Interview with JulenPhoto + Tour Dreams Book Review

The man needs no introduction. If you follow ONE OK ROCK in any capacity, you are sure to have seen his photos. Julen Esteban-Pretel (aka JulenPhoto) is beloved among the OORer community as one of ONE OK ROCK’s regular photographers. But did you know that his day job is actually an associate professor in economics in New York? Yeah, I didn’t either.

Tour Dreams by Julen Esteban-Pretel (JulenPhoto)

JulenPhoto released his first book, a photo diary titled Tour Dreams, on July 24, 2019. The book documents his beginnings as a photographer, his routines and photo techniques, and through his photos, we follow him on his journey to fulfill his dream of touring with rock bands.

The first thing you notice when you pick up this book is how thick and heavy it is. There are over 500 photos, some of them never before seen, printed on over 250 pages of high quality paper. This is definitely a book that you can proudly display in your collection. Inside, the book is chock full of concert photos, behind-the-scenes shots, and commentary from JulenPhoto himself detailing the (sometimes hilarious) stories behind certain photos, as well as explanations of his routines and techniques. From how he plans his shots to the types of photos he likes to take, Tour Dreams allows you to get into JulenPhoto’s head as he continues his quest to take unique, dynamic photos. The book focuses mainly on four bands, coldrain, Crossfaith, ONE OK ROCK, and SiM, but also includes photos of Maximum the Hormone, MIYAVI, Bring Me The Horizon, and many more.

In the ONE OK ROCK sections, there are of course many photos from their concerts, but the ones I liked the best were the shots of the boys off stage. There is lots of silliness in those photos and through them we can feel the bond that JulenPhoto has formed with the members. They are comfortable not only with having him come up close during performances, but also with having him capture their off stage personas.

There are a couple of pages dedicated to how JulenPhoto plans where he will be and what kind of photos he wants to take during a concert. The example used was a concert during ONE OK ROCK’s 2017 Ambitions tour. Being on tour means that JulenPhoto has multiple chances to get the shots he wants. He may take it a little easy during the first show, but after he’s understood what the members will likely do at certain times, he starts preparing in minute detail for the next shows. One page shows the concert’s setlist with notes on where JulenPhoto plans to be positioned during each song, whether it be in the photo pit, on stage, at the catwalk, or even on the roof, in addition to the type of photo he aims to take during that song. JulenPhoto doesn’t just point his camera and hope to be at the right place at the right time for a good photo. No, he meticulously plans everything out.

From stories of driving the band members passed out from exhaustion back to their hotel and feeling the weight of the responsibility that’s been unwittingly handed to him, to a misunderstanding that nearly had him caught in a fire effect on stage, not only are the photos breathtaking but the book makes for a really fun and interesting read too. Make sure to grab a copy of JulenPhoto’s book Tour Dreams today! It retails for 2800 yen and can be shipped worldwide from Amazon Japan or HMV (includes special A5 size postcard while supplies last). This gorgeous book is a must-have for fans of any of the bands featured in it!

I am so grateful to have received the opportunity to interview JulenPhoto to mark the release of his book Tour Dreams. The interview took place on July 26, 2019 while he was on tour with ONE OK ROCK in Mexico.

Julen Esteban-Pretel, aka JulenPhoto. Photo taken by Julen’s son Pau when he was only 3 years old.


First off, congratulations on making your dream come true. Could you please discuss how you got interested in photography?

JP: Thank you. Well, there’s like two dreams, the fact that I went on tour with all these bands, and that I got to make a book about it.

I got into photography a long time ago. When I was in high school, in Spain, you had to choose electives and I just got the photography elective. I liked it but I never did much with it. What happened was that my aunt was a teacher in high school. She was the teacher of photography so she worked with me a little bit more and I got to do a little bit more. I didn’t do much when I was in college, a little bit, but not too much. When I was in grad school in New York, I started taking it much more seriously. I’ve always liked photojournalism so I went on trips by myself, to places like Taiwan, India, Vietnam, Turkey, Cuba, just around shooting photos, and I slowly got better. I like the way you can tell stories with photography, and that’s what always interested me.

I was very surprised to find out that you were actually an associate professor. How do you find time to both teach and tour around the world with bands?

Well, it looks like I tour a lot but in reality I don’t. If you look at my Instagram feed, there are like jumps of months where I don’t post anything. My feed is about photography and if I don’t shoot bands, I don’t post. Mostly I shoot in the summer, or say if ONE OK ROCK comes to the U.S. on a weekend or something like that. Most of my work is actually not teaching but doing research so I’m a research professor in a way.

The research I do is in the Japanese labor market and I have colleagues in Japan. Every once in a while I have to go to work with them in Tokyo so I try to make it coincide with something I want to shoot and then I do both at the same time. Basically I’ll work during the week and then at night or during the weekend I’ll go shoot a couple shows, so it doesn’t really interfere with my work. It interferes much more with my family, if I’m going to be honest.

In terms of work, I don’t do as much as I could or as much as I would like to because I don’t have as much time. In the book, it looks like it’s a lot but it’s seven years of photographs, so if you take that into account, it’s really spread out.

