Through Tatsuo Suzuki’s Lens

A gritty, monochromatic view of Tokyo

Tatsuo Suzuki takes black and white photographs that document the fast pace of urban life in Shibuya, Tokyo. Tatsuo first started shooting in 2008, after getting a Nikon D70. After initially finding the art of photography to be very interesting, he soon became increasingly addicted to the medium. At the beginning he shot mainly in color, but over the years he shot more and more in black and white, as he felt that it captured the passion and emotions of his subjects more effectively.

When asked about his background, he says that it is actually in music — and that punk rock, in particular, has left a very deep impression on him. Previously in high school and up until college, Tatsuo was in a punk band. Those days are now over, but one can still get a sense of his punk music past in his gritty black and white street photography.

Tatsuo admits the underlying impulse of punk has probably always existed in his photography. The uplifting energy, the irritability of punk, and frenetic rhythm are all in a way visually represented in his work. In his long exposure photography, for example, there is an expressiveness that seems almost musical.

He shoots primarily on weekends when he is not working. Typically he would walk around the city and ask subjects if he can take their photo. Sometimes he doesn’t ask at all and just takes a spontaneous shot of a passerby. His interest is mostly in capturing people in their regular daily lives, and not so much about cool and perfect compositions.

Tatsuo describes his photographic style as being emotional, impulsive and more documentary in nature. His favorite photographers include Robert Frank, William Klein, and Daido Moriyama. With Moriyama in particular, he shares a lot of stylistic similarities. Often described as being dark, gritty, rough, provocative and blurry, the same could be said of Suzuki’s work.

His inspiration, he says, comes mainly from within. He believes photographs can be a reflection of what goes on in a photographer’s mind, so if there is a perceived dark side in his work, he admits it probably also represents his inner state. He is not so interested in capturing humorous or comical street scenes, but is drawn more towards scenarios that have a high degree of tension and complexity.

Like many other street photographers, Tatsuo is inspired by his chance encounters when out shooting, that sudden flash of a moment when first meeting someone. But at the same time, he admits that over the years there haven’t been that many especially memorable or monumental moments that he can recall while shooting. For Tatsuo, every day is a new day and one must always look to the future. He doesn’t typically like to look at past work, except mainly to learn from it and to try to improve on it. In his words, the photo he takes today he hopes will be better than the one that he took yesterday.

Originally published at on October 26, 2015.

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