcycles and art objects. Creating PEANUTS & CO, I tried to put into it a genuine sense of antiquity, and the American circus of the past centuries became its embodiment. In old circuses, there were often colorful shows with clowns, freak shows and people with tattoos all over the body. Such an circus athmosphere I decided to use within my brand.

In our conversation you mentioned “punk”. What do you associate with this music?

In Japan, punk rock is still a very popular musical genre. But for me it’s not just music, punk is a whole cultural phenomenon, a protest to society, its foundations, norms and laws. Nevertheless, despite the importance of punk rock for me, I can’t say it’s my only favorite music. I grew up in different genres of rock, which, like punk, had a strong influence on me.

Photo: Leonid Sorokin

You visited our country for the first time. Which things surprised you the most?

First of all [Smiles and pauses] … the weather! It’s very cold here! [Laughing]. Nevertheless, despite the cold, people here are very warm, and their warm attitude to the guests is immediately noticeable. I was also surprised that you are familiar with Japanese culture. It is commendable!

Yoshiki Suzuki in Moscow. Photo: Leonid Sorokin

As we know, Russia is only the starting point of your journey through Europe. Are you going to document it? Perhaps this will be the foundation for your new book or exhibition.

Yes, after Moscow I will go to St. Petersburg, then to Estonia, Latvia, and possibly to Amsterdam and Germany … I’m thinking. [Smiles]

In fact, I will be happy to capture interesting moments here, in Moscow, and during the journey through Europe. But will this become a part of something more — I haven’t decided yet …

Yoshiki Suzuki in Moscow. Photo: Leonid Sorokin