Meet the photographer Tatsuya Tanaka : small wonders life portrait in miniature


Tatsuya Tanaka is a photographer whose works have been exhibited in Asian countries, with more than two million followers on his Instagram account. His works, created with everyday items and foodstuff, are sure to make the viewer smile. Read on to learn about Mr. Tanaka's ideas.

Tatsuya Tanaka, the world's first "miniature" photographer, is drawing attention from all over the globe. He is the author of Miniature Calendar, a book on shooting one photograph a day for more than nine years.

His works are completely original, and provide a unique view of the world. How does he do it?

Mr. Tanaka was born 1981 in Kumamoto, graduated from university as an art major, and became the art director at a design firm.

Making plastic models and collecting miniature figures were his hobbies, which led to him posting photographs of miniatures on Instagram. His works became very popular, so he turned into a "miniature" photographer, and founded Miniature Life.

Taking on the Challenge
"All of my clients believe in my skills and respect my opinion, so I can dedicate myself to creating," Mr. Tanaka said.

He also told The Surf Slab that his current job has finally enabled him to choose the most challenging projects.

An Endless Stream of Ideas and an Unrestrained Point of View

The writer once saw Mr. Tanaka on "Jounetsu Tairiku," a Japanese TV program. While looking for items to use in a photo shoot, he picked up what looked like a traffic wand. "Doesn't this look like burning firewood?" Mr. Tanaka said to the camera, as if he had found something valuable. It's a scene which still comes to mind.

Mr. Tanaka has a truly unique point of view, which he uses to observe the world around him. When asked how he finds new ideas, Mr. Tanaka replied "habit and training."

"For example, people who cook can image the dishes from the food in the refrigerator. It's similar to that kind of perception."

When working on a photograph, Mr. Tanaka takes "sense of the season," "commonness," and "certain events" into consideration. He tries for a simple setting which the viewers can easily understand, regardless of their nationality or age.

Viewers will push the "Like" button, and share the information with friends, as his works are full of appeal. He sometimes works with his children, and even asks for their advice.

Mr. Tanaka also asks what the unbiased children see in the photograph so that other viewers can sympathize with the finished work.

Searching for the Right Items

"I don't have the exact numbers, but there are about fifty thousand miniature figures in my collection."

Since collecting figures became a part of Mr. Tanaka's job, his wife no longer stops him from buying them. "It may be the best part about this job," he said with a smile.

When looking for the items to use in a photograph, Mr. Tanaka takes his time and visits various shops, reviewing what he needs from the image in his head.

"Now I even participate in Internet auctions." He also pays attention to recommendations from various sites, as they sometimes lead to an ideal item.

What Motivates Mr. Tanaka

Since April, 2011, Mr. Tanaka has been uploading his works every day to a site titled Miniature Calendar. The shooting of the photograph, along with making a short movie of the process, takes about five hours. What is his motivation?

"It's the support and encouragement I receive from my fans."

The presence of the people who look forward to viewing his photographs drives him towards a better creation.

A Special Piece of Work

Mr. Tanaka told us that he considers broccoli his artistic starting point.

"The first time I used broccoli, it looked like a forest to me. Afterward, I began to use the items in the photograph as a 'metaphor,' to create a rich, imaginary scene."

Although Mr. Tanaka did not like broccoli, he started eating them after this incident. Broccoli also happens to be the only vegetable his children will eat, after watching their father.
After the Upload

The number of likes and comments show how popular the work is. When the response turns out to be less favorable than he expected, Mr. Tanaka tries to figure out why, and how to improve.

He doesn't mind these situations, and attempts a different approach with the same items, to gauge the response of the viewers.

The Taiwan Exhibition

In 2017, an exhibition of Mr. Tanaka's works was held for the first time at Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taiwan. He said it came as a surprise. "I was delighted and honored that the promoters chose someone like myself, who hadn't received any major awards at the time, to host such a large exhibition."

He still remembers how the Taiwanese shared the information. "At the exhibition, the people of Taiwan took selfies alongside the works and posted them on the Internet. Most Japanese would only take photographs of the exhibition, and the sharing would be less than the Taiwanese."
This cultural difference was one of the things he enjoyed about the overseas exhibition.

Mr. Tanaka hopes to open a large-scale exhibition in European countries. He also plans to exhibit his works at places people can visit easily, such as a park.

"It would be much more fun if people can enjoy art anywhere, without having to visit museums."

A Message from Mr. Tanaka

"We are spending more time at our homes. This may be an opportunity to take a good look around you; a little change of view, and you might recognize that the world is filled with interesting things."

In cooperation with Mr. Tatsuya Tanaka.

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