Neil Nakahara definitely thinks outside the box when it comes to his portfolio. He pushes the boundaries creating images that are colourful, edgy and original. Basically, his imagery rocks! Here the Hawaiian-born New Yorker of Japanese descent gives us an insight into his realm of photography.
Where did the name Frizzy Cube come from?
FrizzyCube was originally a chat screen name. I didn’t want to use any name that was too obvious and had to come up with something totally random, just like my personality. It eventually became my artist name, and from there… my alias as a photographer.
When did you decide to become a full-time photographer?
Roughly over four years ago when I was beginning to notice a lot of things in the commercial photography industry was feeling a bit mundane. So I picked up cheap little 5MP camera and started toying around with it. The rest… well… as they say, is history.
What’s your favourite part of the photography process?
A lot of people may assume it’s the Post Production process, but for me it’s really when I’m actually interacting during a photo shoot. I love different kinds of people and what they all bring to the picture.
What’s your signature style?
A lot of what I do looks really exaggerated in poses and juxtaposition. It’s colourful, detailed, surreal and dream like. A play on: ‘What ifs’.
What is your favourite type of photography and why?
Honestly, that would be like asking what my favourite type of food is. I can’t pick just one. But if I had to, I’d say anything pertaining to creativity through simplicity. The raw captured moments that are translated to tell a story, or capture irony.
I’m not naming any names, but having to do a photoshoot with someone who was completely drunk & drugged up. It was hard to keep the subject still and under control. I literally had to grab their arm to stay still.
How do you think the jobs you’ve had have influenced your photography?
Interestingly enough, it was really my non-photography jobs that contributed a lot to what I do now. My prior Illustration and cartooning career definitely helps the creative process. Graphic and web design jobs have helped me, not only in making originals ads and websites, but it also helped jump start my editing and design process.
Videogame design work that I did in Japan for the Sony PlayStation games has also helped me a great deal, from time to time, in implementing 3D models in to my work. Also art directing in the advertisement field has given me the benefit of knowing what people like to see, and how to market ideas in a specific way.
How has the industry changed since you started out as a photographer?
Glamour was hugely popular back when I started. Maxim Magazine and FHM were what a lot of models strived to be in. Now, alternative & fetish looks seems to be sneaking into mainstream fashion. Naturally, the models that I shoot have changed quite a bit since then.
Tell me about the journey you took to get to your current position.
It started at the end of the road back when I was involved in a start-up company making children’s books. I held my first point and shoot on the side… without any proper photography education, as it was more of a hobby at the time. Then I started photographing everything around me and posting the pictures online. I had overwhelming positive feedback so I decided to let it grow. This eventually lead me to peers and many far more experienced photographers.
The range of experienced photographers and peers that I met opened doors for me to get featured on other websites, access to networking with people in the industry, and an opportunity to learn and gain inspiration. By the second or third month, I was already gaining a lot of attention and appraisal from all around.
However, it wasn’t all plain sailing. Things were pretty rocky because of the politics involved in the industry. There was so much jealousy and hatred when all I wanted to do was create. Nothing more. I decided on my second year to shut out all negativity and drama, surrounding myself with positive people, and focusing on actually making a living out of what I love to do best. I found my first studio in Manhattan New York, and worked solely on marketing myself through networking, developing a team through a selective trusted few.
I started seeing results from it as it lead me to work with entertainers, DJs, musicians, actors and new publications. Today I still continue to follow that method, I’m always connecting to new people each day, spreading the passion. However, I am more focused on working around the creative aspects of photography.
What are your photography/design influences?
My earliest influences go back to when I was growing up. Photography wise, I grew up watching my father’s best friend ‘Hashi’ who was a world renowned commercial still life photographer. Since there was no digital manipulation like there is today, everything was handmade. And even though it was alien to me at the time, it was nevertheless a deeply interesting process. However, the core, base influence for my creative ideas and such came from three other things. My love of anime and manga… and life itself.
What advice would you give young photographers who want to work in this field?
‘Ego’ and ‘negativity’ should be left at home. There’s always someone better than you. If you are passionate about photography, simply work hard on improving all aspects of it. And that includes networking, marketing and business management, working on your strong points and developing your ‘Modus Operandi’. For me, photography skills can catch up in due time, but it’s having something that makes you different from the others; that one thing people come to you for that makes the world of difference. Realise it, develop it and market it.
What does photography mean to you? Is it something that you can’t do without? Does it help you make sense of the world around you?
Photography is my way of expression to frame an idea as a whole, or as an individual element that goes into one idea. It’s what helps make illustrative ideas in my mind both ‘real’ and ‘surreal’.
What has been the single biggest obstacle against growing as a photographer?
I would say, overall, the biggest obstacle for me over the years has been becoming trapped by my own style. My biggest fear is becoming predictable, not being able to evolve, and running out of things to learn or be passionate about.
Tell me one of your funniest, scariest, most bizarre, most touching or plain craziest stories from a photoshoot!
It was when I was shooting a model by the name Amy Dunn (who’s also my best friend) at an old steel factory. Just her, me, and my assistant. It was starting to get late as we were finishing up. The place was dark and cold. It was then when I noticed one of my strobe lights had moved about five to six metres away from where it was originally located at the start of the shoot. The thing was… neither my assistant nor Amy was in close vicinity to the lights. And the factory itself had nobody in it other than us and was securely ‘locked’ from the inside. That was spooky.
Who or what would you love to shoot that you haven’t already?
I’d love to shoot someone like Masuimi Max or Lady Gaga. Madonna would be amazing.
Tell a little secret about yourself that no-one knows…
I was once a US government spy codenamed ‘The Cube’ – often cleverly disguised as a Pink Hippopotamus in tight purple spandex with a gold bling around my neck engraved “GORGEOUS” on the emblem. It was back then when I had fallen in love with this beautiful Chinese spy from Botswana, codenamed ‘Helga’; a single mother of six different children from five different spies and one butcher. Our love was taboo as we were on opposing sides, so we secretly decided to marry in a underground church in a little-known turtle-people commune. The guestlist was pretty minimal – as you’d expect for two ex-spies. We then conceived a son who would eventually become the leader of the super-secret spy organization: ‘The Tapioca Seven’ along with his six siblings. The story of my life.
Interview by Annika Allen