Launched in 2016, Powered by Tokyo is a creative movement that seeks to capture and document the unique people who live in Tokyo. In collaboration with filmmaker Jeremy Rubier, they’ve recently launched a trilogy of short video portraits, each of which focuses on a different individual, featuring settings in and beyond Tokyo, along with the subjects’ character, work and passions. The third and final mini-documentary in the series, Kitsuné (above), was released on March 12, and is an artistic portrayal of Tokyo-based Byelorussian photographer Yulia Shur. We asked both Rubier and Shur to tell us more about the final video, and the trilogy project in general.
Jeremy, tell us a bit more about the trilogy, and the people featured in the videos.
Jeremy: Chace Fedor, the founder of Powered by Tokyo, gave me total freedom in creating these films. The reception of the first video, Night Rider, was incredible. The second, which received a Vimeo staff pick, was about photographer Gui Martinez, and the third, as you know, is about Yulia. The point was not only to make a portrait of an artist, but to create a piece that would represent their pictures in video, with grain, warm or cold colors, and locations reflecting their personality and the beauty of their art. In a sense, these videos are more of an “interpretation” of their art rather than a traditional documentary or content piece. What is amazing about those three individuals is that their style and workflow are completely different: JK has a heavy lean on urban and street, Gui is more organic and film focused, and Yulia is crazy talented in retouching and heavy art direction.
What is the aim of these videos?
Jeremy: To immerse the viewer in the minds and worlds of these artists and to throw them into a creative journey. The whole point is to motivate them, after viewing the videos, to seek out the work of these amazing photographers and to understand the link between the video and their respective art. They also aim to show a different vision of Tokyo.
Each video has a very different theme and energy. So what unites the three videos?
Jeremy: Powered by Tokyo and I unite all three videos. Chace is in command as creative director, Asako (a young Japanese producer who grew up in France, is super talented and is one of the few who can handle me!) is the producer, and I’m the director/DP/editor. Chace and Asako are at the heart of Powered by Tokyo, and I just realize their vision by creating image and content in my style. And of course, Tokyo is the playground for each of the videos.
Yulia is a photographer, but she also has a background as a dancer. Conceptually, how did you bring these two parts of her character together in the video?
Jeremy: Yulia showed me her photography work and I realized that her universe is so strong that it would be amazing to put her inside the locations of her pictures. She also told me that she used to be a dancer, and she often posts strange auto portrait videos with her dancing in them. We linked the two worlds and pushed the femininity link to her art to create a piece that would show the darkness of her soul.
Yulia, in the video you mention that your alterego is kitsune (the fox). Could you expand on this?
Yulia: In my photography I try to play with illusion and reality, changing colors and shapes, creating surreal characters. And with kitsune, one of the legends says foxes are particularly renowned for impersonating young women, creating illusions so elaborate as to be almost indistinguishable from reality.
Do you think this video by Jeremy represents you well?
Yulia: I can’t say that the video shows me as an artist from all sides. It’s more like an art project with a real storyline. But I worked on this video as an art director as well, creating characters, thinking about the locations, and how it should look all together. So I can say this video is a big part of me.
Do you feel that having been a dancer informs the kind of photographs and videos you produce?
Yulia: Yes, everything is like a puzzle. I understand my body much better because of dancing, and that’s why I understand how the body of the model should move too, so it’s much easier for me to direct poses and movements.
Why did you choose to come to Tokyo, and what has made you stay here?
Yulia: I was always attracted by Asia. I traveled for almost a year in China and Thailand, and the next was Japan. I just fell in love and after two years, I’m still in love. My favorite thing about Tokyo is balance. I feel in harmony with myself here. The city is moving very fast, you have to love it and run with the same speed to keep up with Tokyo. But at the same time you can turn down any street and find yourself alone on it, you can find a temple hidden between skyscrapers, or take the train and in 40 minutes to get to the ocean.