Have you ever had a student who knew you as JulenPhoto?

I don’t think so… No, but until recently, I taught a course this year at NYU and I think they Googled me. It was kind of funny because they told me they thought I played bass or drums for a rock band, and I’m like, I do neither; I just shoot photos of rock bands.

But one day, probably my second year back in New York in 2016, I was teaching looking exactly the same way that I look when I shoot photos, so basically in shorts and a tshirt. I was wearing a ONE OK ROCK tshirt and a student of mine came at the beginning of class and was like, “What? You like ONE OK ROCK? I don’t believe it, they’re my favorite band!” He started asking me what my favorite song was and all that. I didn’t tell him that I shot photos of the band, but I’m pretty sure that he Googled it and found out that I was shooting for them.

I’ve been stopped before though, since ONE OK ROCK is very popular in New York. When I wear their tshirts, I’ve been told a few times by people, “Oh, I went to their show in New York! They were amazing!” So students of mine, not so much. I don’t think anyone’s recognized me on the street. That’s a good thing, though. It’s good to be anonymous so I can do whatever I want.

Please tell us some of the equipment you use.

I basically use three Nikon cameras. I use three bodies because I use three different lenses. The bodies change through time because they get old and I change them, but the lenses are basically always the same. The fisheye, which I use a lot, is a 10.5mm Nikon fisheye lens. Then I use a 17-55mm Nikon, and the f-stop on that is 2.8, so when you zoom in or out, it doesn’t change the f-stop which is every important. The other is a 70-200mm Nikon lens.

In terms of bodies, the ones I use right now are a Nikon D610, a Nikon D7200, and a Nikon D7100. When I first started, I was using a D70, and like with Crossfaith and Coldrain, the first photos in the book were shot on a D90 which is not an amazing camera but it worked. I’ve never actually used super expensive Nikon cameras. I feel like it’s unnecessary. I feel Japanese photographers focus a little too much on the gear. In reality, what makes the photo is not the camera but the person shooting it. Also, you see my photos and they’re highly edited, so when I shoot a photo, I kind of already know what I’m going to do with it later. As long as the camera is decent, and I think what matters more is what lens is on the camera, then it’s okay. If you’re not going to touch the photo at all then you need a very good camera and a very good lens because then you need everything to be perfect. But if you’re going to edit it and change the colors, then yeah, at that point, I’ll never spend $5000 on a body. For one thing, I’ve had my cameras broken a few times by people falling on my head so it’s not worth it. It’s a lot less painful to break a $1000 camera than a $5000 camera.

At the end of the day, what matters is the final image and if you can shoot a good image with a semi-pro camera like the ones I have, then that is what you use. If you need a pro camera then that’s what you should use. I don’t shoot sports or nature, and those are the things where you would need really expensive cameras. I think the ones I use are about $1000. The lenses are much more expensive but not the bodies because you have to change them every couple of years.

How many photos do you usually shoot during an average concert and how long does it take you to sort through and edit them?

That’s a good question. It depends on the length of the show. I always go early, like I’ll go with the band and be shooting photos of them in the dressing room or during rehearsal, and then do the show. So in a day, it depends on the length of the show and how long the rehearsal was, but I can shoot somewhere between 2000-4000 photos.

When you see one of my photos, I never click just once and that was the photo. It does happen sometimes, especially if it’s an action shot, for instance Taka jumping, and I wasn’t ready for it. If I know he’s about to jump, I change the settings so it’ll do a burst, like I’ll shoot 10 photos of his jump and choose the one that is best, but sometimes he’ll jump out of the blue so I get to shoot only one photo. If I’m super lucky then it was good and that is the one I use, but usually if I see something I want to shoot then I’ll shoot several photos, and there are somewhere between 5-10 images for each of the photos. Out of those photos, sometimes I choose one, and sometimes none of them are good.

So for instance, the one I shot yesterday of ONE OK ROCK in Mexico1, that was about 70 minutes and I shot about 1200 photos. Out of those, I’m giving them about 150. It’s 150 but that doesn’t mean it’s 150 distinctive images because for instance, there will be photos of Taka singing where his expression changes constantly while he’s singing, and I’m not always sure which expression they want to use. Is it one where he’s more passionate, or more introverted? So I might give them three or four of the same, and that is chosen out of like 20 images. Yesterday’s show I shot 1200 photos, I’ll give them 150, and there may only be 20 or so decent ones at most that they may use out of those.

What I do is if I shoot the rehearsal, there’s some time after when they rest and aren’t doing all that much, and I’ll go download and start editing those, but I probably wouldn’t finish those before the start of the show. Then I shoot the show and download those photos, and within an hour to an hour and a half, I give them what I call a set of “quick photos” which includes photos of all of them, plus photos of each of the members, photos of the venue and others that they can use. That’s probably 30-50 photos that take me an hour and a half to edit, and the next day I will continue editing and give them the rest. You do that over and over again for however many times you’re shooting them.

