Saturday, May 19, 2018

"‘The Shoot Must Go On’: Masayoshi Sukita captures some of rock music’s most iconic figures"

From The Japan Times, 5/17/18.

Even if you don’t recognize the name, you probably know his shots. Photographer Masayoshi Sukita has captured images of rock gods and movie stars that deserve that most overused of epithets: iconic.

There’s Marc Bolan, face creased in orgasmic bliss and hair billowing behind him as he lunges towards the camera; a lipstick-smeared Masatoshi Nagase and Youki Kudoh, slumped against a hotel bed, on the set of Jim Jarmusch’s “Mystery Train”; the members of Yellow Magic Orchestra, sharing a table with a pair of mannequins on the cover of “Solid State Survivors.”

And then there’s David Bowie: lots and lots of Bowie. Sukita first captured the musician in London in 1972, at the peak of his Ziggy Stardust fame, and continued to photograph him for the next 35 years. His monochrome portrait on the cover of the 1977 “Heroes” album proved so indelible that Bowie was still referencing it decades later, even recreating the pose on Instagram, dressed as a member of Daft Punk.

In an introduction to Sukita’s 2011 collection, “Speed of Life,” Bowie wrote: “Whenever he’s asked me to do a session I conjure up in my mind’s eye the sweet, creative and big-hearted man who has always made these potentially tedious affairs so relaxed and painless. May he click into eternity.”

After nearly 60 years in the business, “eternity” is starting to sound just about right. But though Sukita has worked with some massive stars, and become a major name in his own right, he says he still prefers to meet his subjects as equals.


Sukita has had plenty of opportunity to reflect on his life’s work recently. The past few years have seen a flurry of retrospective shows, not just in Japan but also in France, Italy, Australia and the United Kingdom. Now the photographer, who celebrated his 80th birthday earlier this month, is the subject of a feature-length documentary.

Directed by music industry veteran Hiromi Aihara, “Sukita: The Shoot Must Go On” follows its amiable subject as he exhibits his Bowie shots in the U.S. for the first time, and catches up with a host of old acquaintances, ranging from Japanese music royalty (Tomoyasu Hotei, the members of YMO) to British fashion designer Paul Smith.

There are additional interviews with an assorted cast of figures from throughout his career, including Nagase, Jarmusch and fashion stylist Yacco Takahashi.

It’s not just a nostalgia fest, either: Sukita is also seen working in the studio with present-day guitar hero Miyavi, though their meeting didn’t go quite as planned. After waking up with a fever on the day of the shoot, the photographer had to spend several hours in hospital while his crew anxiously prepared for his arrival. Nevertheless, he proudly recalls that he managed to finish the job on schedule.

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