We had the good fortune of connecting with Yuya Parker and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Yuya, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Risk often teaches me something about myself. I once made the mistake of spending a lot of money on marketing platforms and materials, hoping that I’d get paid work through them, but it didn’t result in a single paid project. Later, I realized I had taken the risk because of my insecurity, not because I had a particular vision. I hadn’t trusted my own instincts about how I should promote my work, and had placed the responsibility in the hands of marketers who had little stake in my success. Once I realized that, I decided to start spending more money on personal shoots where I created the type of work that I wanted to be hired to do. I began to post the photos on social media and sent personal messages to agencies and brands I wanted to be noticed by. As a result of taking the risk of promoting myself and investing in my own projects, I now get much of my work through social media platforms.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I think I have a unique way of capturing color and texture in my photographs – the way I approach photography is more like painting in that regard. What keeps me excited about photography is always trying new things. Photography in the US is very different stylistically to photography in Japan. Early in my career, I decided to embrace influences from both cultures, and the mixture has become an important element in my work. I used to worry that not growing up here would be a disadvantage, but now realize that it is part of what defines me and my art. I’m proud that experiences and feelings I associate with Japan are part of the foundation of my photography and can be seen in my work.
I got to where I am professionally by taking many baby steps. I always try to follow my creative instincts. If a creative opportunity excites me, I jump in without hesitation. When there were times I didn’t feel inspired or like pushing forward, I allowed myself time for creativity to return. The business aspect of being a photographer is not always easy, but I try to make an improvement every time I make a mistake. Thankfully, now that I have basics down, I find it much easier to navigate that side of things.
An important lesson I’ve learned is to be realistic about what kind of budget a project will require. In the past, there were a few projects that I knew wouldn’t work out financially, but tried very hard to please the clients, and in the end I lost money and sacrificed a lot of time and hard work. To have a sustainable business, being able to ask for what you need and being able to respectfully say “no” are essential (which is hard for someone who grew up in Japan).
I’d like for people who see my photographs to have a small joyful moment, whether it’s my commercial or my fine art photography. I believe that even commercial work can influence viewers in a personal way, not just make them want to buy the products. For that reason, I try to capture a sense of joy in my photography whenever I can.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I’d start at Donutsu in Downtown LA, my favorite donut shop. Sage Plant Based Bistro in Pasadena for lunch and, for dinner, a delicious burrito from Xochitl Vegan in East LA. I’m obsessed with trying plant based restaurants in LA and would love to go to try them with a visitor. When not eating, I’d take them on a little drive through Hollywood and along the coast. Seeing the many different cultures and neighborhoods that make up LA is so exciting.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My family and my best friend for sure. I’m not sure how I could keep going without their support. When I moved to the US from Japan, I somewhat knew what I wanted to do but had lots of doubts. They always encouraged me to trust my instincts even when things were uncertain. It made me feel I was ok no matter what. As an artist, it’s a big advantage to be surrounded by people like them and I am truly grateful for it.