Photographer Spotlight: Yoshi Shimizu


Landscape Category March 2021 Winner, taken in Mongolia, by Yoshi Shimizu, titled Horses at Sunrise, captioned “Capturing these horses during sunrise before 6:00 am on a Mongolian steppe”

As ASIAN Geographic’s annual Images of Asia (IOA) 2021 Photo/Videography Competition looms closer, submissions to our IOA Monthly competition – the precursor to our annual event – are pouring in. We have received stunning photos across the categories, and are now featuring our monthly winners in an exclusive interview!

Below is our interview with Yoshi Shimizu, the IOA Monthly March 2021 Winner in the Landscape category.

Yoshi Shimizu (left) with street children in Dhaka, Bangladesh

AG: What is the story of your beginning and journey to creating great images?

Yoshi: I started getting involved with photography during my university time in San Francisco, USA. As a business major student, I took a basic photography class to fulfill the requirement for general education. There, my professor suggested that I change my major to photography. Then I moved to New York in the mid-’80s to learn photography seriously. In the mid-’90s, I landed a job as a photographer for the International Red Cross in Geneva, Switzerland: With the Red Cross, I started traveling globally, especially in some of the most remote regions in the world.

AG: How would you define your style and concepts you enjoy exploring?

Yoshi: First, I do lots of research on the locations and subjects I go and photograph. The mistake I made in the past was to pre-visualize the images that I would like to capture which, in the end,  limits your ability to see other interesting images surrounding you. I also spend time talking to local people, instead of “shoot and run”.  You will find much more information once you get to the location and talk to the people. For many occasions, I was able to document local traditional weddings, funerals, small festivals, and rituals by gathering information from locals who are the best source of information.

I now approach my subjects with a blank canvas without preconceptions and let one story lead to another by talking to local and community people.

I especially enjoy working on a story with a writer as a team, particularly with Peter, a good friend of mine and a great writer with whom I have worked for many years by sharing the same passion for traveling and exploring different cultures.

AG: What is great photography to you, and are there any photographers you would like to work with?

Yoshi: When I started learning photography in New York City by assisting many photographers in the ’80s, Irving Penn was one of the great photographers I wish I could have worked with as an assistant. Assistant positions for those great artists became rarely available in those days.

Great photographs have elements that make the viewers feel and sense what photographers did when they were captured. When I see great photographs, I can even smell and feel the air from those photographs.

AG: What is your preferred imaging gear to work with and why?

Yoshi: For many years I was using Canon 5Ds and L lenses that were provided by Canon Europe, as a technical sponsor, for my personal cultural project endorsed by UNESCO.  Canon’s full-frame DSLR cameras and L lens series are superb equipment; however, in recent years, I was compelled to switch to much lighter mirrorless equipment as my work started requiring me to travel significantly more and airline’s carry-on restrictions became much more strict. I currently use Fujifilm equipment. My favourites are X100F and X70 for documentary work.

AG: What is the next Asian destination you’d like to explore and why?

Yoshi: I would like to document vast cultural diversity in China because it would be quite difficult, as a foreign photographer, to have access to and explore the huge territory of China. The photo book titled “CHINA” by Hiroji Kubota, a highly respected Magnum photographer is a fascinating book to have.

AG: Can you share more about your current and upcoming projects?

Yoshi: The COVID 19 pandemic has been heavily affecting my work as well as many other traveling documentary photographers around the world, as there are still international bans in most countries in the world. The situation has driven me to take a close look at domestic subjects and issues around me. I have been working on documenting family members and close friends affected by health issues. One of my subjects is my own mother who has been suffering from dementia.

Congratulations once again to Yoshi Shimizu for being the Images of Asia (IOA) Monthly Winner in the Landscape Category! You can check out Yoshi’s Instagram here! Follow Asian Geographic Instagram for the latest updates.


Love shooting photos of the vast and beautiful Asia? Submit your entries today! More details of Images of Asia Monthly here.


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