In the chapter about the Japan tour of the OUTBURN tour where I was shooting Coldrain, Crossfaith, Miss May I, and the guest band, I had to shoot four bands every day, and I think that was like nine shows. That was a lot of editing and was so much work. You basically spend your whole time either editing or shooting. That’s the life of a touring photographer.

Also when I edit photos, I always listen to the music of the band I shot. That helps me get in the head space of that band and their music and make sure that I can capture the feeling of the music in the editing. For instance, I’m listening to today’s2 setlist and it will be on repeat until I am done.

Why did you take an interest in photographing Japanese bands in particular?

It was kind of an organic thing. I used to do photojournalism, going around and shooting street photography. When I moved to Japan in 2004, I wanted to do something similar but I realized it was not possible because Japanese people like to pose when having their picture taken so they would stop whatever it was they were doing and then it would no longer be what I saw originally and wanted to shoot. I had to find something where people will not be bothered or change what they were doing because I was shooting photos of them. I’ve always liked music and I met this promoter who brought over a really big band from the Basque Country and through him I went to a lot of his shows and was able to shoot photos. There were a few bands that I liked and I had shot a few photos at clubs back in New York but I never took it seriously because I didn’t really want to do that but this time was different. I was a better photographer and the photos were getting better, and the bands seemed to like them. It was nice because people were just doing their thing and I would be documenting it.

Eventually I met the guy from Smashing Mag and I got to shoot all these amazing bands. The magazine was associated with Smash, the promoter of FUJI ROCK. That means that I could shoot any band that was promoted by Smash. I didn’t get paid, but I could go shoot photos. I got to see many amazing artists through that, and one of the festivals I saw was DEAD POP FESTiVAL in 2012. That’s how I started shooting Japanese bands.

I had been shooting for Smashing Mag for about three years and after a while, the bands kind of liked my photos and they started asking me to shoot photos for them rather than for Smashing Mag, and that’s how I started touring. Until then I was basically just shooting maybe three songs for the whole show. I never went backstage or met anybody so it was very different. That’s why at the beginning of the book, there aren’t really any backstage photos since I was only shooting the show.

That’s how I came to start shooting Japanese bands though. From trying to find something that I could shoot without people stopping to pose and then meeting all the Spanish bands, and through the Spanish bands meeting the Japanese bands. It just flowed. I never really thought that I would be best known for music photos. Not that I don’t like to shoot music because I love that, but in my core, it’s still the story and storytelling in photojournalism that drives me.

When there are multiple photographers shooting the same concert, do you divide up the work or do you all go about doing your own thing?

No. For example with ONE OK ROCK, I think they get photographers that complement each other, like we all have our own style and our own different way of shooting, so there’s no point in dividing the work because we all see different things. Even though the show is exactly the same, the images that we see in our heads and that we end up shooting are all different. The only thing we might coordinate a little bit is our positioning. For example, if I want to go on stage during a particular song, then I might tell the other guys, “Can I go here?” That may be the only thing we ever discuss beforehand, but usually, if we see each other at a particular spot then we probably won’t go there at that time and go some other time instead since there’s no point in shooting the same kind of photo. There’s very little coordination but we all get along very well and we never have any problems.

What do you think separates your work from other photographers’?

I think there’s a few things. Especially with Japanese photographers, though maybe a bit less now, but when I started shooting for Smashing Mag, one of the bigger differences that I saw and that the band saw was how the photos looked. I spent countless hours in the darkroom when I was shooting film, printing the photos and making sure that they looked exactly the way I wanted. So when I started shooting digital, I wouldn’t shoot one photo and leave it as is. I went to the computer and edited it to look exactly how I wanted. I think there’s a philosophy in Japan, especially among people who do photojournalism, that you’re not supposed to edit the photo. I don’t believe in that. I think you should leave the photo the way that it’s intended to be, even if you have to edit it. That’s probably why the colors in my photos are more vibrant than some other photographers’ and I think people like that in photos of bands.

Another thing I think separates me, and I’m mostly comparing myself to Japanese photographers since I mostly shoot Japanese bands, is that because I’m not Japanese, all the rules that I’m supposed to follow, I don’t know them and I don’t really care for them. I’m sort of aggressive when I shoot photos. You’ll see that a lot of my photos are in the face of the singer or the guitarist, whoever, and now more people do that, but when I started, that wasn’t really something that you were supposed to do. But for me, I wanted to show exactly how I felt when I was seeing the image, and getting close kind of gives you that. I feel like when I use the fisheye lens, it kind of gives you the impression that you’re in the photo and are so close that you can almost touch the person in the photo. To me it’s important to transmit the feeling of the music or the moment to the photo. I like to shoot most of my photos to show the passion or the feeling in there. More people do it now but at least in the beginning, I think the bands that I ended up shooting kind of recognized that as something that not many people could do.

