Since the Leica editors edited down my answers to a more manageable size, I'll save the rest of my answers here for posterity.
Q: What camera and equipment do you use? Specifically, Leica equipment.
I use a Leica MP, with a 35mm Summicron ASPH lens. Depending on the situation, I might also use a SF-20 flash and a Leicavit — most of the protest pictures were shot with this combination. The film is Kodak Tri-X.
Other equipment I use (that wasn't used for this project) includes a Contax T3 compact camera, a Ricoh GR digital compact, and a Linhof Technika 4x5 field camera.
Q: How would you describe your photography?
My photography is one long personal diary project, out of which smaller, self-contained projects often grow.
Q: Are you a full-time photographer or would you describe yourself as a serious enthusiast?
I'm not a full-time photographer yet, though I'm working towards that goal, and I like to think that I take my work as seriously as a professional would. Right now I split my time pretty evenly between photography projects and freelance work in software engineering.
Q: When did you first become interested in photography as a mode of expression, and art form, a profession?
I've been photographing for about 10 years now. I've always been interested in visual expression, and I used to draw/paint a lot in high school and university, but as time became more scarce, I stopped. Eventually, around 2004, I discovered photography and took it up as a replacement for drawing.
At the time, I was living in France, and as the electoral campaign for the 2007 presidential elections started up, I decided to pick up my camera and photograph every campaign event that I could get access to. This was a highly educational process: in addition to sharing my images online (on Flickr at the time), I tried to sell some of my work to various French newspapers. I never made a profit from the time I invested, but that first experience as a working photographer was very valuable.
Q: Did you have any formal education in photography, with a mentor, or were you self taught. Was there a photographer or type of photography that influenced your work or inspired you?
I'm largely self-taught, which is not a difficult thing to do these days. When I had first started photography, I was drew a lot of inspiration from two photographers:
I followed the work of Toshihiro Oshima, a Japanese photographer, on Flickr and I was constantly impressed with the mastery with which he created mysterious, almost magical universes in his photos.
A family friend, Russian photographer Andrey Turusov, was also a big source of inspiration, as well as a source of valuable knowledge — a lot of what I know about visual language, composition, and photographic theory, I've learned from him.
More recently, I have been influenced by documentary photographer Charlie Kirk and Magnum photographer Jacob Aue Sobol. I have participated in workshops with both of them, and both have been sources of major breakthroughs in my own work and understanding of photography, for which I'm very grateful.
Q: What genre are your photos? (e.g. fine art, photojournalism, portrait, street photography, etc)
I mainly work in two genres: documentary and portrait. I occasionally shoot street photography, but almost always in the context of a documentary project. When not working on a specific project, I'm also constantly shooting a photographic diary.
Q: How did you first become interested in Leica?
When I had started using Flickr, I quickly found Toshihiro Oshima's (whom I mention above) work, and, mesmerized by it, started researching the gear he was using. After finding out he was using Leica cameras, I bought my first Leica, a M4 with a 50mm lens, on eBay as a birthday present to myself. The camera had a stuck shutter, but I got it repaired and ended up putting maybe a thousand rolls of film through it.
Q: What approach do you take with your photography or what does photography mean to you?
For me, photography is a way to connect with the world, with the people around me. It gives me a reason and a way to do things I would otherwise never do, and meet people that I would otherwise never meet.
Photography is also a way for me to be more aware of who I am as a person. I've often heard it said that every photograph is a self-portrait in some way — this is an idea I find very compelling. Once I started thinking about this, it was easy to trace the lacking parts of my photography to my own flaws and insecurities, and this, in turn, gave me a path to improvement.
Q: You became interested in this youth political protest movement - how was the process of immersing yourself into this and what are your goals with this project?
The process of immersing myself into this project was fairly simple — it was a matter of using social media to figure out who the key players in the movement were, then following these people and organizations and attending events that seemed like they would produce good images. The language barrier was the main obstacle — my Japanese is not fluent, and because of this I missed a couple of events I misjudged the importance of.
I've been long fascinated by the resurgence of the political Right after the hopeful, idealistic years following the end of the Cold War. My goals with this project is to produce a body of work that will help me make sense of Japan in this context. The protest series will probably be only a small part of the final body of work, which I hope to someday publish as a book.
Q: Creatively speaking, you are documenting specific moments during rallies and such, finding overlaps on how the current elections are going on in the US. What's your creative approach when documenting these moments?
I wouldn't really say I was specifically looking for overlaps with the American elections, although these overlaps do exist. My approach is more of an intuitive one — I look for visually appealing scenes and shoot as much as I can, then, after I develop my films some time later, try to edit the images towards some kind of narrative. Since the project is fairly loosely defined for now, I'm currently approaching it more from a visual than from a narrative perspective.
Q: You used the Leica MP and continually use film. Was this a matter of randomness or aesthetic choice?
I've learned to photograph with a film Leica M4, so this is an approach I'm comfortable with. Though I sometimes shoot digital as well, I enjoy the analog process — I like having to wait to see the pictures, this allows me to distance myself emotionally from the images and be a better editor of my own work (which is the hardest part of photography, in my opinion). Not being able to see the images while shooting also helps me focus on the action, without being distracted by the camera's screen. A secondary benefit is an aesthetic uniformity to my film work (ever since I've settled on a focal length and a film type), although that's very easy to replicate digitally.
Q: You are a Russian-French photographer, based in Tokyo. Surely, you have a wide range of global political and cultural influence. What brought you to Japan and how do you think your photography has evolved while being there?
I came to Japan for a 3-week trip in 2010, and loved the place so much I decided I would have to try living there. This ended up happening a year later when a Japanese company offered me a job, and I moved to Tokyo a couple of months after the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami of 2011. I'd been in a slump photographically for a couple of years when I moved to Japan, but meeting photographers living and working in Japan pulled me right back in. I got interested in Japanese photography, and especially in books about Japan produced by foreign photographers. This made me think, for the first time, about working on long-term projects, which ended up radically changing my approach to photography. While previously I would entrust most things to chance, I became much more methodical in my approach, researching my subject beforehand, and thinking in the long term, rather than about the next image to share on social media.