An interview with the talented Mr. Adrian Storey
I really enjoy doing interviews with other photographers, especially when they are my good friends. Adrian is a talented photographer and a great bloke too. So come and learn a bit more about ‘Uchujin’…
Please introduce yourself to our readers:
My name is Adrian Storey though my work is better known under my alias “Uchujin” which means “Alien” in Japanese, a result of mispronunciation of my name.
I was born and grew up in England but haven’t lived there for about 15 years.
I am a freelance photographer and videographer. I primarily shoot photojournalism and social documentary though I am equally at home in a studio and enjoy shooting some kinds of fashion and lit portraits.
“Sean Miles Lotman ©Uchujin-Adrian-Storey”
1. So you are primarily a photographer, but I notice also a videographer. What sort of situations do you like to document?
My videography and my photographic work are similar in that what I like to document is primarily situations or groups on the edges of a society or the less savoury aspects of things.
I have always been interested in extremes and taboos but I also think that it is important to make images that are beautiful in some way no matter what you are attempting to document.
“Gishin Gokokukai -Yasukuni Shrine, Aug 15th ©Uchujin-Adrian-Storey”
2. When you are thinking about a project, what process do you go through to develop your ideas?
Every project is different of course but initially once I’ve settled on an vague idea I make lots of notes for shot and location ideas and just kinda let it swim about in there for a while, I usually leave a notepad by my bed as my imagination seems to go into overdrive just before I fall asleep and I often end up switching the light back on to note something down.
Once I start filming or photographing something I try to remain as open as possible to changes to my plans, often the best shots or ideas occur in response to something happening in the moment or an event or problem will prompt something I hadn’t even thought of before
“On the 7th Day – Tokyo Poledancers ©Uchujin-Adrian Storey”
3. As this is a site that has a strong gear focus, could you tell us what gear you use for different situations?
I’m not a gear nerd at all (well ok not much) , I shoot exclusively with the Canon 5D mkII as my camera body for photo and video and despite some shortcomings in the video department (moire, anti-aliasing etc) it is a beautiful camera to work with and produces stunning results. My go to lens in most situations is the canon 24-70mm 2.8 which is a really beautiful lens, so sharp and with excellent colour accuracy. For walking around I used to shoot with the Canon 50mm 1.4 most of the time but recently I have become much more interested in shooting wider, so have barely taken the Sigma 20mm 1.8 off my camera for months.
For video work a fair amount of additional gear is required I have a Gini full shoulder rig with a follow focus, a Zoom H1 external audio recorder (the audio from the 5D is not really up to scratch), a Rode video mic and a Manfrotto tripod with a video fluid head….a fair amount to carry around, so when filming documentary work I tend to shoot on a monopod whenever possible.
I started off shooting film 20 years ago and only stopped when I destroyed my film camera in a motorcycle accident, the switch to digital didn’t cause me any headaches and I strongly believe that what you shoot with is completely irrelevant, the final image is all that matters not how you produced it.
“Message from a Shibuya girl ©Uchujin-Adrian-Storey”
4. What sort of photographers inspire you, could you give us some names?
Generally speaking I find inspiration comes from sources other than photography such as design, music, literature and the people around me. I love to look at great photography but despite the adage “good artists borrow, great artists steal” I would rather “steal” my ideas from genres outside photography. That said I love the work of Gregory Colbert, Mika Ninagawa, Elliot Erwitt, Jehad Nga, James Nachawey and Diane Arbus to name a few. I find that being surrounded by a community of very creative people in Tokyo is also really inspiring and pushes me to evolve and improve my work
“1 in 13 million – Abdullah Taqy -The only native Japanese Imam in Tokyo ©Uchujin-Adrian-Storey”
5. Could you tell us about one of your projects. For example a difficult situation and how you overcame it?
I have of course run into technical or gear problems as I’m sure most of us have but usually a little ingenuity and some gaffer tape can rectify those The most difficult situations have been those where one has to build up the trust of the people you are photographing first, for example in my “1 in 13 million” project on the Japanese Imam I had to visit mosques and build the trust of the Muslim community before I could go there with a camera. The same is true of my “Kibera Olympic Boxing Team” series where I spent quite a long time building a relationship with the boxers so that they could trust me and forget I was there before ever taking a single frame. Unfortunately this involved sparring with a couple of them, which not being exactly built for pugilism didn’t end well as I sure you can imagine.
6. Where would you like to see your photography/videography going in the future?
Well more and better paid work would always be good! But really I want to progress into making longer and more deeply involved documentary films. It’s amazing to watch the work of someone like Ondi Timoner who spends 10 years filming something for example. I am also very interested in doing music videos for artists I like. I would like to collaborate with other people more too, something which is becoming more and more interesting and necessary as I move increasingly towards video work. Photography is almost always a solo occupation and world class results can be achieved by a lone individual, with video that just isn’t possible. I always try to do everything myself but sometimes it is much better to find a collaborator who is specialised in a task rather than trying to do it myself, right now for example I spend a lot of time playing with 3D motion graphics software, just because I love to learn new things, but I realised fairly quickly watching some of the amazing work on the internet that it will take me years to be as good. Better to stick to what I am already good at, try to improve and progress and work with people who already have talent and experience in those areas.
“Shall we dance? ©Uchujin-Adrian-Storey”
7. Do you have any upcoming projects that you can share with us?
No, they are all secret! Ok, I’m joking. Photographically I’m working on a follow up series to my “Let The Poets Cry Themselves To Sleep” series focusing on people asleep in their cars. Video wise I am currently working on a documentary about a Japanese photographer here in Tokyo whose work is simply amazing and he is a very interesting man as well as being insanely photogenic, I’m also in the pre-production stage of a music video with a french singer songwriter and a promo web commercial for a Tokyo based fashion label who I have worked for before as a photographer.
I find it useful to have several projects on the go simultaneously as working with other peoples schedules often leaves too much down time if only doing one thing.
“Alone In Prayer -Rath Yatra,Puri,India ©Uchujin-Adrian-Storey”
Thanks Adrian for sharing your pictures and your thoughts about your work. We have had many chats in the past about work, but it is nice to be able to read about how you put your pieces together.
If you are looking for a photographer/videographer in Tokyo then you should give Adrian a buzz and he will be able to look after your needs.
If you would like to be interviewed for JCH and you have something you want to share, then drop me a line and lets have a chat. I always love to hear from camera people. But what I love even more is when people leave comments.