Finally, I think the biggest difference is that, because I come from a background of liking to shoot street photography, photojournalism, and telling stories, I shoot a lot of backstage photos. I probably do it a lot more than other people, and this is why in my book, there are probably more black and white photos than color photos. That to me is the important thing, because when you go to a show, you know what’s on stage but you don’t know what’s going on behind it. That is the story that I wanted to tell; that’s what it means to go on tour. I think that is one of the things that I can do better than a lot of other people… The combination of good live photos with good backstage and off shots. There are people who shoot better live photos or better backstage photos than me, but I think I have a bit of an advantage when it comes to doing both. I think my personality allows the bands to be comfortable around me so they don’t care when I shoot when they’re doing their own thing and that also helps.

How does it feel to have so many fans of your photos?

I think it’s very good, I like it. It’s funny because my wife finds it very amusing. We actually met in a photo class. She shoots amazing photos but she hasn’t shot in a long time. She actually scolded me because she was a big part of how the inside of the book looks. We had a designer that did almost everything but my wife and I fine tuned it, and she got pissed at me because she was not credited for the design! I’m sorry, I forgot. She’s credited in like five different places, I’m sorry! So she has a very good eye and she is very critical of my photos. She likes some of them but most of them she doesn’t. It’s kind of funny because people will post nice comments about my photos on Instagram but then she’ll bring me back down to earth, like, “Yeah… Come on. This is just okay.” But she’s basically comparing me to all these amazing photographers that we both admire. It’s not like I’m ever going to win a Pulitzer Prize so it’s like, “Can you please stop comparing me?” So it’s good to be liked, but at the same time, it’s good to keep your feet on the ground and not forget that this is not my job. The photos are good but I’m not changing anyone’s lives. These are just photos of rock bands, and I’m not curing cancer or anything.

You do realize that after having published a book, the next step is to hold a photo exhibition, right?

I know, I know. Don’t think that I don’t know. It is the next step of the dream. Don’t think that I haven’t thought about it. Whether it will happen or not is a different story but it’s definitely on my mind.

Next, I’d like to talk a bit about your work with ONE OK ROCK. How were you first introduced to the band and later become one of their regular photographers?

It just came very naturally. I was basically Crossfaith’s photographer for maybe less than a year at the time, and they played at Ebisu Liquidroom in 2014, which was the summer that I was leaving. I was there to shoot Crossfaith, but there was another band, and because I like to shoot photos, I asked the manager of Crossfaith to ask the manager of ONE OK ROCK if I could shoot photos of them and publish them in Smashing Mag. They were fine with it, but to be honest, I didn’t know who ONE OK ROCK were. To me, they were just like any other rock band. Ebisu Liquidroom is a really tiny venue so I didn’t know at that time that ONE OK ROCK were as big as they were.

So I shot Crossfaith and then I shot ONE OK ROCK, and they blew my mind. Like, who are these guys? They’re so good and I loved it! In the dressing room we were sharing, they had been super nice to me. And again, they were already big at the time and they had no clue who the hell I was, but they had talked to me and being nice, and I had shot photos of them, and I really liked them, but I was leaving and moving to New York a month after that. I published my photos and the manager of Crossfaith told me that the people of ONE OK ROCK were asking if I could give them some of the photos, saying that they wanted them for something. I said sure, so I gave it to them, and later I found out that it was Ryota who wanted the photos. He really liked the photos so he wanted them and he asked his manager to ask the manager of Crossfaith if he could have the photos. That’s the story behind how I first shot them.

Later, I moved to New York, and the next summer, I went back to Japan for work and that’s when ONE OK ROCK had their arena tour for their 35xxxv album. I always go to DEAD POP FESTiVAL and they were playing I think on Saturday at Saitama Super Arena with Twenty One Pilots. I contacted the manager of Crossfaith to talk to the manager of ONE OK ROCK and see if I could shoot them again for Smashing Mag. They got back to me and said, “Why don’t you shoot for us instead of Smashing Mag?” I’m like, “Sure, if you want me to shoot for you, I’d be happy to.” So they hired me for that, and I think it was kind of like a test because they had two days in Saitama but they only wanted me for the first day. I went there and shot the rehearsal, the whole show, and I think they really liked the photos because after that they hired me and they’ve been hiring me ever since.

That’s how it all went. It was just through a chance meeting that Crossfaith was playing with them and then I eventually got noticed. The important thing is to shoot a lot and then get noticed.

What were your first impressions of their music and of them as people?

Their music is the softest that I listen to. If they go any softer, I think it would be hard for me to listen to, but I like them, and now I listen to them all the time.

I thought they were really nice as people, but I have met so many Japanese bands in dressing rooms and they’re always super polite and super nice, so I didn’t really think anything about it. Then I saw them live and thought they had a really good performance. It wasn’t until after that I realized how big these guys were. Usually if I know I’m going to shoot a band then I try to do some research beforehand, but I hadn’t planned on shooting ONE OK ROCK so I didn’t know about them. However, I find that many times the bands I like the most are the bands that I had no clue about. They blew my mind.

In your book you talked about discussing with Ryota ahead of time where you will be to take a photo of him jumping. Are there any other specific shots you want to take of any of the members?

Ryota was the only one I ever tried to coordinate with because it was such a specific moment and it’s always the same moment of the same song. If you end up shooting them from the same place then it’s kind of boring.

