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We Are Photographers Series | Erika Yamaguchi

Erika Yamaguchi is simply inspired by two things: women and light. In her not-so recent photography set, she certainly was able to capture both. This twenty-three year old freelance photographer hailing from the Philippines defines her photos as a tribute to Mother Earth. According to her, “Each photograph is an expression of my emotions. This becomes evident in my works since they really speak of how I feel about that particular moment.”

Her impeccable eye for details and capturing a women’s beauty will always be visually present in her works.  Erika believes that if you can learn to control the available light and make it work for you, you will learn to appreciate its magic.


Tell us more about yourself and your work as a photographer.

My work is deeply inspired by my personal experiences. Each photograph is an expression of my emotions. This becomes evident in my works since they really speak of how I feel about that particular moment. I love making use of textures and colour because of how they set the mood of a photograph. I also love how black and white images provide powerful messages through its simplicity. Simple lighting and shadows easily rival and even surpass the brightest and most vibrant colors. Through my practices, I have learned to appreciate both and how to sparingly use them to provide the best photograph out of any moment.

People who know me say I am friendly and weird, adventurous but quiet, loud and strict, and always fun. As weird as this description may be, I find it appropriate since all these descriptions coincide with my works.


How did you get into photography?

My father is my inspiration for my getting into photography. Also, I would see his photographs of candid moments, landscapes, and even the Formula 1 Races. Seeing those images and how he was able to capture such amazing photographs started my passion for photography. I wanted to be like him. I wanted to capture the most thrilling moments, the most amazing views, and I wanted to do it just like my father did. Immediately, I got my first camera and it was a Holga K-200. With digital cameras being non-existent during the time, I had to rely on film. Using film taught me how to be patient but also how to act precisely since missing a moment also means having one less chance to capture other moments. I used that camera for 6 years, after which I was given a Polaroid camera. Eventually, my father gave me his old Canon EOS 3. Even with DSLRs rolling into the mainstream, I still continue to use film and I will never consider film as the other option.


Are there any photographers that have become a great influence in your chosen career?

First would be Mario Testino. His works always leave me speechless. His creativity and enthusiasm in creating such powerful portraits knows no boundaries. I believe he is a man created with a specific mission of interpreting beauty through the lens of a camera.

Next is Amber Gray. She is a photographer/director for fashion, beauty, and advertising. She personifies versatility, and it shows because her works are very surreal, full of life and alluring. Her concepts are like watching her dreams come to life. These traits are the reason why I aspire to be as skillful as her. I want to be able to convey strong messages and beauty while keeping a touch of mystery.

I also admire the works of Henri Cartier-Bresson. He is a photo-journalist who is an inspiration to me and many others. Despite having a different style of photography, his method of handling available light is what fascinates me. Aside from that, the candidness in his portraits is amazing. His split-second timing and ability to capture the most precise and best moments is just incredible. Everything is perfect from the lighting, angles and facial expressions. He has the ability to turn an unmitigated disaster into a world of wonder and mystery filled with beauty.

Lastly, Helmut Newton screams femme fatal at its best. The way he works the tones in a photo to hit a female’s curves and smiles is unreal. His works are sharp, daring and fierce. His works are reminiscent of noir themed movies: heavy in black and white, very dramatic, very bold and very daring. He definitely knows how to render the beauty of a woman.


What are your inspirations for your work?

Women are my number 1 inspirations. Females have a certain beauty that is very versatile. Every action she makes has a different result; each result has a different story to tell. Every blink, every smile, every reaction yields a hidden story that the world must discover and know. My first exhibit was called “Imaginarium Femina” which, as you can tell, is based on femininity. I wanted my guests to enter a place in my mind’s that interprets female beauty. I showcased the positive and negative aspects through my illustrations and photography.

Another, more simple, inspiration of mine is light: available light, to be more precise. Almost all of my works revolve around this simply because I never disregard nature’s gifts. It magnifies the beauty of my surroundings. Despite its wonder though, available light can be very tricky to work with. I believe if that if you can learn to control the available light and make it work for you, you will learn to appreciate its magic.


What is your favourite way to get your creative juices flowing?

Randomness is the best way to be creative. I might say a random idea and people may not understand it. But that’s all part of the process of creating an idea. Refining the randomness comes next and it usually comes in the form of an illustration.


When you were starting out, did you have any mishaps or disasters?

I did not have too many mishaps in the beginning. The worst experience I had was arriving to a shoot without my battery pack. I was left very embarrassed and ashamed for being so irresponsible. I tried my best to handle the situation as professionally as I could but with all the delays and hassle I had caused, it still haunts me to this day.


Where is your favorite location to shoot in Manila?

I consider my village my favorite location. It is a very dynamic village and despite living here for 23 years, there is always something new and something to photograph. The tall trees and colourful plants provide amazing backgrounds and there are plenty of structures and textures to get creative with. In general though, I like shooting and maximizing the Paranaque-Sucat area. It is an area with a lot of hustle and bustle, a lot of life and even a lot of secret places worth shooting.


Do you have any advice for aspiring young photographers?

Always remember the 3 steps: pre-production, production and post-production. Do not be overly excited and just post things online right away. I also believe that having a vision also helps tremendously. A proper vision will help you in creating your photos and the message they convey. The last thing you want is for people to misinterpret your art, especially in a very bad way. Finally, it’s good to be inspired, but there is a fine line between inspiration and copying a work. Please stay inspired but also be original.


– Kristina Carillo




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