Webop Kids Photo Shoot

February 04, 2020  •  Leave a Comment
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I have been working for Jazz at Lincoln Center for many years now and this one was one of my most favorite photo shoots. Jazz at Lincoln Center has great music shows nightly but not even great and legendary musicians can compete with these cute little musicians! Wow, that was a fun shoot. I was so happy to see them printed on their beautiful marketing materials, including these post cards, as well. 

Jazz at Lincoln Center has many education programs. Their artistic director, Wynton Marsalis, put great effort on music education. Webop is their education program for youngest musicians from 0 year old. There are programs for elementary school, middle school and high school kids as well. They also have education program called Essentially Ellington, which is a high school big band competition. Some talented kids who competed in this program often comes back to Jazz at Lincoln Center as professional musicians and perform there and keep good and long relationship with them. 

We might see one of these little kids from this photo shoot perform at Jazz at Lincoln Center in the future. Can't wait to see them! 

Click here to go to Jazz at Lincoln Center's Jazz Academy

SDG Action Zone event by NYU CIC during the United Nations General Assembly Week - AM

September 30, 2019  •  Leave a Comment
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This year during the United Nations General Assembly Week, I had the privileges to photograph some of the events. This one was by New York University's Center on International Cooperation's program with United Nations, Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies

Photo L-R: Timor-Leste Foreign Minister Dionisio da Costa Babo Soares, Uruguayan delegate, Irish Deputy Prime Minister (Tanaiste) Simon Coveney, Namibian President Hage Geingob, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde, Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, Tunisian delegate. 

This photo opportunity was followed by a panel by Swedish State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Annika Söder, Oxfam Executive Director Winnie Byanyima, and CIC Director Sarah Cliffe, about the importance of multilateralism and multinational goals. Please do go to the CIC's website and their blog post about this event to learn more about what the event was and the meaningful and important activities CIC does. 


Newport Jazz Festival Program Book

May 01, 2019  •  Leave a Comment
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I am a photographer, but like many other photographers, I love other Art forms, too. I like going to Art museums and see Fine Art work. I like going through magazines to see different designs. My father is a jewelry designer in Japan and my parents exposed us, my sister and I, to various Art when we were growing up. 

They took us to museums in London and Paris, to the actual locations in Arles where Van Gogh painted, Mackintosh museum in Glasgow, Scotland, to Austria to see Klimt, Schiele, and have cups of Vienna coffee, etc. Unfortunately, I have terrible memory and I don't remember most part of it.... 

My father always tells me, jokingly, but half seriously, he wasted money on taking me on those Art trips.

My sister remembers everything so at least he did not waste money on her...

Anyway, long story short, I started working for Newport Jazz Festival in 2010, as an event photographer. I took photos of their events, including the festival itself, side events and Gala parties. After a few years, George Wein, the founder of the jazz festival, asked me if I would design their program book. I actually said no, at first, because I had never done that before. He said, "Ayano, I want you to gather photos you shot in the past a few years and use them for our 60 year anniversary program book. And can you design it?" He said it so easily, but I was like, "Why is he asking me to design it???"

I contemplated for a while, but I decided to take his offer. And after I took his offer, I started studying how to design. 

And it turned out to be the experience that let me really appreciate my parents' investment on the Art trips when I was growing up.

Although I do not remember the actual trips, I could feel those experiences had become part of how I see. I actually sometimes wonder if I chose to learn how to design earlier, I might
have been a designer now, not a photographer. 

But that is just a "what if" story. I am a proud photographer now and still learning and growing as a photographer everyday. 

The images on this page is from Newport Jazz Festival program book 2017. 

I still design program books for George Wein and I am working on it right now. My other design work can be see on this Design Tearsheets page. 

It is refreshing to work on design projects after many photo shoot projects. They mutually benefit each other in my mind. 

Instagram Influencers

April 08, 2019  •  Leave a Comment
Instagram Influencers at Nokia eventInstagram Influencers at Nokia eventInstagram Influencers at Nokia event

So, everyone loves instagramming now. When I work for various corporate events, I see many people, including people called "Instagram Influencers", taking photos and posting on social media. This is something new that started only about 2 years ago. These pretty ladies (Seinne Fleming on left and Bibiana Julian on right) were at a corporate event by Nokia. 