The others improvise a lot so there’s no real point in telling them. I’m really big though so they’ll see me in the photo pit, and I’ll actually yell at them to do something. With Ryota it was a three or four show thing, but sometimes I’ll talk to the members if I want something and they can try to accommodate me, or if not, I’ll just yell at them in the middle of a show. Sometimes they hear me, sometimes they don’t, but it’s worth trying. There’s no harm, and it’s always in good faith so they never get mad at me for asking something.

Do you have a favorite photo that you’ve taken of ONE OK ROCK?

I have a lot of photos that I like of ONE OK ROCK. Some of my favorite photos don’t have to do so much with the actual photo itself; it’s more of how I was feeling or how hard it was to shoot, and that’s kind of a problem. That’s one reason why my wife is so good. She’ll take the feeling out of the photo. Sometimes she’ll look at my photos when I’m struggling to choose, and she’ll be like, “This one, that one, and that one. Those are the good ones.” Then I’d be like, “But these other ones–!” and she’ll say, “You only love it because it took you a long time to shoot it or the guy was saying something to you when you shot it. The photo is OK but it’s not great.” So there are some photos that I like of ONE OK ROCK because of that. Off the top of my head I can’t tell you now because there’s too many, and I actually struggled to choose the photos for this book.

To tell you the truth, some of my favorite photos are off stage photos. There are certain photos that I like where they were rehearsing. For instance in the book, on the page where I talk about how Japanese people are really quiet during Listen, there’s a photo of Toru with this beam of light on him. If you know it’s Toru then you know it’s him, but otherwise you probably don’t know. I really like that photo. It’s a really melancholic photo, but there are a lot of others that I like, maybe because it reminds me of what was going on when I was shooting it. It’s much more my feelings than the actual photo being great. I don’t know… I’ve shot so many photos of ONE OK ROCK and I feel I like too many of them.

With the book, sometimes I had to choose just four photos for a section, but I couldn’t narrow it down to less than 30. That’s when the designer had to come in and go through the photos and choose the ones she thought were best. This was also good because she had no attachment to the photos and just chose the ones she thought worked best for the book.

What is your favorite ONE OK ROCK song?

There are two songs that really get me pumped: Deeper Deeper and Re:make.

My son who is almost 10 years old now plays the guitar. He was very lucky because I told Toru that I liked Deeper Deeper and wanted my son to play it. Toru offered to make a little tutorial video for him so he could learn it, so when we were in San Francisco, in the dressing room, he played it a couple times, one of them slowly so that my son will learn how to play it. I then showed it to him and he practiced it, and now my son knows how to play Deeper Deeper.

What is your most memorable ONE OK ROCK concert and why?

It’s easier to say tour… Let’s start with tour. My most memorable tour is the Asia Tour of Ambitions. That’s because it’s the only tour where I went with them the entire tour, and that’s why the chapter is called Full Tour. That was really good because we could do things like what I did with the collaboration thing with Ryota. We went to all these places and I love Asia so it was great.

It’s so hard to choose my favorite show in the sense that I like a lot of them for a lot of different reasons. I love the orchestra show because it was so different. I actually like classical music and I love the combination of rock and an orchestra. But the Dome Tour… Those were humongous! The production was amazing! But then the arena tours, also. At Yokohama Arena I shot a photo from the top of the arena I really liked. So again, some of the ones that I like the best have to do with how I felt about them at the time.

Is there any song that you know will always produce amazing photos?

No, I don’t think that it works that way. There are some songs that they’ve played so many times so they’ve nailed how it looks, for example The Beginning where Taka has the lights behind him and he puts his hand out. That is an amazing photo but once you’ve shot it then that’s it. I can shoot it every show but it’s always going to be the same, so I don’t think of the songs in that way. I think there are certain songs that give way to more action type photos, and then there are certain ones that give way to much more moody or sentimental images, but the same song at two different shows, if I’m in a different place, it would give a totally different photo, so I don’t think there are any particular songs that I love when they play it because I can get great shots from it. It’s never like that. They also move so much and are in different places so even with the same song, the photo will be different just because they are in a different place or they’ll be singing it in a slightly different way.

Do you ever teach the band members English or Spanish, and do they teach you Japanese? In what language do you usually communicate with them?

They don’t teach me Japanese; I know enough to converse basically, but they speak very good English. English, yes. They’ve asked me sometimes, like Ryota because his wife is Canadian, he always wants to improve and he’ll ask me stuff. Spanish, yes. For instance, Taka wanted to say some things yesterday. I didn’t actually tell him how to say it, but I corrected him a little bit on his pronunciation and how to connect the words. So yes, they do ask. They’re very humble so if they need help, they have no problem asking. They also know that I’m a professor and that I like to teach, and they have no problem with asking me to teach them something.

I communicate with them in English. I mean, I speak basic Japanese but not enough. Sometimes they’ll be speaking in Japanese and I’ll understand, but I answer them back in English. These guys all speak very good English so there’s no need for anything else. They don’t speak publicly in English a lot but they do all speak good English and are comfortable with it. Again, I communicate with them in English.

