Editing with Aya Takada

From the series "Tōjinbō" © Aya Takada

We are talking to a range of photographers, photo editors, professors of photography, book designers and others about the physical process of editing images. Selecting, sequencing and laying out photographs - be it for a magazine, book, online site or gallery presentation - seems something of a mysterious process for many photographers and a process that seems perhaps hard to give words to. I haven't found much written about the process and that's exactly why I'm excited to see what comes up in this series.

We started the conversation with Rob HaggartAshley KauschingerJeff RichMiska Draskoczy and Kevin WY Lee. Today we continue with Aya Takada.

Born in Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan, Takada is a graduate of Visual Arts Tokyo and has had numerous solo exhibitions, beginning in 1994. Her work has been featured on Japan Exposures, Street Level Japan and HotShoe. A review of her US debut exhibition at Benedictine University was reviewed by John Sevigny here. She has published a number of her bodies of work as photobooks including AREA, Fragrance Petit and TAMAKO.

From the series "TAMAKO" © Aya Takada

Editor's Note: We worked hard on establishing a translation, but parts remain rough, especially the first question. Thank you in advance for your understanding.

fototazo: Tell us a little about yourself and what area of photography you work in.

Aya Takada: After graduating from Tokyo Visual Arts, I made printed photographs published in four tabloid editions from 1998 to 1999. I participated in an independent gallery in Shinjuku as a management member from 2001 to 2005. I gained experience in layouts and the editing of photographs there. The places I photographed during these several years aren't mainly from inner city Japan, famous tourist attractions and the places which the country is famous for; but on the contrary, places people have left, abandoned.

From the series "TAMAKO" © Aya Takada

f: How do you select images to work with from a larger group? What criteria do you use?

AT: First, I will go back to my recollection from the time of shooting. At the time of shooting, when I was closer to the state of the subject, and with respect to the image that does not change from the time of shooting. I choose the photographs that have faithfully reproduced the subject. One of the criteria I use to select photographs is the corporeal sense of the place I was shooting. Surprise, impression and fear. Pure sense. When a vivid impression was left while shooting, this photograph is inevitably chosen.

f: Talk with us about how you begin to organize and sequence the images that you have selected in relationship to each other - as well as to text if there’s text.

AT: This one is simple. These are more or less sequenced by the passage of time. Old photographs will be at the beginning, new photographs aligned behind them. In my series, time is one of the most important axes for sequencing.

From the series "WATAKANO" © Aya Takada

f: How do you consider the balancing of formal qualities in the photographs with the content/narrative of the series as a whole as you select and sequence a series?

AT: As in the answer to the previous question, of all the variables, it is a visual balance of the photograph that should be given priority, the photograph that roughly captures the recollections I have of observing a shooting location and the passage of time for sequencing. To give priority to the accidental elements which a photograph itself might have, I prefer to use methods such as the panel layout, in which I intentionally sequence static images according to a predetermined set of patterns. I think abstract photographs can be more easily understood in the form of a movie by sequencing them individually in a stop-motion pattern. Even if there is a narrative in a series, a story isn’t emphasized, because it exists as a fragmentary scene of a story. I am also thinking of choosing photographs from each of these series and re-editing them in the future.

From the series "ISLAND" © Aya Takada

From the series "ISLAND" © Aya Takada

f: What are common issues, problems and questions that unfold for you during the process of laying things out?

AT: The problem is to work to locate the piece that appears to be faithful to the original scene from a huge edit of photographs. There are a lot of prolonged patterns in my recent series, and these require labor more than shooting. I feel very inefficient, but I haven't found any better way yet.

f: How do you know when a layout is done?

AT: When a new photographic series begins, it occurs naturally. There is little conceptual consideration at the initial stage. This process leads to the finish with an assembly of the pieces collected while shooting. These are like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. When I find I do not have enough pieces, I shoot again. If it is unclear, I work more whimsically. Sometimes I may not be able to finish for years. Just as a start occurs naturally, so a finish often also comes naturally. When a shooting location is destroyed, this can also mean a series is over.

From the series "FU-RIN" © Aya Takada

f: What are common mistakes you see in editing?

AT: While not necessarily affirming that to do so is a mistake, I would say dramatically reconfiguring the series intentionally. This is because I believe that simply put, if there is too much staging and deformation involved, the original physical value of the subject will be lost.

f: Finally, what is the best advice you’ve ever gotten about editing?

AT: Repeat the work, perseveringly.

From the series "FU-RIN" © Aya Takada

From the series "FU-RIN" © Aya Takada

From the series "FU-RIN" © Aya Takada

From the series "FU-RIN" © Aya Takada

From the series "FU-RIN" © Aya Takada