by Taishi Arai
Leo at 5:00pm, Waiting
"Images are meant to be alive — in a dead kind of way"
- Taishi Arai.
Taishi is a fashion photographer who grew up in Tokyo and Cebu, an island in the Philippines. Today Taishi lives and shoots fashion editorials in the sunny L.A. ‘Leo at 5:00pm, Waiting’ is about telling a personal story of stopping on a way home, putting skateboard aside, and waiting for the sun to set.
Taishi and Wes who know each other from Cebu met again in L.A, shoot fashion stories, and even started their own line KIDHEAD.
What was the idea behind the photo set?
The story of the set is revolved around the Subject (Leo from Vision LA) waiting.
The bridge shown in the background in the last shot is actually the very bridge that I stop by on my way home and either skateboard or just simply wait. Not necessarily for anyone or anything in particular to happen but just to wait. It always felt like I kind of knew what I was waiting for but at the same time have no lick of a clue. It just feels comfortable to wait until the sun sank and so I did and still do. I thought I wanted to share that unexplainable part of my thought and translated into an editorial.
Do you think growing up in Tokyo and Cebu affected your style in shooting fashion?
Japan and the Philippines couldn't be more of a contrast, in terms of Development, People, Food, Fashion, and Art. Both countries are amazing, and I am proud to come from either.
A lot of photographers from Cebu were very into the technical side of the craft. Most people I knew strobes and look up to photographers like Dave Hill and Joe McNally so you can already tell the intricacy that goes into lighting and post-processing of the photographs.
Japan is where I appreciated content beyond the technical side, I'm talking about the styling, casting, and choice of colors. To me, Japanese photographers were amazing at producing soft, natural images.
It was when I moved to LA where I really saw my images drastically change, having found the balance between both influences. I feel like I am getting closer and closer to the kind of photographs I was meant to be taking.
Describe the work with the stylist Wesley Ong on this series. What was the important factor to be present?
Wes has always been a day one homie. I have known him since the 5th grade back in Cebu. Somehow we ended up meeting up here in Los Angeles. He has such and always had such a keen eye for fashion, and I trust his taste so I work with him quite a lot, certain tasks just come easy for some people and fashion and styling always came so naturally to him.
We have also started a clothing line last year called KIDHEAD, and we try to have a piece or two in my shots. The Blazer and the silk Pants are actually pieces Wes designed for KIDHEAD and the tops used were Vintage pieces from Lee and a shirt he thrifted.
In the post-production process, you close the series with the specific tint. How does it help in conveying the main look and feel for this shoot?
"I wanted to be creative in a sense that I didn't want to acknowledge guidelines or boundaries and just go with intuition — It felt like the right color for that particular shot. It closes the set with a question, some kind of mystery".
The suitcase is an amazing piece to include in the shot. What's the brand?
I'm not really sure what the brand of the bag is, it's one of the great finds Wes got from an estate sale somewhere in Venice.
The suitcase aesthetically is the same pattern as the Blazer used in the last shot so that in itself was cool. In a symbolic sense, it could be something Leo is either keeping from everybody or wants to one day show everybody.
The location you chose is one that any viewer can relate to as you have places of this type almost in any city. You manage to create a fashion retreat. How do you decide on the angles and the composition?
I really try to make my images kind of an honest reflection of myself. I try to add a little element of me in a lot of the shots that I take. This was taken at a bridge, not 10 minutes from where I live. I pass by and skate this bridge almost every single day, I just feel comfortable and connected to the spots and things that are tied to me. After all, to some extent portraits are in one way or another a self-portrait.
What is the next project you are working on?
I am currently in the works of shooting various unsung beauties of Hollywood. A photobook that shows my perspective on beauty and shot guerilla in landmarks in Los Angeles.