They are on TV show, "The Bachelor", as well. It seems like the world is becoming flatter (in a way). You can actually meet TV personalities in person at those events so much more easily than before. Also, with YouTube, Instagram, etc, anyone can be a star if you really want to be one.

I am not good at social media at all (I know, as a photographer, I should be!), so I am not too familiar with those apps, but I like the fact that the world is becoming flatter. 

Women's History Month - Google

March 19, 2019  •  Leave a Comment
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In my last blog post, I talked about some strong women leading international organizations in non-profit world. I also had a great opportunity to photograph Women in Cloud (Google Cloud) event, organized by AgencyEA, and meet female leaders in the corporate world. 

Women in Cloud event by Google Cloud x AgencyEA at Manhattan Penthouse in New York, NY I have worked for multiple events by Google and every time, I get impressed by their effort to try to make an unbiased society. Google is of course one of the very top in the corporate world, and influential even to the world outside of the corporation. It seems that they utilize the privilege to make the world an unbiased place. 

Someone would argue there are so many more male engineers than female engineers. And that is why they have this great events around the globe, which is another favorite of mine, Women Techmakers by Google. I photographed this event in NY this year and the last year and met so many intelligent and fun women during the event. Google staff working on this event are also many female hard-workers. I even met some Japanese women at the event, which is REALLY rare, working for corporate events in NYC. 

The world is still far away from being equal. However, it is for sure that there are people who work hard on making it come true. 


Non-Profit Organizations 2: EAT forum

March 05, 2019  •  Leave a Comment
Women Deliver at UNGA week in NYCWomen Deliver at UNGA week in NYCWomen Leading The Way event by Women Deliver as part of UNGA 2018 in New York, NY


As a photographer, United Nations is one of the dream places to work for. I have never worked directly for United Nations yet, however, I worked for this very inspiring non-profit organization, EAT forum, to photograph their event in United Nations HQ. What an honor to meet Deputy Secretary General, Amina Mohammed (left), in her office and photographer her. 

It is not just because the International Women's Day was coming up soon.

Strong women run the world! 

Gunhild A. Strordalen (right) is the founder of EAT forum. Please do check out her website, EAT forum. Her effort to try to make sustainable global food system to provide healthy food for everyone on earth can be leant on their website. 

EAT-Lancet day by EAT forum at United Nations and Google in New York NY
One of the young leaders from Women Deliver, another inspiring non-profit organization I mentioned in my last blog post, also joined the panel discussion during the EAT lancet event. 

I am so grateful that I get to meet, photograph and learn from great people like them. 

Yes, women run the world!! 

Here is the photo gallery from this event. 

Non-Profit Organizations 1: Women Deliver

February 09, 2019  •  Leave a Comment
Women Deliver at UNGA week in NYCWomen Deliver at UNGA week in NYCWomen Leading The Way event by Women Deliver as part of UNGA 2018 in New York, NY


Since I started my photography career, I have been working for multiple non-profit organizations. The very first non-profit organization I worked for and still does is Jazz at Lincoln Center. I also work for Newport Jazz Festival Foundation. I have worked on some projects by New York Philharmonic and New York City Ballet as well. Because of my interest in music, that came naturally. As I expand my business, I started to work for other non-profit organizations. Every time when I work for non-profit organizations, I am really impressed and fascinated by their passion for their own missions, whether if it's for music and dance or environment or climate or energy or women's rights or healthy eating. 

This photo above was photographed during the "Women Leading The Way" event by Women Deliver last year, that took place during the United Nations General Assembly Week. I am working for them again this coming March. Their effort to bring equal rights to women around the world can be learnt from this website by WOMEN DELIVER


I give discounted rate for some occasions, like long hour / multiple day event, or for regular client, etc, but for non-profit organizations I have special rate even if you are the first time client or have a short event. If you are reading this and in need of a photographer for your non-profit organization's event, please refer about reading this blog post when emailing me. 


