Dominick Sheldon’s ‘Tokyo Girls’ encapsulates his obsession with the interplay of worlds. Beginning with and inspired by the individual, it reflects the energy and beauty of here and now in Tokyo.
Photography by Dominick Sheldon
This body of work shot in Japan aligns more with my commercial and editorial work. It is a collaboration with a team of artists and a casting director. The subjects being young models, so in that regards it is purely about the face and the subject – how can we interpret their individuality to create a picture.
After living in the UK and France, what made you pick New York?
I moved from France to University in London. I moved to New York to take a full time job working for Steven Klein as his director of photography. At that moment in time, in the industry, it was a stepping stone to becoming a commercial photographer. This is not necessarily the case any more as the internet has opened up the world and allowed individuals to be found online creating a more diverse and creative industry. I chose to stay in New York because of its social and artistic climate.
How do fashion and beauty play into your creative narrative?
Magazines caught my interest. Fashion and beauty grew over time whilst working in the industry as an assistant. Both are continually evolving and changing. I am drawn to the idea of creating a picture in a short amount of time and creating something that has not been seen before. There is a beauty to the craft of fashion and design which I appreciate and in turn is inspirational to the way we live. It becomes a means to define an individuals place in culture, their community and what they believe in. In my personal work, I am drawn to individuals and groups and their take on how they choose to use these ideas, these fashion and beauty tools to define their personalities.
Over time the beauty aspect developed from an innate interest in the individual: who they are and how they define themselves. These concepts of beauty can be an inspiration in the creation of editorial work. In turn the world of editorial beauty can inspire the individual that I may choose to photograph because of their character and their interpretation of beauty.
In your portraits, which elements do you focus on?
Every project is different but the main focus always starts with the individual. It’s then really about how I can make the subject feel as comfortable as quickly as possible in order to capture the essence of their personality and then hopefully the work becomes both evocative and engaging.
When it comes to my editorial and celebrity work I like to give the subject a role or character and then begin to document them. It helps to define a space and place and role in order for the subject to feel comfortable and in this comfort allow an intimate and engaging picture to be made.
When beginning a personal project I like to develop an idea around a community that expresses a feeling I have felt in that place or space. It almost always begins by looking and finding and then engaging. Recently, I have been standing on the same corner on the same street talking to and photographing individuals from the same community. My goal is to create a poetic notion about this place with a strong focus on the subject.
This body of work shot in Japan aligns more with my commercial and editorial work. It is a collaboration with a team of artists and a casting director. The subjects being young models, and so in that regards it is purely about the face and the subject. How can we interpret their individuality to create a picture.
In your exhibition projects, community and culture is your dominant theme. How do you find such communities that evoke your interest?
A lot of the work is discovered first hand during travel or through reading. I see something and I want to understand more. I think that in these cases, photography becomes more of a process. The camera allows engagement and in turn an experience. It’s often about discovering something and then returning to that place once the idea is formed. This can be complicated on a social level as I am always innately aware that I am not part of the community. I think it is important as an outsider to be directly engaging with the subject matter and allow them space to be, to have conversations with the subject beforehand and in that way it becomes a collaboration. With these projects there always becomes a social connection which is bigger than the pictures.
Through your photojournalism, you seem to unfurl the community narrative. Is there a question you address in the beginning to begin the process?
I don’t really go into the process of trying to question anything and I can’t really consider my work as photojournalistic because my work is preplanned and the subjects are controlled, I am directly influencing the individual in the pictures. I’m interested in engaging with different communities, I like to talk to people and engage with people. I like to understand what makes people tick and I find inspiration in the world.
How do these elements develop further once you understand them more?
They become more complex as you develop and work with the subject especially when you are an outsider. A sense of responsibility to the subject matter develops and a friendship that grows. There is often a desire to return to continue the work over time but inevitably you have to leave and then walk away. I often have a plan to return in several years and continue the work but it’s not always so feasible.
What are you working on at the moment?
Alongside my editorial and commercial work I am shooting two personal projects on the West coast in California which I hope to develop into a publication before the end of the year. In 2024 I am looking to open a gallery space and artist residency abroad with a focus on contemporary photography.
Photography Dominick Sheldon
Stylist Shunji Sawai, Assistant Stylist Yuki Nasuno
Hair Shingo Shibata / Hiro Furukawa
Make-up Naomi Nishida
Casting Director Shimana, Casting Assistant Aoi Hanada, Stella.
Models Aru, Hara, Haru Izumi, Kanae Togashi, Kiko, Kureha, Miku Yamaguchi, Miu, Momo Koyama, Momoe Kanjo, Nanami, Reina Nishimura, Maori Hirose, Yuikina
Producer Masahiro Daimon
Production Manager Taiga Tohda