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Fumi Nagasaka

Work / Photography

Photographer Fumi Nagasaka’s affectionate take on a family portrait

“About three years ago, I met Sasha at a Starbucks in Brighton Beach while I was working for a location scout,” Fumi tells It’s Nice That. “He was 16 and I wanted to photograph him for my book Untitled Youth, which was published in 2016.” However, after visiting the teen at his Russian family home to get an approval from his parents, the eccentric characters she met inspired her to set up a family shoot.

Fumi pitched the idea to stylist Victoria Sekrier and, after receiving a green light from 10 Men magazine, the photographer returned to Sasha and his family to get to know them better. On one occasion, she ended up eating dinner — beef tongue, more specifically — with his grandmother and taking vodka shots with his grandfather. By the end of the night, the concept behind the shoot was expanded to included Sasha’s grandparents too.

In a similar vein to her previous series, Heart of Dixie, Fumi’s 10 Men photographs shine a light on the distinctly unique personalities of the series’ protagonists. The expert shot of Sasha’s father on the beach in a Karate pose, for example, was inspired by his two great passions; swimming all seasons round and martial arts. The affectionate photograph of Alex, Sasha’s mother, was executed to reflect her love of birds, while the portrait of Daniel, Sasha’s brother, tenderly mirrors the young romance with his Ukrainian girlfriend. Fumi sets the shot of Sasha’s grandparents in the middle of a cross-roads to signify their dynamic vitality, and the integral role they play in Sasha’s life. Through the 10 Men images, Fumi captures a compelling and rounded family portrait that simultaneously displays each character’s personal quirks.

“I really like the Brighton Beach culture,” Fumi says. “The locations I chose were very telling of the local culture. The boardwalk is one of my favourite spots as you get to observe the amazing people who hang out there. I love the park, where the Russian community go to gamble, and I loved the music store, where they only sell Russian music. Brighton Beach has a totally different culture from most other areas in New York. Some people still live Soviet lives, which inspires me a lot. It’s this sort of thing that makes me love New York.”

In Heart of Dixie, Fumi celebrated a family that lived on her street. Although similarly intimate in both style and subject matter, the relationship between sitter and camera-holder in the 10 Men series is distinctly different. “I wanted to make sure that I didn’t get to know them too well to shoot the story. While I didn’t want to step into their life too much, I made sure to show things that were too personal at the same time. I think this balance was very important.”

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