With over than 10 years of education in law, sociology, media studies, cultural studies, and art criticism in Japan, Tomoaki Hata began his career as a photographer in 1996 at Japan's groundbreaking HIV/AIDS benefit dance parties and with candid still photography of Japan's gay porn industry. Recently Tomoaki's photography was curated by Eric Mezil, the director of Collection Lambert, the contemporary art museum in Avignon, France. Many of Tomoaki's photographic works were exhibited in "AKIMAHEN" and "EIJYANAIKA," the biggest exhibition of modern Japanese artists in France, including Takashi Murakami, Yayoi Kusama, Yoko Ono, and Nobuyoshi Araki.
Images from The Night Is Still Young, foreword by Eric C. Shiner and Simone Fukayuki. Available at PowerhouseBooks.com.
The Advocate:Why are you a photographer?
Tomoaki Hata: When I was a kid, the first thing I bought for myself from my savings was a tiny compact camera from Fuji. After that, I eventually found an old Nikon SLR camera that had been thrown away in some bushes [along with a Korean passport]. With this camera, I took pictures of my grandfather, who passed away two weeks later. It seems like I was destined to be a photographer.
What catches your eye?
I wonder if any drag queen that never catches people's eye would ever exist ...
How do you choose your subjects?
I really did not choose drag queens as subjects, they chose me. Since I had been hanging out in the Kyoto drag scene for a long time, they were comfortable with me and let me shoot portraits. Also, I think they were more open to being photographed because the drag performances were parties to benefit Japan's emerging HIV education programs.
How do you describe your work?
The drag scene in Japan is very much underground. Taking candid portraits of the performers in various stages of dress was a rare chance to share this underground scene and give publicity to the HIV education movement. No photos of this scene had ever been published outside of Japan.
What makes a good photograph to you?
To take a good photograph, I need to be a part of the event and dive into the environment. Sharing their experience of getting ready and performing, we're all having fun, and together we can capture that feeling on film.
Who are your favorite artists? And why?
Boogie, Jeff Burton, and Slava Mogutin. These artists can really capture the richness of the dark side of culture in the U.S.