RE-starting the blog

January 01, 2019  •  Leave a Comment

My new year's resolution has to be re-starting this blog! I don't know how many times it was my new year's resolution but I am doing this again! 

Here is the new year card to you. 

第二回:”警戒区域に残るという決断”  — Part 2: "A man who's been living in his home in the no-go zone in Fukushima"

April 20, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

This time I would like to introduce Mr. Naoto Matsumura, who decided to return to his home in no-go zone in Fukushima prefecture right after the explosion of the nuclear power plant while he fights the loneliness, contradiction of the situation and fear towards the radiation. The problems in Fukushima is not just something that happened in the past. It is on-going and also about our future, especially if you have a nuclear power plant in your country. 

When I met Mr. Matsumura for the first time, I was attracted to the positive vibe he had. Living in the horrible situation such as only 8 miles away from the nuclear power plant, how can this guy keep this positive vibe? He must have gone through a lot of conflicts in his mind since the explosion, but somehow he manages to keep the positive atmosphere around him. 



People who had to evacuate from the area after the explosion could not save their animals waiting for them at their homes.  In most cases, they were told to leave their animals with lots of food and water because  "they can return to their home within a few days". However, the evacuation order was not released for long time. As a result, a lot of animals lost their lives. What did you think about this issue? To save the animals at the time, it would have required tremendous amount of money and possibly sacrifice of human lives/health. There must be different opinions from different perspectives. I do not think I am in a position to criticize about this issue because this is such a complicated issue but my opinion about how to treat pets and domestic animals in general is that we are responsible for them as we, humans, create them because of our needs. After about 2 month from the explosion, temporary visit to their homes were organized by the government and permitted in order. During the temporary visit, it was allowed to save their pets if they were still alive. However, for domestic animals, the government officially requested the owners to let the government kill them (by putting them to sleep). By the time this request was made, lots of them already starved to death. Even if damages caused by this earthquake was massive enough to temporarily lose control, the request to kill them, because they were contaminated and no longer valuable commercially, is just too simple and cruel. 


Mr. Matsumura once evacuated to the shelter right after he heard the explosion of the power plant. However, he found out that there was no way he was going to want to stay there. Although I can't even imagine how hard it is for him to live in the no-go zone by himself with fear to be affected by the radiation but without electricity, he goes all over the area to feed animals. Those animals are mostly domestic animals and lost pets which belong to different people. He even learned how to use shovel truck after 311 so he can feed cows. He is somebody who does not possess vanity of any sort and told me he started feeding animals just because they were there and it was not because he had some kind of calling or anything. He just couldn't watch them starve to death. As we know, feeding animals requires lots of patience because once you start, you have to continue everyday. Especially under the situation he is in, it is almost impossible thing to do but he has been making it possible by his hard work and warm heart. He also has two ostriches at his home. He caught one when he found him to feed him regularly and the other one, at another time, followed his car to his home. 

To be honest, when I found his website on internet, I actually could not understand how he returned home against the rule made by the government. I was like, "well, he is really brave but must be different". When I went to meet with him in person, I soon realized that I have forgotten the feeling that most of people have; "I want to go home". As I talked with him more and more, I gradually started to understand why he returned home by feeling his honesty, openness and kindness. "I want to go home" and he went back home. He continues to feed animals because there are still precious lives there. It is that simple, although it is for sure not many people are brave enough to actually do it. 



Last time, I introduced about Ms. Akemi Suzuki who suffers from MS and still lives in Ishinomaki city, which was badly damaged by the tsunami. When I met Ms. Suzuki, I truly realized you cannot know the facts unless you actually go there. When the earthquake happened, every TV station in Japan was broadcasting about the earthquake every minute for about a week straight.  When I visited Ishinomaki city after 10 days, what I saw there was totally different from what I watched on TV. Although visiting there left a traumatic darkness in my heart, I feel it was definitely necessary. After two years have passed, I visited Ms. Suzuki and Mr. Matsumura, and again I realized how much I did not know about them. If you are interested in visiting Japan, I highly recommend visiting the damaged area, including Fukushima. It could be life changing experience for you. (Please be sure that you do not go to highly contaminated area by radiation.)Mr. Matsumura, who "just went back home", had to face various contradictions, and started his mission to fight against all the unreasonable issues. If you would like to join his mission, please go to his website. He needs funds to keep feeding the animals. If you need help sending money to him, I'd be glad to help.





