06 October 2010

Interview with Teruyoshi Hayashida - I of III

Take Ivy photographer, Teruyoshi Hayashida

Left to right:Teruyoshi Hayashida, Toshiyuki Kurosu, Shosuke Ishizu, and Hajime Paul Hasegawa (photo courtesty of American Trad Club)

Nikon F

Mamiya C33o Professional

A favorite photo of Mr Hayashida

17 August 2010, Tokyo
Café-Restaurant Befana (in the Nihon Seinenkan Hotel)

As our reporter for The Trad sat down to begin the interview, Mr. Hayashida placed a black camera case on the table and took out two cameras.

The Trad: Did you use these cameras to shoot Take Ivy?

Teruyoshi Hayashida: Yes. I’m glad I brought them with me today. Perhaps this will help the saga unfold a bit more. These cameras are very sturdy and not prone to breakage. I carried these and a heavy tripod. They were very heavy.

The Trad: First of all, thank you very much for agreeing to meet for this interview today. We have prepared some questions for today and translated them into Japanese. May we proceed using these as the format for our conversation today?

Hayashida: Please ask anything you would like. There are many things that I’ve forgotten. It’s been almost fifty years and one forgets things. For example, it took a half a day of searching to locate these (pointing to the cameras). They were in a storage locker. Looking for things sometimes isn’t very easy.

The Trad: To begin, how many people traveled to America on the Take Ivy project? Did all four of the authors travel together?

Hayashida: Yes, the four of us. We traveled by propeller plane, stopping to refuel on an island in the South Pacific along the way.

The Trad: What was the airline company?

Hayashida: Pan-Am Airlines. We changed planes at Los Angeles, crossing the continent to New York. It was quite a journey and I was surprised by how far we had to travel.

The Trad: This was the era of a fixed exchange rate of 360 Yen to the U.S. Dollar, is that correct?

Hayashida: Yes, that’s if one exchanged money in the correct manner. One was limited to exchanging and carrying only 500 Dollars out of Japan. But we carried out considerably more than that in Yen, then exchanged Yen into Dollars at a bank in the States. With the bank service charge included, the exchange rate turned out to be more like 400 Yen to the Dollar. We were told by someone there to take Yen with us. So it really required a bit of effort and no little amount of anxiety. It was a time when there still weren’t very many Japanese people in the States.

Paul Hasegawa had been to the States before, so he handled many things through translation. Since he speaks English very well, Paul handled the arrangements for meals and lodging and other logistics for the trip. I don’t understand English well. Everyone speaks so fast. If they would slow down and enunciate I might understand a little more. There’s a proverb in Japanese, “When traveling, embarrassment is only momentary.”

But because photographers have massive amounts of curiosity, they see things, quickly grasp them and can act on them independently. I’m very particular about photos. I don’t like asking people to model, but rather prefer to take unposed, natural photos. I wanted this to be a document about a place and time.

The Trad: That’s perhaps why this book has such a natural feel to it.

Hayashida: Waiting is difficult. I would wonder, “Is anyone going to come?” For example, look at this picture (page 99, man in grey trousers, blazer and sunglasses). If I wanted to take such a photo, I could wait for a year and not be able to take this.

In spite of its age, it doesn’t really seem old does it? The trousers and blazer are sharp and well turned out, but I really had to wait to get this photo. The gentleman in the photo was probably someone who worked on Madison Avenue. He looks very trad.

The Trad: How long did you have to wait for this photo?

Hayashida: About two hours. It was a good thing it wasn’t a hot summer day (laughs). However, when I look at this today it really doesn’t feel old. It’s trad. This is what trad should look like.

The Trad: Is this a first edition copy of Take Ivy that you have with you today?

Hayashida: I think so…let’s see. Yes, it says Showa year 40 (1965) in the back. See how faded the spine is.

The Trad: Do you have a favorite photo in the book?

Hayashida: This one (just mentioned on pg 99), and this one (points to the cover of the book). I chose the photos I liked most. I like traditional clothing and style. The people that worked for Fujingaho-sha (original publisher) also liked a traditional style.

People who enjoy this style seemed to gather together. VAN was the same way. They liked traditional clothing. The president of VAN, Kensuke Ishizu, was a man who really liked this kind of thing. On one of my trips he gave me pocket money and I picked up many things while I was there. I’ve accumulated many things over the five trips I’ve made.

The Trad: You made five trips all together?

