Q&A: John Sypal



Which words or phrases do you most overuse? “ok, last one” click  “ok one more” click.Do you believe in world peace? No. Does the modern world impress you? Yeah, but so does the post-modern world, but in different ways and for different reasons.  Pick a historic moment from the last hundred years to bring a camera to.  Any random sunny day in Tokyo in the early 1920’s (pre-quake). If you had to align yourself with a leader in history, who would it be? John Szarkowski. Is disappointment healthy? Sure- it makes you figure out what to do next, where and how to work harder. Is it healthy to meet your heroes? Yes. I finally understood what “starstruck” means when I met Lee Friedlander a few years ago in Tokyo. It is an honest to god real condition.  When are you most aware you are ageing? Nephews. Ultimate camera? Either a Leica MP & 35mm Summicron lens or Polaroid 690 with Gold Frame Impossible 680 Film. Most used camera? Leica MP & 35mm Summicron lens.

What is the best way to educate yourself? Actually do stuff. Plug away and keep on with it. Which living person do you most admire? Answer varies. On what occasion do you lie? When I leave my apartment with 20 or 30 rolls of film in my bag, telling myself I just might need all of them. Do you google too much? Nope. I probably Wikipedia just the right amount though. Are you satisfied with your level of physical strength? Yeah. I’ve got height, which is probably more useful in daily life than brute strength. What do you think is the most plausible of the supernatural? The Japanese concept of kami. What is your nationality? American. What nationality would you like to be alternatively? Californian. What is it that interests you about photography? It’s a way of going through and dealing with life. Are you aware of any conspiracies? Unless there’s a vast one designed to keep me unaware of all other conspiracies, not that I know of.

Have you recently been living by any life philosophy? Keep putting film in that camera.  What moment have you most wished you’d had a camera when you hadn’t? That just doesn’t happen. Since 2001 or so I’ve had at least one camera on me every single day. Make a prediction for the future.  I’ll make two. Ilford and maybe Lomography will be the last producers of black and white film.  And even though they’re already fantastic The Impossible Project films will continue to get better and better. What essential life skills are schools neglecting to teach our children? Media and visual criticism.   Name one smell that triggers an abstract memory. Musty sunlight. Two smells? That and evening humidity of early September in Japan. You have the superpower to control a single emotion in all people. Which emotion? Desire for the latest or new photographic equipment. Describe a cheap thrill.  Pulling a freshly washed roll of film off of a reel to dry.

John Sypal – From the series Japan.