tueks x...

tueks x Yashiro

Exploring Personalities Through Work: tueks x...

In this series, tueks delves into the lives of individuals he has collaborated with in the past, focusing on their work and conducting interviews to reveal their true selves.

For the first installment, we have Yashiro-san. He pioneered the groundbreaking 'Home Made MRI' project, constructing an MRI machine at home, gaining attention from engineers and researchers worldwide. In this interview, we spotlight his hobby and the 'camera,' a subject tueks collaborated on in the past. We explore the origins of his MRI project, his distinctive photographic style, and the fundamental thoughts that resonate through these creations.

Date: October 13, 2023

"MRI, it's kind of intense, right? It's pretty mind-boggling, isn't it? (whispering)"

-----Please introduce yourself.

After graduating from middle school, instead of going to high school like most people, I chose to attend a technical college specialized in engineering. I enrolled in a course related to medical welfare, where I learned to create and utilize medical devices. After completing my studies at the technical college, I transferred to Nagaoka University of Technology for my junior year and pursued electrical and electronic engineering until graduate school.

While building MRI machines is a recent hobby of mine, I've actually been into photography since around my second year of middle school. Back then, when a digital single-lens reflex camera arrived at my home, I took on the role of the family photographer during our trips. So, I have a long history of handling cameras, but I started taking it more seriously during my time in graduate school. I always enjoyed capturing artistic shots with cameras, and I wanted a hobby that I could easily pursue, which led me back to photography. I was also somewhat reliant on social media, so having a hobby that aligned with it felt right. There's a good synergy between cameras and social media, you know. When you post a photo, and someone reacts to it, it feels enjoyable. That's why I got into photography. That's me, Yashiro.

-----Is it true that Yashiro became interested in MRI when studying in the medical welfare course at the technical college, and he is currently building his own MRI machines

Yeah, we had MRI classes back in technical college. They were like, 'Let's learn about the principles of MRI,' but I was completely clueless! I had zero interest back then. MRI, it's kind of intense, right? It's pretty mind-boggling, isn't it? (whispering). However, I had a background in electromagnetism because I was working on railguns and coil guns. So, I quickly understood that MRI involved some seriously intense electromagnetism. It's like capturing super weak signals, around a few picoTeslas, in a super strong magnetic field of 1.5 Tesla. When I heard that, I was like, 'Whoa, that's intense!' 

-----Yes, I've heard that many people become really busy and stressed out when they go to Nagaoka for graduate school. Was photography a way for you to escape from reality?

Yeah, it felt like an escape from reality with photography. I used to think, 'Ugh, I don't want to go to the lab!' and skip classes to go to the beach instead. Photography adds an element of going out and having fun. It's somewhat similar to tueks' vibe, like riding a bicycle.

-----Yashiro's photos have a very sharp and crisp impression. Is this something you deliberately aim for in your photography? Could you please share the reasons behind your choice of this style of photography?

It's about style. I have a strong inclination towards really sharp photos. When the focus hits the subject sharply, and the surrounding areas blur, it creates a contrast at the point where the blur and focus meet, enhancing the sharpness significantly. I'm conscious of this when taking photos, and people often say, "Your focus is incredible" or "It's incredibly sharp." This isn't just about the camera's capabilities; it also depends on how you take the shot. I have confidence in capturing sharp photos not solely relying on the camera's capabilities.

Originally, I mainly took documentary photos. I enjoyed capturing the journey of my travels, so I preferred photos with pan-focus (where everything is in focus) rather than blurred backgrounds. But when I started creating artistic photos in graduate school, I needed to blur the background to differentiate the main character from the background. However, I wanted the main character to stand out sharply. Through the transition from capturing documentary photos in middle school to artistic photography, I developed a preference for photos with sharpness contrasting the blurred background, as it allowed the main subject to stand out.

Lately, I approach all photos with an artistic perspective. Even during travels, I focus on creating artistic shots rather than mere documentation. I intentionally blur the background. When you blur the background, the three-dimensional structure is reflected as distance information in the two-dimensional space. I find this aspect quite appealing.

-----What do you capture as the main subject in your photographs?

In recent years, I've primarily focused on capturing nature, like waves and flowers. I really want to photograph people, but it's quite challenging because it involves interaction and communication. I struggle with social interactions, so I stick to capturing nature instead of people.

