Shot over a decade, the photographer’s new book Visitors+ is a love letter to the personalities in front of the lens
In 2013, Japanese photographer Piczo was attending college in London on a student visa that prevented him from working openly as a freelancer. Under the circumstances, all he could do was take pictures at home. And so he started assembling what would become an epic archive, turning his eye to emerging models who were, like him, just beginning to establish themselves. Before he knew it, ten years had flown by, and he had taken portraits of around 500 people.
For his second book, Visitors+, [accompanied by an exhibition at Photo Book Cafe in Shoreditch] Piczo worked with Union Magazine’s editor-in-chief Hiroyuki Kubo to sift through this vast catalogue, settling on no fewer than 120 portraits that sensitively capture the candid and awkward spontaneity of new models becoming comfortable in front of the camera. But it wasn’t just the models who were finding their feet.
“As time passed, I was amazed at how quickly Piczo’s photographs evolved,” writes Kubo in the tome’s foreword. “This book is a compilation of his past achievements. It reveals glimpses of the changes in style of each period, and the beauty in the gaps and reverberations between past and present.” Piczo shot extensively over this period, with numerous models, interweaving layers of experience and honing a timeless poise that has since earned him notable commissions for i-D, Jalouse and Numero Homme among others.
“This series is a collection of those times I saw someone I thought was beautiful, and how I found them beautiful” – Piczo
Through trial and error, he has developed a stripped-back style that shares its hazy ephemerality and diaristic intimacy with Juergen Teller’s breakout shots of 1990s go-sees. “Both the models and I were inexperienced, and there was no one else around so I wasn’t nervous,” recalls Piczo. “We were relaxed with one another, and I started to get some good results. This series is a collection of those times I saw someone I thought was beautiful, and how I found them beautiful.”
The passive and even at times bewildered faces that surface from the pages of Visitors+ may be a sure departure from the Tokyo punk kids that Piczo spent his youth snapshotting but a captivation with rawness remains his leitmotif. His favourite shots speak to this throughline; a portrait of Anastasia Enström, who arrived with her father on the day of the shoot, reveals a certain anxiousness that Piczo mobilises with an extreme close-up.
A simple headshot of the Ethiopian model and 2020 rising star Amar Akway with her tongue between her teeth hinting towards the playfulness of a young woman at the start of her career. The photographer’s unique perspective is what draws this disparate ambit of portraits together, arriving at brooding pauses that dedicate themselves to sincere emotion.
“I was purposely trying not to represent ‘photo shooting’, but more just hanging out with friends,” the photographer tells Dazed. “I wasn’t particularly picky about who I wished to photograph, I was more into reflecting the communication between myself and the models. We were able to have a conversation through the lens and the action and reaction was the most interesting aspect. The beauty of this project was in learning about my subjects in that initial interaction, then documenting those moments that felt more pure, more real.”
Models loll in the grass, timidly tilt their smiles to the pavement or bend and stretch in states of dress, eternally cast in the honey hues that characterise Piczo’s photographs. “With this particular project, I wanted to portray my subject as a painting, almost capturing these moments of stillness like a painter would. The softness and subtlety are taken from the essence of the subjects’ natural beauty, through my eyes.”
Visitors+ by Piczo is published by Union Magazine and is out now. The publication is accompanied by an exhibition at Photo Book Cafe in Shoreditch which runs July 13 until July 16, 2023. RSVP here to attend the opening.