Photographer Satoki Nagata reveals the connections that make up life on Chicago's streets.

Photographer Satoki Nagata reveals the connections that make up life on Chicago's streets.

Satoki Nagata blends street photography with fine art to create cerebral images that reveal the relationships and interconnectivity that shape life in the modern city. Informed by his Zen Buddhist upbringing and work as a neuroscientist, he understands the world as a vast network of connections and uses his photography to reveal the links that join everything in the world around us.

Satoki was born in Japan but moved to Chicago in 1992 and became immersed in capturing the lives and people of his adopted hometown. Since then he has completed a number of documentary projects in the city, attempting to deepen the connection between himself and his subjects with each new study. Huck caught up with Satoki to find out more about capturing life on the streets of the Windy City.

When and why did you start shooting pictures?
I took snapshots in high school, but I didn’t understand the depth of my interest at the time. Instead of art, I pursued a career in science and came to the states to complete my post-doc. For the better part of 20 years, I was satiated. However, I learned the limitations of my field. I found myself behind a camera again, this time with precision, and my passion took hold.

What cameras do you use and what do you like about them?
I mainly use Leica M8, M9, and M240. I like to use multiple cameras with varying focal lengths. Compared to a DSLR, they are smaller and lighter. In documentary work, this is always preferable. These are rangefinder cameras, offering fast and accurate manual focusing in difficult lighting conditions. I often use complex layers and reflections in my images so manual focusing is critical in such situations. I always set exposure manually and these cameras are easy to make adjustment.

What are you passionate about – interests, hobbies outside of photography – and how does this inform the images you take?
I enjoy meeting creative people, talking art, and plotting future productions.

Are you trying to tell stories with your images? What are those stories?
I strongly believe in photography as a truly communicative format, that gives rise to dialogs between photographer, subject, and viewer. I am always thinking what I want to communicate in an image. My main subjects are people living in the city, which is common in my street work and documentary. Although my images show specific moments, I try to allow interpretation on the part of the viewer. I want to show the complexity of people’s lives through my images.

How do you hope viewers engage with your photography?
Photography is about vision of photographer and viewer. I hope viewers discover the subtle—but substantial—moments of connection in my photographs and experience the world through my vision.

What are your plans for the future?
Currently, I am preparing to publish a book, a documentary film, and some beta-stage projects. I have an exhibition in Italy in October.

Find out more about Satoki’s work or discover new artists like him at Saatchi Art.