Do you have any favorite memories with the band that you can share?

Some of my best memories, other than shows that I really liked, are like when we’re on tour and go out to eat. I love to eat, and there’s a whole section of ONE OK ROCK and food because they like to eat too. They go to nice restaurants and they’re not necessarily all fancy places, but those are really fun times. I love going to eat with them because they like eating, they eat well, and they enjoy it. They’re like me.

One of my fondest memories was when we were in Taiwan during the last tour3. They say they ate 100 Xiao Long Bao, but it was not just them. It was the three of them plus the three crew members who were with them. There are many reasons why this is one of my fondest memories. One, my wife is from Taiwan and I love Xiao Long Bao and it was great. Then we were eating this food that was super good and I shot this funny photo of them with the empty baskets, and the next day, Tomo wanted to talk about it. During the show, they put that photo up on the huge screen behind them, and 20,000 people saw my photo right there. That was a nice moment with us having dinner together, enjoying the food, and that is probably one of my fondest memories.

Lastly, please describe each of the band members in one word or phrase.

Oh, one word will be impossible. You know, I don’t like Twitter because you have to compress everything you say into a very short sentence which by now you’ve probably realized that I’m not very good at making concise statements. Let me just define them and say what I think in as short a sentence as I possibly can.

Tomo, okay, I can describe him with just one word, which is “happy.” To me, Tomo is the happiest guy. He’s always smiling, super happy, and it’s so much fun to be around him because he’s just pure joy.

I love Ryota because he’s so passionate and crazy on the stage, but at the same time he’s so sensitive. We talk a lot about each other’s families and he’s a very sensitive guy but at the same time very lively. He’s a very interesting character.

I would say Toru is probably the coolest one, and it’s funny because I’ve seen him smile a million times but he refuses to smile for me when he’s on stage. I think by now he just does it on purpose because he knows I’m looking for that photo. He’s super cool, a cool guitarist, exactly what you’d expect from a guitarist. But at the same time he’s a super nice guy. I mean, he made a video on how to play Deeper Deeper for my son.

And Taka, he’s a total leader. He’s what you would expect from the frontman of a band. He’s really aware of everything. He coordinates a lot of what’s going on, and has a really good mind for music and for showmanship. He’s a really rounded artist. But again, to me, he’s just always super nice.

One of the things that I would say about all of them is that despite the fact that they’re international superstars, to me they’re really nice, down to earth people. They never behave like spoiled rock stars or anything like that. To be honest, if it wasn’t that way, I probably wouldn’t have shot them for as long as I have because I have to do this when I’m on vacation. I wouldn’t spend my vacation time when I’m not with my family with people who are assholes. So it’s great. They’re really really great people, and they’re fun people to be around. There’s no drama. You think of rock ‘n roll bands in the 70’s and 80’s and all the drama that they must have had. If there’s no drama then it’s so much fun to be around them.

Sorry I couldn’t describe them in a word for you, but I’m a professor, and I can speak for hours. It’s what I do.

No problem. It was interesting to hear everything you had to say. Do you have any final messages for your fans?

I was able to make my dream come true with perseverance, hard work, and a little bit of luck. If I could realize my dream to tour with bands, then anyone should try to accomplish their dream. You may not get it at first, but life is long and it takes you to many unexpected places, so don’t give up and you may get there one day!






よくツアーに参加するように見えるけど実は違うんだ。僕のインスタを見れば分かると思うが、ポストが何もない数ヶ月の期間がある。僕のフィードは写真中心なので、バンドを撮影していない時はポストがない。主に夏に撮影するか、例えばONE OK ROCKが週末にアメリカに来てたらとか。お仕事では授業を教えるより研究することの方が多い。僕はいわゆる研究教授だね。





でもある日、多分ニューヨークで2年目、2016年に、僕は撮影する時と同じ服装、シャツと短パンで授業を教えていた。ONE OK ROCKのシャツを着てたら生徒が授業が始まる前に僕に声をかけた。「え、マジ?先生がワンオク好きなの?信じられない、俺の一番好きなバンドだ!」って言われ、一番好きな曲など聞かれた。僕がバンドの写真を撮ってることを教えなかったけど、多分その後ググられてバレたと思う。

ニューヨークではONE OK ROCKはとても人気なので道で呼び止められたことがある。彼らのシャツを着てる時に、「ニューヨーク公演に行ったよ!最高だった!」と何回か言われたことがある。生徒にはあまり言われないけど。多分道では僕のことを知ってる人がいない。でもそれがいいこと。知られてないならやりたいことをやれるから。








例えば、昨日のONE OK ROCKのメキシコ公演4は約70分だったが、その時は約1200枚撮った。その中から彼らに150枚ぐらい提供する。でも150枚ってのは違う写真150枚という訳じゃない。例えば、Takaが歌ってる時に表情がくるくる変わってるから、どれを使いたいか分からない。情熱的に歌ってるところか、それとももっと物静かな表情がいいか、分からないから同じ場面で3、4枚提供するかも。そしてその4枚は20枚から選ばれた。昨日は1200枚撮って、彼らに150枚提供して、その中に使いたいのはたった20枚かもしれない。


