Interview With Ryo Utsunomiya from Japan

Interview With Monika Wanat from Poland
February 2, 2024
Interview With Adrian Schaub for Ferris wheel in the moonlight
February 2, 2024

Ryo Utsunomiya

Ryo Utsunomiya is a wildlife and nature photographer based in Japan. He is self-taught and draws inspiration from everyday environments and relationships.

1Can you introduce yourself and talk about how you got into photography?

Hi! My name is Ryo Utsunomiya and I am a wildlife and nature photographer based in Japan.

I have loved playing in nature since I was a child, meeting animals in the forest, diving in rivers, etc. When I was in my teens and twenties, I played in a band in Tokyo and aspired to be a musician.

I started taking photos when I visited Hokkaido with my family in 2018 and felt the scale of the place and the preciousness of wildlife and life. After that, I started my photography activities in earnest around 2021.

2Where did you study photography?

As for photography, I am self-taught, but I draw inspiration from music, relationships, and various everyday environments. Anyway, I learned through trial and error by taking a lot of pictures, seeing them in exhibitions, and thinking about how I want to express myself each time.

3Do you remember your first shot? What was it?

In Hokkaido, there is a waterfall to which cherry salmon return in summer to spawn. There, I photographed for the first time a cherry salmon that repeatedly jumped towards the waterfall, risking its life trying to climb over it.

I remember being moved by the preciousness of life and their refusal to give up.

4What equipment do you use?
My current main equipment is Nikon Z9, 400mm F2.8 and 70-200mm F2.8. I often have the opportunity to photograph wildlife in harsh environments, so a tough body and telephoto lenses are essential. Depending on the scene, I also use wide-angle lenses and F1.2 lenses. Since I am serious about photography, I am determined not to compromise on my equipment.
5What do you hope to achieve?
My goal in my photography journey is to convey the idea of living through photography. That's also why I started photography. I'm sure my goals will change a bit as I move through my activities, but I would like to keep my core.
6What compliment inspired/touched you the most?
It was a nice compliment when visitors to my exhibitions would say, "I'm drawn to your worldview." Some of them even shed tears. It is a very moving moment for me as if my feelings were conveyed through the photographs.
7What inspires your unique storytelling?

I am often inspired by things other than photography. For example, the sensations I gained through my musical activities, playing with and counseling children when I was a high school homeroom teacher, and my life itself has made me who I am. Some ideas come from my association with painters, craftsmen, and musicians. I believe that these daily activities appear in my work.

I think it is very important not only to seek beautiful things but also to be moved and feel various feelings yourself.

8What THREE (3) words describe your photography style?
Creativity, emotional, and Respect
9Congratulations! As the winner of the New York Photography Awards, what does it mean for you and your team to receive this distinction?

I am proud to have received this award. I remember it as a moment of recognition for my style. It encouraged me to continue my creative photographic activities.

I like beautiful situations, but I wanted to pursue something more sharp, so I'm happy to be appreciated by this award.

10Can you explain a bit about the winning work you entered into the 2023 New York Photography Awards, and why you chose to enter this project?

This year's winning entry represents me well this year.

I was inspired by wild animals. I am delighted to have received excellent recognition in both categories.

I decided to participate in this project because I wanted to try an international competition to further my artistic development.

11How has winning an award developed your career?

Although we have just received the award, we believe that winning the Gold Winner in the Professional category will influence our future activities.

It is becoming clear that my photographs are internationally accepted.

Being recognized through awards is a powerful source of inspiration and motivation. It encourages us to continue to hone our creativity and seek new perspectives.

12Name 1-3 photographers who have inspired you.
Hiroshi Sugimoto
13What was the best piece of advice you were given starting out, by a mentor or your role model?

Everything is connected.

It is important to hone your skills, but more than that, it is the seemingly innocuous things around you that make you who you are.

I still remember the advice my guitar teacher gave me when I was a teenager who was serious about becoming a musician.

14What advice would you give someone who would like to become a photographer today?

What you shoot is important, but perhaps even more important is that you are your work of art.

That is why it is important to have your attitude and consideration for others. Remember that you are a human being before you are a photographer, and make every effort to be one.

15What is your key to success? Any parting words of wisdom?

Work harder than anyone else.

But do not boast of your efforts.

Humility can lead to success.

I believe that your photographic ability is not determined by the performance of your camera. It is new ideas, originality, and me.

16How do you stay in that space of being receptive to new information and knowledge?
There are many things you don't notice if you only look at your field. I think it is important to think about life, not just photography, as a work of art, and to always be open to new things.
17Anything else you would like to add to the interview?
Anyway, moving forward is my way of life. Thank you for the interview. And to everyone involved, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Winning Entry


Early in the morning at minus 20 degrees Celsius, I shoot on a small peninsula surrounded by the sea in Hokkaido. I meet them as the colors of the morning glow ..…
(Read more at New York Photography Awards)

Ryo Utsunomiya

Ryo Utsunomiya is a wildlife and nature photographer based in Japan. He is self-taught and draws inspiration from everyday environments and relationships.

Read more about this article from Monika Wanat from Poland, Silver Winner from the 2023 New York Photography Awards!