Interview & Report

Masanobu Ando

Masanobu Ando

Amazon Fashion Week TOKYO 2017 A/W Official Backstage Photographer

Born in Kanagawa Prefecture, on May 19th, 1975. Made a lead actor debut, in the 1996 movie “Kids Return”, directed by Director Takeshi Kitano. Has been active as an actor ever since, mainly in films, appearing in many Chinese and Taiwan movies also.

Ever since debuting in the 1996 Takeshi Kitano movie, “Kids Return”, Mr. Masanobu Ando has been in numerous movies, as an actor that represent the Japanese Movie Industry, and during the term of Amazon Fashion Week TOKYO 2017 A/W, snuck into the backstage to shoot as a photographer. This was a project that came true by, the wish of Mr. Ando whom has been shooting photographs since his 20’s, and the wish of us, JFWO, wanting to transmit the backstage of the shows from a never-before point of view, coming together. Now that the term has ended, we’ve asked him of his feelings towards photography, and episodes of this shoot, etc.


Masanobu Ando


I presume this was your first experience in shooting the backstage of fashion shows. Now that you’ve shot the backstage of a few brands, could you please let us know your honest opinion?

This was my first time to even see a fashion show, but the mixing of emotions of various staffs based in clothing, and the fruits of such emotions being presented to viewers in the shape of a show, this continuous flow of motions I think is like making a movie, so I strongly sympathized with it. Given this opportunity, not only did I get a first-hand look at the clothing being announced, but I also got to see the un-seen exchange of various emotions backstage, I kept shooting thinking everything is so beautiful.


What were you conscious of in this shoot?

Watching clothing being put on one after another on the models whom, depending upon how you look at them, could look like human being or dolls at the same time, was really interesting, like a scene from a SF movie I saw in my childhood. It made me want to overlay the sights developing in front of my eyes with scenes from movies I’ve seen in the past, and I challenged myself to shoot as if cutting out each singular moment. In addition, through my work as an actor, I have become strongly conscious of expressing my emotions, so in this shoot also, instead of focusing of clothing or hair & make-up, I wanted to capture the emotions of the subject. Because the lens I used was a 50mm fixed focal lens, I made it a point to get as close to the subject as possible, to shoot the emotions of the subject.

If there is an episode that especially stands out during this shoot, please tell us about it.

The first shoot of this project was the backstage of HARE. I entered the venue in the morning while it was still empty, and I watched for a long time, as the stage was being built, rehearsals, etc. During this time, I asked how long the show was going to be, and the answer was 10 minutes or so. I was truly surprised to hear how short it was. As the show drew near, I could feel the excitement and tensions of the designers rising, and at the end of the shoot, I felt it was a really good day. All the shoots from the second day on are also very memorable, but in some of the shows, some stylists and hair/make-up artists whom I am friends with were working, and it was great to get to see their serious expressions while they do their thing as professionals. As is understandable, the air becomes very tense right before the show, even more so than I imagined it would be. A few times, I was told “now isn’t the time (to be shooting)”, and thrown out of the sight (laugh). It’s understandable that people would get angry with me, but I had to make effective use this opportunity I’ve been blessed with, and I constantly had a sort of sense of duty to commemorate moments that can only be shot now, so I became insensitive to the mood on purpose.


I think there are similarities between a model’s job and actor’s job. Watching them backstage, was there anything you felt?

At first glance, it looks like a simple job of putting on clothing and walking down the runway, but to make the clothing look good, a specialized skill is needed, and I was really impressed seeing first-hand, the models expressing the moment in which the clothing look the best. I thought they really looked cool. Right before the show, I could feel the tension of the models too. I waited to shoot the moment as they finished their walk on the runway and returned backstage, but the tension before the show starts and the sense of relief after their walk, was a feeling I can sympathize with as an actor. Seeing the expression on the models and designers faces as they come back from the stage, filled with fulfillment as they let out a small breath of relief, gave me goose-bumps every time.


By the way, when did you start photographing?

Before I started acting, the only impression I had of photographs were souvenir photos of school outings (laugh). But ever since starting this job, I’ve had more and more opportunities to have my picture taken, and I was thoroughly impressed seeing photographs of me, acting in front of the camera, and having that instant freeze-framed in a world view. That became the opportunity for me to want to take photographs myself. Around that time, a photographer friend of mine took me to a photographic exhibition of Cindy Sherman, at which I saw a series of self-portraits. I thought it was like a piece that cut out a scene from a movie. Since then, in private, I began shoot self-portraits, or asked my actor friends to be models acting out stories and/or world views, and shot that.


What kind of photographs do you usually shoot?

In truth, I often paint my subjects in clotted blood, make them all bloody and shoot (laugh). I’ve always had an interest towards life force and fear towards death, so I wanted to express a vivid red, as a color that represents such things. I’ve shot photo stories of bloody actor friends and seniors. But this is all private shots. In addition, as I have mentioned earlier, I have a desire to shoot people’s emotions, so I sometimes shoot by putting my subjects in harsh circumstances on purpose. I think this is also related to the fact that I, as an actor, am often put in such situations when acting.



Are your photographic skills self-taught?

Yes, basically. But because I have many opportunities to be shot by various photographers, I already had an image of lighting. With that said, I never actually copy the lighting that was done on me. I am always completely conscious of capturing the emotion of the subject, and I think it is through this thoroughness that my photographs form a shape.


Masanobu Ando

Masanobu Ando Camera


Do you have any aspirations to shoot a movie?

There was a time when I wanted to shoot a movie myself. As I compile experience as an actor, go to overseas movie festivals, meet with various directors, I have come to understand the difficulties and hardships of shooting a two-hour movie. In addition to it being impossible to do immediately, I feel, capturing moments that I like is more suitable to me as a form of expression. So, I enjoy movies in the same way as still photographs that capture the moment. For example, since I was in my 20’s, I’ve been shooting firework festivals nationwide, and I like to play it in slow-motion along with my favorite music. I’ve also gone to Yakushima, only shooting the flow of water for hours.


Whether it’s photographs of movies, you seem to have an ardent desire to capture and cut out moments in time.

That’s true. When I was still in kindergarten, one night, when I was sleeping with my family of four, I woke up in the middle of the night and saw all sorts of lights moving, stretching on the smoked glass in the kitchen. This was when I was a child, so I wasn’t drunk or anything (laugh), but this mysterious site that I surely saw that evening, has remained with me all these years. I think it is because of this experience, why there is a part of me that is overwhelmingly attracted to sparkling lights, and why I like to shoot lights in dark nights by slowing the shutter speed.


Is there any subject in particular, that you would like to shoot in the future?

If I have the opportunity, I’d love to shoot the backstage of a fashion show again. Rather than shooting new things, I have an ardent desire to continue shooting the same thing repeatedly. I’d like to continue shooting my actor friends in private, as I have done so far. For me, the best thing is continuing to purely enjoy the same routine over and over again. This applies for fashion shows also in that, despite the difference in design and world view in each brand, basically the same routine is being repeated. I think it is extremely wonderful to be able to continue to be impressed by such things, without getting bored.

Masanobu Ando


Interview by Yuki Harada / Translation by Aiko Osaki
Photography by Yohey Goto

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