本にColdrain、Crossfaith、Miss May Iとゲストバンドを撮影してたOUTBURNツアーのジャパンツアーのセクションがあるんだけど、その時は毎日4組を撮影していて、計9公演があったと思う。編集しまくっててすごく疲れた。編集しているか撮影しているかどっちかだった。ツアーカメラマンってのはこういうことだ。




やがてSmashing Magのスタッフと知り合って、たくさんの素晴らしいバンドを撮影できるようになった。この雑誌はFUJI ROCKのプロモーターSmashと関わってる。ということはSmashにプロモートされているバンドなら取り放題だった。お金にならなかったけど、とりあえず撮影できるようになった。これでたくさんのすごいバンドを見れるようになって、参加できたフェスの一つは2012年のDEAD POP FESTiVALだった。日本のバンドを撮り始めたのはこれがきっかけだった。

Smashing Magのために3年間ぐらい撮影してて、僕の写真にだんだんバンドが気に入れられ、雑誌よりバンドのために撮影しないかと依頼され始めた。これでツアーを同行するようになった。それまではライブの3曲ぐらいしか撮影できなかった。バックステージに行けなかったし、誰とも会わなかったからとても違う環境だった。だから本の冒頭にはバックステージの写真があまりなかった。ライブ本番しか撮影できなかったから。



しないね。例えば、ONE OK ROCKはそれぞれのスタイルや撮り方のある、補足し合うようなカメラマンを何人か雇ってる。みんな見るものが違うから仕事を分担する意味がない。同じライブでも、頭の中で見るイメージが違うから撮影するものも違う。配置についてだけは少し配慮するかも。例えば、もしある曲をステージに上がりたかったら、それを他のカメラマンに伝えるかも。事前に話すのはそれくらいかな。でも普段は行きたい場所に既に誰かいれば、そこに行かないだけ。同じような写真を撮る意味がないから後で行っても大丈夫。あまり話し合わないけどみんな仲良しで問題が起こらない。


いくつか違うがあると思う。今はそれほどじゃないかもしれないけど、僕がSmashing Magのために撮り始めた時、特に日本人カメラマンとの大きな違いは写真の見た目だったね。フィルム時代に暗室の中に数え切れないほど時間籠もって、写真が思う通りになるまで調整していた。だからデジタルで撮り始めたら、写真1枚撮ってそのままにしなかった。思う通りになるまでパソコンで編集した。日本では、特にフォトジャーナリズムを撮る人の中では、写真を編集しちゃダメみたいな哲理があるみたい。僕はそれに全く信じない。編集する必要があっても、写真を自分のイメージ通りにした方がいいと思う。だから僕の写真は他のカメラマンのより色が鮮やかだと思うし、バンド写真ならファンもそういうのが好きだと思う。







ここからはONE OK ROCKとのお仕事についてお話したいと思います。どうやってバンドに出会い、のちレギュラーカメラマンになりましたか?

とても自然だったね。当時はCrossfaithのカメラマンを1年未満やってたけど、2014年に恵比寿リキッドルームでライブをやってて、その夏に僕は日本から離れる予定だった。Crossfaithの撮影のために来てたけど、別のバンドもいて、写真を撮るのが好きだからCrossfaithのマネージャーさんにONE OK ROCKのマネージャーさんに彼らの写真を撮って、Smashing Magに掲載してもいいかと聞いてもらった。許可もらったけど、正直ONE OK ROCKのことを全然知らなかった。僕にとってただのロックバンドだった。恵比寿リキッドルームはとても狭い会場なのでONE OK ROCKはこんなにビッグだとは知らなかった。

Crossfaithを撮影し、ONE OK ROCKも撮影したら圧倒された。この人達何者なの?って感じだった。めちゃくちゃ上手いし気に入った。一緒に使っていた楽屋の中ですごく優しくしてくれた。当時、彼らはもう既にビッグだし、僕のことを全然知らなかったのに、たくさん話してくれて、優しくしてくれた。バンドに気に入ったけど翌日にニューヨークに引っ越す予定だった。撮った写真を掲載したらCrossfaithのマネージャーさんにONE OK ROCKのスタッフは写真をお願いしているとお知らせされた。送ったんだけど、その後はRyotaが写真を欲しかったと分かった。写真に気に入ってくれたみたいでマネージャーさんにお願いしてもらったようだ。これで彼らを初めて撮影した。

ニューヨークに引っ越して、次の夏にお仕事で来日した。その時にONE OK ROCKはアルバム「35xxxv」のツアーをやってた。僕はいつもDEAD POP FESTiVALを撮影するんだけど、確かその土曜日にTwenty One Pilotsとさいたまスーパーアリーナでライブをやってた。またSmashing Magのために撮影できるかとCrossfaithのマネージャーさん経由でお願いしてみた。Smashing Magじゃなくバンドのために撮影しないかという返事が来て、いいよ、喜んでと。それで依頼されて、最初は多分何かの試練だった。さいたま公演はツーデイズなのに初日しか依頼されなかった。行って、リハを撮って、本番も撮って、それ以来ずっと依頼してもらってるから僕の写真に気に入れられたと思う。