-----Can you show me your favorite photo?

Oh, when it comes to favorites, it becomes about people for me.


This is my favorite photo. Here it is.

Yashiroさんお気に入りの写真 1 大学院時代の自信作。

-----Whoa, amazing! I always had the impression that Yashiro-san's photos are sharp with a bluish tone, but I see you also retouch in sepia colors. Where was this photo taken?

The location is in Nagaoka, right next to the laboratory. I started taking artistic photos about a year ago. While talking with my senior, I noticed that this spot had a perfect background. It was bright, and the backlighting would make a person stand out. So, I said, "Senior, can you walk over there, please?" and they walked there on the spot.

-----Certainly, do you have any other favorite photos from your graduate school days?

What about the snowplow? It might not be perfectly captured, but it was quite fun.

Yashiroさんお気に入りの写真 2 除雪車。

-----It's powerful and very cool, isn't it?

I waited for about 30 minutes in the freezing cold at 5 in the morning, thinking, "Will it come, will it come, will it come, will it come... here it comes!!!" The snowplow moves at a walking pace, so when I shoot from the front, the person inside sometimes waves, which is fun. Snowplows are really impressive up close. I captured this moment thinking, "I got it~!"

-----What is your favorite photograph?

I really love bokeh effects. So, my favorite photograph might be one of my wife.

Yashiroさんお気に入りの写真 3 嫁。

-----Thank you! It looks great. The bokeh circles are quite large.

Yeah. With a big lens, the background bokeh becomes large too, so the bokeh circles are also big. There's the sun in the background, and the sparkling reflections on the sea turned into these bokeh circles.

In the latter part, we delve into the works that influenced Yashiro's photography and explore the underlying connection between creating MRIs and taking photographs.

"There seems to be a fundamental source of beauty, branching out into both photography and MRI design."

-----When you previously guided me in photography, you mentioned that it's crucial to look at a lot of cool photos. Are there specific things, people, or artworks that have influenced you regarding photography?

I think movies, probably. There's a neural network within me that perceives what's "beautiful." While looking through the viewfinder, exploring the scene, there are moments when I instantly feel, "Beautiful!!!!!" Those sensations have mostly developed from movies and various things I've seen... It's truly everything. Movies account for 50%, photographic works 30%, and the rest is everyday life, perhaps.

I particularly enjoy science fiction (SF) movies, and the one that influenced me the most is "Interstellar." If you're going to watch this movie, it might be a good idea to get used to SF with another film first. There's a way to translate SF as "a little strange," but there's a sense of mystery in it. So, if you don't get accustomed to the context of SF, the strangeness might suddenly appear, and you'll be like, "What is this!?" (laughs)

Christopher Nolan's films, in particular, pay great attention to camera equipment, and the visuals are outstanding. Each composition is fantastic, and everything is explained without being overly explanatory. It feels incredibly polished. This director uses cameras that are so rare in the world, like maybe there are only five of them, and he sinks them into the sea and does crazy things like that. So, his dedication to visuals is truly remarkable. He also tries not to use computer-generated imagery (CGI) as much as possible.

------It seems like you have an image of Yashiro adjusting only the colors after taking photos and not really altering much else. Is this influenced by Christopher Nolan's works as well?

I think it is. When I take photos, I often try to amplify and enhance a certain beauty that exists in reality. I aim to amplify the inherent goodness of the subject in my works. Even the things around me, I approach them like, "Please look better before I shoot you!" (laughs)

-----Is there anything you focus on when taking an MRI?

No, not really. (Laughs) MRI is... well, there's nothing much to focus on. However, there was this one time when I was delivering an MRI to Tohoku University, I felt like, "It's goodbye, let's capture the moment."

-----I often think that various things are interconnected. For example, in my case, I believe that the environment I was born and raised in is reflected in my work. I wonder if Yashiro-san's photography is influenced by MRI creation, or if there's some connection there.

Yes, there is. It's about a sense of beauty. I want things to not only function well but also look cool. There's this underlying sense of beauty, from which photography and MRI design branch out.

Within the aesthetic beauty derived from functional design, I think MRI is the most beautiful. MRI coils have incredibly intricate shapes, and I find them beautiful. I appreciate things that have a purpose and find them incredibly cool. Conversely, I don't really like things that lack a purpose. For instance, in steampunk designs, when gears are added without a clear function, I think, "Hmm, does that really look cool?" If every component serves a purpose and contributes to a singular function, I can understand, but if something is just there without any clear reason, it doesn't appeal to me.

