'Cute' and 'sexy', both polarizing characteristics in fashion are crossed in the photography of Maya Kibbel. Soft but edgy, strong yet toned, how she tries to break standards of Japanese fashion photography may just be her destiny as an artist.
Scroll down now and read our one-on-one with Maya here in Lomography Magazine.
Hi Maya! Welcome to Lomography! Firstly, we'd like to tell you how your fashion photography seems to be a hybrid of Japanese and Western aesthetics. Personally, how would you describe your photographic signature?
Before anything, as a huge fan and user of Lomography cameras, as well as film, I must say I'm very honored that you guys reached out to me! I also am really happy to hear you find my photos to be a hybrid of those aesthetics, being that I'm half-Japanese and half-American.
I've never thought about if I convey my western culture but I definitely try to throw in a Japanese touch to all my photos (especially for shoots that are published outside of Japan).
My "signature style" in one word is "playful." I strive to take photos that are cute and fun but have an edge to them. I love adding subtle hints of sexiness. I want people to look at my photos and want to be the girl in the image.
The way the models in your photographs are portrayed are in between 'teasingly cute' yet 'seductive'. What's 'cute', and what's 'sexy' for you?
That's a tough one. When I moved to Tokyo a couple years ago, I learned what publicly would get categorized as "cute" / "sexy" and adapted those views to my photography.
Detail for detail, everyone has their own specific words to describe "cute" / "sexy" but for me "cute" has more of a Harajuku, bubbly, innocent, candy-like, doll image. "Sexy" on the other hand, is all about radiating self confidence as well as an uninhibited, flirtatious yet mysterious aura to yourself.
It is also in this way that makes the fashion photographs so effortless. May you share us your creative process? What film/camera do you use and what else helps you to get along the grind?
Thank you! It may sound cliche but my creative process is totally based on good music, a good team (model, hair/make up crew & my dear manager) and lots of adrenaline. Before a shoot when I'm working on the styling or directing the hair/make-up, I make a playlist that will last through the prep and the shoot. During the shoot, in between looks you can always find the models and me dancing and goofing off. LOL.
As for my camera, I'm always using my Lomo'Instant for tests, shoots, behind the scenes (and daily life)! But my main camera and the type of film I use are two secrets that I never have nor will spill about!
We believe that since you're both half-Japanese and American, your photography is also a mirror of yourself. Do you have a certain aesthetic principle you follow?
Like I mentioned above, I never have thought about putting an American / Western aesthetic to my photography. There are definitely no principles that I follow. I used to think too much about following a certain aesthetic and realized my best work was accomplished when I went into shoots somewhat blindly and just let the vibe guide met.
Of course I still like to keep to a playful image but I don't ever actually think "I need to shoot this way." I style all my shoots and my fashion sense is definitely more American so maybe subconsciously I project my roots into shoots via fashion.
What are the elements you usually look for when composing a photograph?
A feel of playfulness is definitely a key element but above all I'm after a natural element. I don't want the model to pose, I want he / she to chill and forget the camera is there. Nothing is forced in my photos since I give the minimum direction and talk about other stuff instead. You can capture such incredible moments the minute a model's guard is down.
What/whom are your creative muses? Which photographer do you look up to the most?
My first and only ever boss Mark Hunter (The Cobra Snake) is a huge influence on me. I started shooting for him nightly since I was 16 years old. He is so encouraging and his photography and story are so inspiring. My hero is Henri Cartier-Bresson though! I even have a quote of his tattooed on my arm!
Straying away from your photography, it's also sensible you're just as stylish as your images. What's your 'staple' outfit?
Totally depends on my mood! I always tend to dress on the edgy side. There's always some sort of platform boot / sneaker type shoe and hot pants with oversized crop tees or sweaters. And of course my signature "oversized t-shirts as dresses" outfit. I always accessorize with 1 or 2 chokers.
Lately I've been just using this industrial chain I found as a looped choker. On days off though I love to pull out my long johns and run my errands in those... hahaha!
Apart from photography, do you have other interests and hobbies? What are they?
Fashion and creative direction! I sort of mentioned above that I style and direct (from the idea to location to casting, etc.) all my shoots. I also love film printing. If I could have a darkroom in my house I would be in there 24/7!
Lately I've also been doing a lot of wood printing. I'm also a book worm but my schedule doesn't always allow for me to read as much as I'd like, so when I get the time I completely binge-read. LOL.
Lastly, what's next for you? Do you have a current project you're working on?
Oh how I wish that I could spill about all the future projects that will be released soon! Sadly I can't yet! I can say though, that these upcoming projects will be world wide so keep an eye out.
Projects range from campaigns to magazines. In the mean time, I'll be continuing to release web features for my C-Heads magazine "Maya Kibbel's Extraordinary Japanese Journal" on their website. Be sure to keep checking that out!