Hideoki was born in Suwa City, in the mountains of Nagano, in 1942. It was natural he found a deep love for the mountains at a young age. World War II was in full swing. When he was three years old, he remembers escaping the firebombing when his mother held his, and his sister’s hands and his brother tied to her back. His family moved to Tokyo around when the war reached its climax. Tokyo was burning with tremendous momentum. Hideoki remembers the corrugated metal embers in the river, wondering, “why is the river on fire?”
At the war’s end, Hideoki’s parents sent him to Chiba to live with his aunt and uncle, where food was more available. Blessed with an adventurous spirit and motor skills, he lived a life swimming across Tokyo Bay to Kanagawa in middle school and returning by bus. He spent all his time climbing mountains in his teens, which became an obsession. He views the mountains as sacred and thinks climbing step by step is the way to God. Even in the winter, he climbed Mt. Fuji alone and broke into the Japanese Alps, leading senior mountaineers. By that time, he was absorbed in mountaineering. One day he came home, there was a note on the door: “We moved; here’s the new address.”
After graduating from high school, a nature photographer named Mr. Yokota hired him as his assistant to carry his 8×10 camera to remote locations. One day, Mr. Yokota let Hideoki snap the shutter. In that instance, Hideoki saw a new way of “climbing mountains.” On an off day, Mr. Yokota lent him his Rolleiflex and shot his first photo series, “The Fishing Village.” Today he thinks those may have been the best photos he has ever taken. He was 18 years old.
Three years later, he decided to make a 180-degree change. As he sat on the beach with his friends, listening to Coltrane and watching the ships go by, an adventure came to him. He thought, “How cool would it be to listen to Jazz in New York City?”
In March of 1963, at 21, Hideoki arrived in The Big Apple. With a limited grasp of English, he sought out the legendary fashion photographer Hiro, who introduced him to James Moore. With the ability to wield the word “yes” and the hunger that comes with little money, he persuaded Jimmy to hire him as his assistant. Under Jimmy’s direction, he worked day and night photographing and making prints. Within three years, he received assignments for Harper’s Bazaar, The New York Times Magazine, Queen Magazine, and other publications. Hideoki studied under Richard Avedon, along with other young photographers. They met once a week at Avedon’s studio with Harper’s Bazaar’s art director Marvin Israel. Diane Arbus also occasionally participated.
Hideoki returned home in 1976. On the coasts of Japan, Hideoki reunited with his beloved mountains and seas, capturing some of his best nature photos. On an unforgettable winter morning, Hideoki took a picture of a beautiful swan flying gracefully near the sea on the Shimokita Peninsula. The MoMA’s permanent photo collection contains two photographs of the swan and the ocean from that day.
In 1978, Hideoki shot an exhibition called “Inventive Clothing 1909-1939” for Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar Editor-in-Chief Diana Vreeland. This exhibition introduced the high fashion clothes of the great couturiers of Paris exhibited at the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The same year, Nikon held a solo exhibition, “Shimokita Summer Winter,” and then the “Lost Time” exhibition at the Konica Gallery.
As the first US fashion photographer born in Japan, the Japanese advertising world sought after him. Hideoki gained much recognition for his work, but he could not regain the bond he had lost with his parents.
PEAKS & VALLEYS
Montauk, the easternmost point of New York, is one of the most important places Hideoki cherished in the 1970s. Hideoki returned to the United States in 1982, exhibiting the “Montauk Point” series. Afterward, he presented the “Eastern Hokkaido,” which reflected Japan’s incredible nature and culture, at the Konishiroku Photo Gallery. Later, he exhibited his “Backyard” series, showing different photographic styles. While exhibiting at the galleries, demand for commercial work continued. So, in 1989, he officially founded his production company.
His heart tugged back to photography, and he traveled to Africa in 1994 and 1996. While observing the wildlife, he realized that humans and animals exist on an equal footing. As nature judges no one, we survive its temperament and experience the pleasures it gives the same way.
Hideoki continued to pay homage to nature and, in 2000, introduced Patagonia’s finest landscapes. And in 2003, he exhibited photos of the 1976 American Road Trip at the “Impressions of the Trip” exhibition at the Konica Minolta Gallery.
Now in the eighth decade of his life, Hideoki hopes to climb another mountain of adventure — a photo exhibit he will call “Family.”
Hideoki was born in Suwa City, in the mountains of Nagano, in 1942 and moved to Tokyo as World War II was approaching its climax.
The first time he held a camera assisting a photographer at a fishing village in Japan.
Hideoki moved to New York and landed assignments for Harpers Bazaar and New York Times Magazine, and traveled to London for more work.
Hideoki returned to Japan, taking hundreds of photos in his camper van, two of which belong in the MoMA’s permanent collection.
He opened a production company working as a Director of Photography for Japan’s top ad agencies.
Traveled around the world, photographing places and nature.
After years of production and photography, painting and pottery became his new means of art.
“ I didn’t have the chance to climb mountains in New York.
But taking those black and white photographs, that’s like climbing to me.”