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U.Mi-1 People

MACIEJ KUCIA: Fashion and Portrait Photographer

Maciej Kucia arrived Tokyo from Wroclaw, Poland as a young photographer with many dreams. As many young photographers do, he started his career by collaborating with other young creatives – Stylists, Art Directors as well as with young emerging brands. That’s how a young Gozi, U.Mi-1’s Creative Director, met young Maciej and Japan was the place.

The two collaborated on shoots for U.Mi-1`s first collections. While U.Mi-1 relocated to London, Maciej remained in Japan, where he has become a well-established photographer. He is a regular contributor to GQ Japan including its renowned annual Men of the Year issue, shooting fashion editorials and portraits of prominent people such as Scarlet Johansson for her promotional material for Ghost in the Shell, JJ Abrams, Ken Watanabe, Rita Ora, Halsey, Dame Helen Mirren, Naomi Osaka and many others. Maciej is also well known in the Japanese music scene. He has shot album covers for bands and editorials for Rolling Stones and Fender magazine. He is now actively involved in movies and commercials.

Please briefly introduce yourself and what you do.

I’m Maciej Kucia, a Polish photographer based in Tokyo. I’m mostly recognized from my fashion and portraiture works for magazines, musicians, and fashion brands. 

 

How did you become photographer? 

I come from a creative family. My mother is an architect, turned photographer. I began assisting her when I was just a few years old. She now owns a modelling agency. My father is a painter. My older brother is a photographer and cinematographer. So, I grew up surrounded by art. I ventured into music and was seriously involved in it. I worked as a music composer and producer after I graduated from music school. Following that, I earned my Masters in Physics. But I somehow naturally went back to visual arts. 

 

Maciej Kucia x Costume National

 

From music to physics to photography. That’s a very unorthodox journey going from creative to scientific and back again. How do you connect the dots between them? And does physics or music influence your photography?

I decided to study physics because I thought it was the most fundamental kind of science. It tries to describe the world, so there is some poetic element to it. I’ve never really thought physics was too far from art. Physics really broadens the perception, and gives better understanding of everything around humans. I don’t think physics or music influence my photography in any direct way, but I think the dots connect naturally – it’s all about perception, analyzing, reacting and expressing. Any kind of life experience changes one’s point of view, and that somehow reflects in photography. But on a basic level, I know how a lens works. Lol.

Maciej Kucia x GQ China

What do you love about photography as an art form?

Photography evolves and still stays modern and relevant. It has a very strong potential to expand to motion, cinema, 3D, digital art, etc. I love how I can balance the documentary aspects of photography with the technical and human aspects.. It is all a creative melting pot. Most importantly, I love that I get to work with the most extraordinary people. 

 

How did you end up living and working in Japan?

I still don’t know how that happened. It was never a deliberate decision. Just one day I arrived in Tokyo and I stayed. Destiny perhaps?

 

Maciej Kucia x Yohji Yamamoto

You started working in Japan at the same time that U.Mi-1 was established. How did you start working together?

I was introduced to Gozi by my dear friend, a Polish illustrator, who’s also based in Tokyo. We were all part of a small foreign creative community in Tokyo at that time. I also like to think that it was one of those encounters that just had to happen. Both of us had very strong visions of what we wanted to create in this very unique place on earth.  

Maciej Kucia x Whatever Magazine

What were the inspirations behind the photoshoots with U.Mi-1? Which is your favourite and why? 

The collections were very conceptual; the stories behind them were always very clear and strong. So the only thing I could do was try to translate Gozi’s fashion ideas to photography. The photographs were always about the product, and about the fashion concept. I loved the “REPATRIATION” story, based on her childhood memories of Lagos, moods from the late 70’s.. It was very exciting for me to learn about that period in Nigeria, and to try to re-interpret it in a modern way with a Japanese yet global twist.  I’m very happy to see U.Mi-1 new photoshoots become more and more authentic from where we left off. I absolutely love the shoot on Lagos streets with skateboarders. It was so cool and modern.

Maciej Kucia x U.Mi-1

What is your work process? Has it changed much since the start?

I believe it has changed. I always learn from everyone involved in my photoshoot; either it’s someone from the creative team, a client or subject. I think photography really reflects a photographer’s lifestyle, and personal point of view. So, naturally, the creative process and style evolves. 

I think I’m quite technical; I like to have full understanding of a technical side such as equipment, lighting, post-processing, so that I don’t have to be really bothered by it during the photoshoot. Then I like to see a full story in my head before the photoshoot. It’s always well-planned, but there’s always just enough space for spontaneity and intimacy. To me, photography is a very weird dance between photographer and the subject.

Léa Seydoux for Exile Magazine

You’ve shot a lot of portraits of celebrities. How does that differ from a fashion editorial magazine shoot?

Shooting portraits is very special. There is this big distance between photographer and subject. Yet, at the same time, there is intimacy. It’s showing someone’s beauty through a very personal point of view. I love exploring that beauty and the challenges that portraiture photography brings. I also love that no matter how creative the photoshoot is, there’s always this everlasting documentary that occurs in portrait photography.

True fashion editorials really challenge one’s creativity. It’s fun! Recently, the lines between fashion editorials, celebrity portraiture and commercial photography are beginning to blur in terms of content. 

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu for Schon Magazine

Who has been your favourite person to shoot? Why?

Each time, the experience is so different. Everyone inspires in a very different way… It’s really always about who is in front of the lens NOW. I don’t compare a current experience to previous experiences. Moreover, I don’t hope to shoot anyone in particular in the future. 

 

What is your dream project? Or are you working on any interesting projects you’d like to share?

I don’t have dreams, goals or plans. I just do what I do, the best I can, and I try not to miss any opportunities that come to me. And this path naturally takes me somewhere.

We’ve experienced a big pause with covid. Times are still very unsure. Although some projects are slowly re-starting, I have taken this opportunity to slow down, and to explore a more personal art of photography and non-photographic visual arts.  

 

Okuda Eiji for Rolling Stone Magazine

Do you have any advice to young photographers as well as new brands who just starting out.? For example how to work on their visuals?

Be authentic. Bring your own story, your own point of view. Listen and OBSERVE. It’s more exciting to see visuals that are fresh, rather than visuals that try to have this certain “professional” look. 

Maciej Kucia for Sleek Magazine

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