Hayashida: Yes. The later trips produced this book (shows CD copy of book titled, The Ivy). I like this book even more.

The Trad: Is this book still available?

Hayashida: No, this is my copy. I had a couple of other copies, but people visit and borrow them. The actual book was quite large, and the photo quality was very good. It’s hard to care for film and photos in Japan since the humidity is so high.

This book was taken over a series of three trips. I went at my own expense for this, and friends there (US) helped me. A Japanese-American friend rented a car and we went around to all of the schools. I went to the States once during the winter, and there wasn’t much snow, which was a bit annoying.

The Trad: Do you remember the dates or years of your trips?

Hayashida: I have a diary, but searching for it would take a lot of time, and it would be hot in the storage shed, like when I looked for those (the cameras).

The Trad: To return to Take Ivy, approximately how many photos did you take for the book?

Hayashida: I really didn’t take that many because I had to walk around with all of my equipment including the film. We didn’t go to all of the schools. I think we wound up going to about five. We weren’t able to go to Cornell as it was too far. When I think about it, the trip really required a lot of physical movement and strength.

The Trad: Are there many photos that didn’t make it into the book?

Hayashida: Probably some but not many. Most of what I shot is in the book. I don’t like to just click away taking photos. I’m usually thinking of something, given where I am shooting, and wait for the chance to capture it.

The Trad: Did you buy film once you were in the States?

Hayashida: A couple of times but I don’t like doing that because I don’t know what I’m getting. I’ve made mistakes doing that in the past. So I brought almost all the film with me.

The Trad: How cooperative were the students during your visit to shoot Take Ivy?

Hayashida: I never asked any of the students to stand this way or that. I wanted to make a document so their cooperation really didn’t come into play.

The Trad: You never stopped students and asked to take their photos?

Hayashida: No. Not really.

The Trad: When you went to the schools, did you stop at the school office to get permission?

Hayashida: We always went. So we always had the school’s understanding. After going several times to these schools I got to be known and was granted a great amount of freedom. I was even introduced to University presidents. Those photos are in here (The Ivy). So asking permission is a good thing. They were surprised. They didn’t have these kinds of pictures available in their school bookstore. They have picture postcards of the campus but those really aren’t that great.

The Trad: So what do you think about this book, originally published 45 years ago, possibly now being available in English translation in college bookstores?

Hayashida: I’d never thought about it before. If I had, it probably would have put me at a loss. Being evaluated in such a way would have probably made me wonder if I could have done this kind of a project. I don’t really evaluate photos this way but it's an honor to be evaluated by others. That’s how I feel. I’ve never advertised myself but it's good to be able to meet today. It is good to talk with someone who also enjoys this. I really haven’t talked about this with many other people. It’s hard to talk about this when someone doesn’t have the context.

The Trad: Thank you. Behind the book there is a larger story about the vision and hard work of the authors who planned, shot and wrote the book. In other words, what motivated you and the other authors to produce such a book?

Hayashida: When I was a student, I really liked traditional clothing. I would go to used bookstores in Kanda (neighborhood in Tokyo known for used booksellers) looking for books and magazines that had photos of traditional clothing.

The Trad: Around what year would this have been?

Hayashida: It was after the war and before the Tokyo Olympics. Around 1951-1952. I was able to find beautiful books. There were others whom I met who were younger than myself who were also interested. One thing led to another and I was associated with the group at VAN.

Ah, talking about this brings back memories. VAN gave us a lot of freedom to do our own thing with this project. They didn’t give us orders to take photos of this or that. Some of the other authors might have said, “Let’s take photos of this store or that,” but we had freedom.

Parts II and III will run this Thursday and Friday


Speedmaster said...

Great interview, thanks!

Main Line Sportsman said...

Interesting stuff. That one photo looks like a reunion of a flight deck crew from the carrier Hiryu.

Anonymous said...

What an amazing interview. And without a trace of the snide irony you get from such lengthy chats. These guys still have it together as far as I'm concerned!

Of course, I really like the two cameras, too. They should now be enshrined or displayed, and no longer stored.


ADG said...

Ok, this back story, this CONTEXT allows Take Ivy to take on greater meaning. I loved reading this and look forward to the next two installments of the interview. This interview should have been included in the book.

Trailer Trad said...

Such respect paid to the author. Such thoughtful answers. Elegant.

RulingPart said...

I love the way these gentlemen discuss thier work. I love the sincerity and, as Anon. #1 stated, the total lack of hipster irony.

Really, really meaningful content here...