Interview – Yellowtrace

An interview with me was published by Yellowtrace today. I talk about Hanjo, and how the pictures were created.


Berlin based fine art photographer, Yoram Roth, takes a strong conceptual approach with his multilayered and visually arresting work. His style extends beyond the fleeting nature of spontaneous snapshots – his images require conscious planning, conceptual development and careful orchestration of a number of elements that play a significant role in his image making. Recently picked up by the respected GALERIE CAMERA WORK in Berlin, Roth will soon be exhibiting his work at several upcoming art fairs throughout Europe and Australasia, including Tokyo Photo (27th – 30th September) where he will present his highly exclusive limited edition photo book. And you’ve seen it here first.

Featured Project // Hanjo series – a modern day interpretation of a Japanese Nôh Opera. Amazing!

Why Yoram Rocks // His fine arts images rely on an intricate production process, elaborate film sets, props, decorative elements, make up and hairstyling. Any man that manages to unite elements of design, fashion, photography and narrative is a bit of a legend if you ask me.

Below is a little Q&A with the artist. Oh and by the way, I believe this is our first international interview. Can we please have a round a HOORAYS for that? Thanks, you guys are awesome.

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+ Hello Yoram! Welcome to Yellowtrace. Could you please give us a quick introduction on yourself.

I’m born and raised in Berlin, but as an adult I lived in London, New York, and Los Angeles for an aggregated 24 years. I recently moved back to Berlin, because I want my three sons to grow up there. I am a photographic artist, and I create images in the studio. I build the sets, choose or design the clothes, and work collaboratively with a small team of stylists, hair & make-up people, assistants and fellow artists. I use the language and tools of fashion photography to create narrative images.

+ What are you seeking to portray in your work? What is fundamental to your practice – your philosophy and your process?

Every project of mine has a different feel, a distinct reason why I embark on it. I don’t approach my work in terms of single images, but rather as overall series. Of course each image must be representative, an integral part of a project. My Hopper’s American Series reflects that moment just before or after something happened, and it is unclear whether that is a good or a bad thing. It’s how I was feeling at the time, and it is clearly visible in that series. The Forest was about my quest for the Feminine in its pure form, freed from bourgouis constraints. Hanjo was about people who lack either the opportunity or the courage to commit to real love.

+ There is a very strong narrative behind the Hanjo series. How did this project came about and what was the story you set out to capture?

The story isn’t mine, it’s a 15th Century Nôh play that was one of several adapted by Yukio Mishima in the 1950s. But I fell in love with the characters, and wanted to retell it as a photographic novel. Everything other than the story was conceived by me. I was really into Japanese culture for a while, not so much the modern Anime stuff, but the whole concept of the Floating World. I was fascinated by hand-colored photography, and looking at the Meiji era reveals that transition between feudal, traditional Japan and the modern world. I wanted to capture that in Hanjo. They live traditional lives: Hanako is a geisha and Jitsuko is a painter. but modern elements such as the train station or a newspaper drive the story. I like the idea that media can interrupt a perfectly arranged life. It becomes the Deus ex Machina.

+ The images in the Hanjo series are absolutely exquisite and almost surreal. Could you reveal some of the things that go into creating these photographs, from building sets to post production?

I designed the sets to incorporate all these traditional elements like furniture, translucent windows, or floral arrangements. But I shot it digitally, and then went through a very specific layering of the images to create the feel of albumen colors on collotypes. If you look carefully, there’s even motion blur… but not where you expect it. My stylist and I also made most of the clothing. One of the great advantages of living in a creative city like Berlin is that I can tap into the large prop shops that cater to theatre and the film industry. I can get everything from whole rooms, uniforms and instruments all the way down to jewelery for any narrative project, regardless how outlandish the idea.

+ Any interesting/ funny/ quirky facts you could share with us about this project?

My mother really loves Asian furniture, and owns some authentic and rather expensive pieces, so most of what you see was actually raided from her place.

+ Best piece of advice I’ve been given…

“If you don’t know, ask.” That sounds sort of stupid and really obvious, but it wasn’t. When I was a young man I thought I better not admit weakness, better not show ignorance, and pretend I know everything. But of course people see through that, and the learning process is super-slow. At some point I just had this “A-ha” moment that if I ask someone, they will gladly tell me. I realised people love to share information, and most people will even teach or mentor. I still do this all the time… It’s probably the greatest tool I have, because pretty much anything can be learned, and there is no limit to that scale. Go ahead… try it. Ask people what they do. Keep asking, they’re usually quite proud of what they do, pleased that someone is actually interested, and happy to teach you.

+ My most treasured belonging is…

Nothing. I’m pretty unsentimental when it comes to objects. I had a watch that I treasured but it was lost. If anything, I’m like a child because I really like new things, especially gadgets and camera gear. Beyond that I prefer my memories, and the people in my life. That isn’t supposed to sound greeting-card corny, I’m just really happy with the people around me. I have great friends, and it’s the time with them that matters most. I really love endless wine-fueled dinners with people willing to talk about art, life, or those endless spiralling conversations that happen with people who are intelligent and aware. I put substantial effort into maintaining friendships made throughout life, in all the places I’ve lived, and am quite proud of this extended family I’ve been able to build.

+ It’s not very cool, but I really like…

Motion-activated light switches. I have them in my basement, and it still makes me feel very futuristic… but then I’ll be working on something, and the on-cycle is too short, so suddenly I’m sitting in the dark, waving my arms around, assuming that I’m surrounded by monsters…

+ Most people don’t know that I…

… am a pretty decent cook.

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