Jesse Freeman (USA), creative director, Tokyo

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‘My father was in the airforce. The place I was born actually doesn’t exist anymore. When I was born, my dad was stationed in a old cold-war base in the UK, north of London. The place was called Lakenheath Royal Airforce Base. It’s in Britain, but because it’s within the base, it’s American soil, so I’m 100% American. But still on my passport it says born in the UK. A complex situation at immigration desks sometimes. Haha.’

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‘Art is kind of my thing, I’m a photographer and make my own short films. I’m a film freak, and when I saw a documentary on Hiroshi Tashihara, a director from the 60s who made films in Kavka-style, I was introduced to Tashihara’s other passion: ikebana, the Japanese flower art. I saw a lot of similarities between his movies and his flower arrangements. I thought he was making such amazing pieces with bamboo so I wanted to do the same. It may sound strange that film brought me into ikebana, put for me it was a logical transition. I’ve been studying ikebana for 10 years now at the Shogetsu school in Aoyama.’

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‘In ikebana it’s all about structure and the space in between the structure. Just like Japanese film, where it’s all about the nuances in between the acts. When studying ikebana, the first four years are just about repeating the three types of arrangements: the shin (heaven), the soe (man) and the hikae (earth), a necessary evil before you can even start thinking of freewheeling. It gets really technical, but for me personally the fun is in filling out the space, more than the main flower. I feel like it’s the same In film: it’s not necessarily about the plot, but more how you get there.’

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‘I was introduced to photography, my first love, by a girl I met who had a masters degree in photography at Oxford University and she gave me this GR1 camera and taught me how to use it. The first shot I ever took later became the opening scene of my first short film. I just like playing around with it. I shoot film, develop in my kitchen, do small shows and prints and have a lot of fun. My films are really slow and methodical. I’m in post-production of my latest now, all shot on long shot and out-of-focus, because it’s made out of blurry, distant memories. It’s also a silent film. It was important for me to translate emotion without words, so the music is very important. We’ll see how it works out, either way, I had a blast making it.’

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‘Whereas I’m very certain about my art, my tattoos are completely different; they’re all pretty bad. When I was 18, I got 14 tattoos in two weeks. a couple more at 22, at 28 and then last year a few more. The last one I got is related to ikebana. It’s the red spider lily, which flowers at the onset of fall and only lives for a week. It symbolises death, and because of this connotation, it is forbidden in ikebana. Nevertheless,  I always loved this flower so I had to have it tattooed. I don’t regret my tattoos in any way, now when I look at them, I think it’s funny what a loser I was back in the days. And that makes me laugh.’