What's left in MRI is something beautiful after eliminating all unnecessary elements. That's how I see it, and I like the idea that everything functions, and there's meaning in its form.

-----I completely resonate with that perspective. I believe every aspect of design carries meaning. Take smartphones, for example; they're rounded to ensure a comfortable grip, and their shape is optimized for mass production. Does Yashiro-san seek similar significance in their photography?

Certainly, in my photography, I might be aiming for a similar meaning. When dealing with artificially created subjects, I try to perfect them... In macro photography, for instance, I might place droplets on dandelion fluff. While I enjoy the aesthetics, sometimes I feel it lacks depth of meaning... It's complex. I think I prefer capturing things as they are, that essence of candid photography.

-----Is it accurate to say that you prefer natural elements as your subjects due to their meaningful beauty?

Yes, that's right. I often photograph things like just tree branches. They have a functional beauty that I find captivating. In terms of functional beauty, I do tend to favor natural elements and landscapes. Artificially arranged objects can be interesting too, but they often lack a certain depth. If everything could be perfectly controlled and predetermined, it would be great, but it's not always possible, right?

In this regard, Interstellar is meticulously crafted. Everything in it is created. For example, there's a scene where a cornfield is burned down. They actually planted a cornfield, around 2,000 square meters, and filmed the airplane flying over it, and cars mowing down the corn. Wait, they created the entire cornfield for that scene?! It's that level of dedication. There's also a scene with a black hole, and they wrote about 40,000 lines of code in C++ just for the simulations. It's incredible, the level of detail they go into. Of course, the story is great, but the attention to visual detail is truly exceptional.



-----Changing the topic, you photographed my work, ex-01, in the past. When shooting objects, do you have specific considerations in mind?

I aim to bring out the elements the object possesses to the fullest. For instance, in the case of tueks' works, there are reflective surfaces, right? When I want to present these reflective surfaces as beautifully as possible, I often think of water surfaces. There's a photo of ex-01 placed on a table, reflecting some light from outside. I was very conscious of water surfaces while capturing that image. Additionally, considering the transparent nature of the object, for instance, the black background photo you made into an icon, I aimed to amplify its transparency as much as possible.

Even in product photography, instead of taking standalone photos with a white background, I prefer capturing situational photos. This approach makes it easier for consumers to imagine how the product fits into their lives. When placed in everyday situations, it allows people to visualize how the object might transform their surroundings. For instance, with a white background, the reflective surface might only show white. But if you place it in a natural setting, showing how light from a window reflects or emphasizing its transparency, it can create a stronger appeal.


-----Thank you for all the conversations we've had so far. Through this interview, I believe we've touched upon some fundamental aspects of yourself that perhaps even you weren't fully aware of.

Indeed. I hadn't really considered the connections between movies, cameras, and MRI, but as we talked, it seems there might be more links than I initially thought.

The discussion about the aesthetic sense in movies is something many photographers might also consider. Some photographers even choose to use lenses specifically designed for filmmaking. Movie lenses, being oval-shaped, can create bokeh shapes that are also oval, for example.


-----Do you have anyone in mind whom you admire as a great photographer?

Some well-known names include Saul Leiter. He used to take snaps in New York, capturing the city life. Also, there's Liam Wong, known for his vibrant neon-lit street photography.

Then, there's Seiya Nakai, a railway photographer. Normally, railway photos are straightforward, capturing the entire train from front to back. But Nakai's compositions are insane. It's like 95% bokeh, and the train is right there, like, "There it is, there it is!(It's really small)" I love his work. I can't stand those typical railway photos; you know, the ones where every photographer ends up with the same final "correct" shot. It's like, "Zero personality!" But this photographer is completely different. He goes all out with his individuality, taking pictures that make you wonder, "Is this really okay?" Seriously, he uses the same unconventional compositions even in consumer-grade camera reviews, and it's hilarious. (Laughs)

-----Is there any important announcement you would like to make?

Don't forget about the meetup next year! It's planned for around September 2024, so please mark your calendars and join us!

-----Finally, a few words for all the fans out there! 

I hope you fill your lives with meaning.

In a certain location in Tokyo, October 2023. A sunny day in the park.