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15th January 2016
Arc'teryx Veilance: How long have you lived in New York?
Atsushi Nishijima: I moved to New York 17 years ago to study. At the time I didn't fully know what I wanted to do but I had a roommate who was taking photography classes. She was the first person to get me interested in photography and since then, that interest has become my profession and New York has become my home.

What first attracted you to the city?
I've always been drawn to cities; there are always so many different types of people. I've been to Tokyo, Rome, Berlin, Osaka, Lisbon. But New York is different to other cities. It's a tough environment and a challenging place to live but that's why I love it. It's a great place to be a photographer.

Can you tell us about the type of photography you do?
The main work I do is campaign and behind-the-scenes photography on big movies and I do a lot of editorial and personal work. Recently I've been working on a personal project called 'Loiter'. It comes from walking around and exploring the city and allows me to show people the work I like to make. My first commercial work was in 2006 and since 2011, I've been working on movies, where my role on set is to capture special moments of actors during and between takes. With any photography - commercial or personal - if I can capture a feeling and show my style in the work, that's what I'm trying to do.

You mention that New York is different to other cities in lots of ways. Is the same true for capturing imagery here?
New York isn't like other cities, it's a tough environment. One day it's sunshine, the next is hail and snow. When I see people getting through the rough weather - running, walking, biking - I always think, 'that's New Yorkers for you'. And there's not much in between: it's either bright or very dark, very hot or very cold. It feels like there's only two seasons. Up until May it's cold and then it's really hot until October.

Your personal work is often focused on cities and the people that inhabit them. What are you looking to capture when you're shooting?
A lot of my personal work is shot on the street, but I'm not interested in being put in a category - like a street photographer, a fashion photographer or a movie photographer - I'm just a photographer. I am interested in capturing quick honest moments; I think the most beautiful pictures are sometimes the most honest and 'normal'. And there are a lot of those moments instances when you're out in the city. In my street images people aren't famous but they are characters, that's why I can remember the faces of the people I've shot from years before. They're not celebrities, but they are 'famous' to me. And there are so many different types of people in the city. You learn a lot from photographing and observing them. People are unique and different and funny and interesting.

Can you tell us about your process when you're shooting in the city?
My process always starts with getting out. Just being out on the streets. You could take a left or a right. And you'll see different things. When I'm photographing on the street I'm not trying to think too much. Just see the flow of the city. I'll leave home in the morning and go to the coffee shop to get a drink, then photograph for a few hours. If I see something to photograph, I photograph. I usually shoot with a 28mm wide-angle lens so I need be very close to the subject. Always 5- or 10-feet away from them. First of all, I look at the subject and of course they notice me, so I'll look at something else. Usually they look at something else too, so I'll look back and photograph. I'll pick up another coffee and head out again and shoot until 5pm or 6pm. Sometimes I have a good day and get great pictures but the next day I could get none. The day after that I'll get good pictures again. It's a cycle, that's life.

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Read the full interview here