What do you feel by seeing this cow starved to death? 


This project is supported by GBFund. 


第一回:”震災と難病” — Part 1: "The earthquake and Intractable Disease"

March 09, 2013  •  1 Comment

What if M9 earthquake happens in your country? Are you ready for that? People who have experienced the disaster are the only ones who can tell you how to educate the society and get ready before it comes. This story is about Mrs. Suzuki who suffers from MS and still lives in the badly damages area. (Sorry for my English!)

At a symposium of the 311 earthquake related matters, I met Mr. Osamu Koseki who is a member of the group of intractable diseases of Miyagi prefecture. After the earthquake I have been mainly taking photos of collapsed buildings, however, when I met Mr. Koseki and heard about the people with intractable diseases in the Tohoku area, where the tsunami hit, I decided to take photos of the people, too. Mr. Koseki introduced me to Mrs. Akemi Suzuki. (After we met we found out Mrs. Suzuki and my uncle were neighbors.)


Mrs. Suzuki has Multiple Sclerosis (MS). She is almost blind and has trouble moving right side of her body. As a symptom of MS, when she gets tired or her body temperature goes up, she becomes tremendously ill and when the condition is bad, she cannot even move. Mrs. Suzuki has disability rate of 1 (meaning her disability rate is the highest; most severe), however, as you can see from the photo of the left, when her condition is good, it is hard to tell she has the heavy disease. After she became almost blind, she took lessons to talk to people in person and is able to look at the person’s eyes when talking, which makes the person forget that she is blind. 


On the day of the earthquake, 2 years ago, she was at home in Ishinomaki city by herself. After the massive earthquake, she went out and was not sure what to do by herself. She heard her neighbor calling her and had a huge relief. They ran away from the water together after soaked in water up to her chest. If the neighbor, who knew that she was blind, did not come to help her, she would probably not be here now. 




Because sometimes it is not easy to tell how ill she is, she had difficulties getting into a barrier-free temporary home.  She applied for the barrier-free temporary home for disabled people, however, because she does not always need wheel chair depending on her condition, the city assigned a regular temporary home for Mr. and Mrs. Suzuki. The regular temporary home had a lot of steps and no grab bars. When her condition is bad, she had to walk on all fours to move around in the house. After about 7 months since the earthquake, she heard that the government is funding for fixing houses for people with disabilities and went to the city hall to ask to add some grab bars in her house. The office clerk told her that she had to pay for it. After talking with them again and again, in January on the next year, they agreed to install the grab bars. Later she found out her home was the first one where the city installed the grab bars and the city even came to take photos of it as a record. Mrs. Suzuki’s friends with disabilities had their bars installed by volunteers or by themselves because the city rejected to help. One day Mrs. Suzuki wondered how the barrier-free temporary home is, and went to see it at her friend’s. What she saw there was not something she expected. There was a slope so the wheelchairs can go up, however, the door was narrower than the width of regular wheelchairs and the chair cannot enter the house unless the person gets up and fold the chair. Mrs. Suzuki went to the city hall again to talk with them because she knew there were lots of people with disabilities who need help. After a few months, they told her they would send some nurses to people who need special care. She was glad to hear the news thinking about the people who have been asking for special help and elderly people who have been living in collapsed homes. 


