An inspiring conversation with photographer Keisuke Otobe.

Born in Tokyo in 1977, Keisuke Otobe moved to Italy when he was only 19 years old.

He studied photography in Florence, at Fondazione Studio Marangoni. In 2001 he moved to Milan, where he started as assistant for the most famous fashion photographers. Today he works on his personal projects and as a freelance photographer.

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In the last International Festival of Photography in Rome (FOTOGRAFIA at the MACRO contemporary art museum), you were among the five finalists of this important contest, with your intimate project “Far away from anywhere”. What’s your relationship between you and photography?

I was, I am and I’ll always be introvert. Before photography came into my life, I was trapped in the labyrinth of my questions and thoughts. I was the prisoner of myself.

Photography freed me from the cage I’ve built for years. This art taught me to observe and breath, it showed me the emergency exit, making me alive for the first time.


Is there a permanent feature in your works? What’s that?

Actually, there’s this shadow-shaped thing I’d define on two levels: it’s the shadow, meant as container; it’s the darkness, meant as content.

To me, shadow is as important and critical as light. It contains my darkness, the space where I’ve spent most of my life.

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Your works alternate between still-lifes and portraits. What’s behind them?

Well, portraits are my personal research of what Latins called “vacatio”, meant as absence, emptiness and lack. Indeed, I try to capture the moment when the individual breaks away from his/her body, leaving a sense of emptiness floating in the air. That’s my best portraits: when I stop that instant and I don’t feel alone anymore.

Regarding the still-lifes, they represent my queries about the Universe mechanisms: the atomic structures, the fire, the water, the air.

I’m not looking for answers, I’m just searching for questions.

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What’s your next step?

I’ll keep going on, till I have questions.

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Text by Amalia Martino