ONE OK ROCKの音楽とメンバーの第一印象を教えてください。


メンバーはすごく優しいと思ったけど、楽屋で日本バンドの何組と会ったことあって、みんないつも優しいから特に気にならなかった。そしてライブを見て、素晴らしいパフォーマンスだったと思った。後から彼らはどれだけビッグかを知った。普段はバンドを撮影すると分かっているなら事前に調べるんだけど、最初のONE OK ROCKの撮影は予定外だったから。でも僕が一番好きなバンドはよく事前に全く知らないバンドが多いと気づいた。彼らは本当に最高だった。




一番気に入っているONE OK ROCKの写真がありますか?

いっぱいあるね。でも僕が気に入っている写真のいくつかは良い写真だからじゃなく、撮った時の気持ちや苦労を思い出すから好きなんだ。実はそれが結構問題になるんだね。嫁はいいんだ。僕が撮った写真への想いがないから、僕が選んでいる時に悩んでいると見たら、「これとこれとこれがいいんだ」とあっさり決めちゃうんだ。僕は「いや、でもこの写真も!」と言い始めたら「どうせ撮る時に苦労したからかその時に何か言われていたからでしょ!まあまあの写真だけど素晴らしい写真じゃない」と言われちゃう。ということで、ONE OK ROCKの写真の中で数枚はそんな理由で好きなんだ。好きな写真が多すぎるから今はこれだ!と言えない。この本の写真を選ぶのも苦労したね。

正直、オフステージの写真がかなり好きだ。リハしている時の写真とか。例えば、「Listen」を静かに聞く日本人ファンについて話すページには、後ろからToruを照明で照らしている写真がある。Toruだと分かっているなら分かっているけど、分からなかったら分からないね。その写真に気に入ってる。すごくメランコリックだ。でも撮った時を思い出すから好きな写真が多いね。素晴らしい写真よりその時の気持ちだね。ONE OK ROCKの写真をたくさん撮って、好きな写真が多すぎる気がする。


一番好きなONE OK ROCKの曲がありますか?

2つあるね。「Deeper Deeper」と「Re:make」だ。テンション上がるね。

息子はそろそろ10歳になるけど、ギターを弾いている。ラッキーな子だ。何故なら、Toruに僕が「Deeper Deeper」が好きで息子に弾けるようになって欲しいと話したら、学べるようにチュートリアルの動画を撮ってくれた。サンフランシスコ公演の時に、楽屋で2回ぐらい弾いてもらって、学べるように1回ゆっくり弾いてくれた。息子に動画を見せて、練習して、今は「Deeper Deeper」を弾ける。

どれが一番印象深いONE OK ROCKライブですか?

ツアーの方が決めやすいね。まずはツアーから話そう。一番印象深いツアーはAmbitionsのアジアツアーだった。何故なら全公演に同行したのはそのツアーだけ。だからそのチャプターは「Full Tour」というタイトルを付けている。Ryotaとのコラボレーションのようなことをできたし、すごく良かったね。僕はアジアが大好きで、色々なところに一緒に行った。



いや、その考え方はちょっと違うんだね。「The Beginning」でTakaが手を伸ばし、後ろから照明が照らされるような何回も何回もやってて演出が決まっている曲があるけど、素晴らしい絵になるけど1回撮ったらそれで終わり。毎回撮れるけど毎回似たような写真になるから曲をそんな風に考えないね。アクション写真やムーディ、センチメンタルな写真に向いている曲があるが、違う公演で、違うポジションにいると全く違う写真になるから、この曲なら良い写真撮れるというのはないね。しかも彼はかなり動くから同じ曲でも違う立ち位置や少しでも違う歌い方で写真が変わる。





僕が好きなライブの他には、ツアー中に一緒にご飯を食べに行く思い出がたくさんある。僕は食べることが大好きで、彼らも食べることが好きだから本にONE OK ROCKとフードのセクションがある。彼らは良いお店に行くね。いつも豪華なお店じゃないけど、毎回楽しい。食べることが好きだし、良く食べるし、楽しいから一緒にご飯を食べに行くのが好き。僕と似ているんだ。






Toruは多分一番クールだと思う。面白いのは、何度も彼の笑顔を見たことがあるけど、ステージ上だと絶対笑顔を見せてくれない。僕がその写真を撮りたいと分かっているからもうわざとだと思う。スーパークールで、クールなギタリストで、ギタリストのイメージそのものだ。でもすごくナイスガイだ。息子のために「Deeper Deeper」の弾き方の動画を撮ってくれたもん。






JulenPhoto with ONE OK ROCK in New York

Thank you so much, Julen, for taking a whole entire hour out of your busy schedule while on tour to discuss with me about your work with our favorite band! Find JulenPhoto on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and his website.