When the nurse came to her home and said “I am in charge of patients around this area but I didn’t know you, with such heavy disease, live here”, Mrs. Suzuki was shocked. She is registered as MS patient with disability level 1 (most severe) to the government and totally thought the city knew about her, too. After talking to the nurse she found out that patients with intractable disease are organized by the prefecture, not city, and the prefecture was not sharing the information with the city. During the 311 disaster, a lot of people with disability lost their lives because, due to the privacy law, each city did not share the list of the patients with non-government volunteering groups, who were eager to save them. Although the privacy law should be kept within the government except for emergencies, knowing the troubles caused during the 311 disaster, she thought the situation had become better but she was wrong. Although Ishinomaki city, where she lives, had the worst damage because of the tsunami, and the city was not working correctly right after the tsunami, the situation should have gotten better if the government learned from the disaster. Mrs. Suzuki wishes the government reconsiders about the situations of disabled people in case of emergency from the viewpoint of the people with disability. 


“I don’t know how I am supposed to feel” Mrs. Suzuki says. “When I see and hear news about the recovery process of my home town, for people, who do not know about the town since before the earthquake, it may seem like a lot of businesses are reopening and recovered from the disaster. However, the stores and companies that reopened are only small part of the huge damage caused in my town. I know there are much more people who has not been able to restart their business than those who were able to restart, because I know the town since before the tsunami. I feel I am left behind when news spot-light only the recovering part of the town.” Mr. and Mrs. Suzuki, her parents and her sister’s family still have not figured out when and where to move from their temporary housing. 


As businesses in the town gradually reopens, people in the area started to find jobs. Mr. Suzuki also found a job although it is totally different type of job from what he used to have before the tsunami. I wondered about job hunting for people with disability and asked. “When people in this area started to look for jobs, companies around this area decided to have some openings specified for victims of the disaster. However, there was no openings specified for disabled victims. If there are two candidates with and without disability, companies would naturally hire the people without disabilities” she said. Before the 311, a lot of people with relatively light disability had jobs. “Because their disability is light, they do not receive much disability pension and they need to work.” This issue of people with disability is also outcasted under the massive troubles caused by the natural disaster. 


“When I found out that I have MS in my 40s, I actually did not feel that I was disabled.  I was thinking what I had was just my originality but not disease.” However, right after the 311, she experienced and witnessed that people with disability were left behind until everybody else was saved. A lot of people with disability lost their lives because nobody came to save them although they could have been saved if the government was more organized for disabled people. Even after two years, a lot of her friends are still having hard time finding jobs because problems they encountered have never been even noticed by public. “All the experiences I had during and after the tsunami made me realized I am a disabled person.” This words from Mrs. Suzuki made me think deeper about the natural disaster. 


In fact, it was not easy for Mrs. Suzuki to became able to say her MS is her originality. She was a hair stylist. She could not give up on her dream to be a hair stylist even after she got married and had kids. She went to a school to be a hair stylist while taking care of her family and finally gained her dream job. One day, she could not hold her scissors. She found out about her disease and became completely depressed. She even tried to commit suicide. However, she still recovered from the depression and started to think that there must be a reason why she became sick. For the seven years after the emergence of MS, she strived to stay positive and psychologically overcome the sickness. Then, the earthquake happened. She lost her home, friends from childhood and the home town. “I still survived. I did not die. I am alive. I must send my story off to as many people as I can.”


“Now I am able to see things differently because of my sickness and the earthquake. I think my life has been supposed to be this way. Well, I have to at least let myself accept this fact like this…” Even Mrs. Suzuki, who overcome several hardships in her life, feels lonely when the sun goes down thinking about her future, past, people who lost their lives and her fellow patients.


Every Wednesday is her favorite day. A moving florist comes to her temporary housing complex. She goes out with a 500 yen coin in her hand and picks her favorite flowers. When I visited her, I saw rape blossoms and peach blossoms nicely arranged in a vase. When I was about to leave, she gave me some beautiful origami tooth-pick cases which she made as part of finger exercise. When I first saw her, I thought she is a nice lady with the lovely smile and clear eyes. When we finished talking, I saw a strong-minded will for her mission, which she assigned herself, in those beautiful clear eyes.


今回の東北への撮影の旅は企業メセナ:GBFund様から助成をしていただきました。仕事でもなく自費で旅をしていた私のようなカメラマンにとっては本当にありがたい限りです。ありがとうございます!!This project is supported by GBFund. 


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