Haruka Sakaguchi, With Regards to Creativity No. 01

An interview with Haruka Sakaguchi of The Denizen Co. for the new interview series.

For a while now I have wanted to interview creatives so I could get a glimpse at the minds behind the work they put forth, and share with my readers. I am so glad to start off the new year with this brand new interview series, with, none other than one of my old time crushes, Haruka Sakaguchi.

Haruka (that’s her right above) always felt like an enigma to me. She is the type of person who up and leaves the comfort of NYC and goes on cross country trips on a van, teaches workshops in Japan, takes photos that kick you in your gut, designs websites and magazines for other kickass people… well, I can go on and on, but may be you’d like to read the interview instead! Oh, and while we were corresponding back and forth, she was actually living off the said van, cruising across California, speaking with and taking photos of “Vietnam veterans living with dignity.”

Isn’t she awesome?

Maliha

Hi Haruka, first of all, thank you so much for agreeing to this interview; really, really appreciate it! Now, let me jump in right away. You’re a designer and a photographer; how did this journey start?

Haruka Sakaguchi

I studied magazine journalism in college and interned for a couple of local magazines – as it turned out, I was horrible at “hard news” reporting and cold-calling people for interviews, ha! Instead, I became involved with the visual team, which sparked my interest in photography and design. I’ve been equally immersed in both since then.

Maliha

I see that you do a lot of different kinds of things — brand identity design, web design, print design, and of course, photography too. They all utilize very different tools and systems; how do you manage?

Haruka Sakaguchi

I enjoy the fact that my business allows me to switch between mediums, actually. Brand identity helps to cultivate my creative side, while web design helps keep my organization/technical skills in check. Similarly, photography is a way for me to get the hell outside and engage with the outside world.

Maliha

If I asked you to pick just one out of all that you do, which would you choose and why?

Haruka Sakaguchi

I would likely choose photography because it is incredibly challenging, highly exhausting, and emotionally taxing – all of the characteristics you’d want in a job! Joking aside, I find photography to be the most rewarding profession because it is contingent on nuance and helps me engage with topics that matter to me most, like identity issues and social justice.

Maliha

On a different topic, how was growing up in New Jersey and LA? Do you have a preference between the east coast and the west coast? I know you live in Brooklyn now, but given a choice, would you ever want to live in LA again? (Or anywhere else other than NYC for that matter?)

Haruka Sakaguchi

I moved away from NJ at age 7 so I don’t have much of a recollection of my time there – however, my past three years in NYC have definitely confirmed that I am an east-coaster at heart. Although I love the open spaces and sunny disposition of LA, I feel more comfortable in the beautiful rat’s nest that is New York, where the subway system and overall infrastructure inspire community and a strong sense of place.

Maliha

Do you think where you live impacts your work? Like, getting clients, networking, etc. Or… your quality and style of work even?

Haruka Sakaguchi

I do think where you live impacts your work, both topically and aesthetically. Living in New York has helped me land gigs because, to put it simply, it is so densely populated. A surprising number of my clients are people that I met in coffee shops, on the street, etc. and simply struck up a conversation with! As for style, I think design/aesthetic trends are pretty streamlined between major cities but New York has definitely brought out in me a preference for color minimalism.

Maliha

I know you’ve done workshops in Japan before. How does it feel to go back there as a Japanese-American? Would you ever consider living and working there?

Haruka Sakaguchi

These questions are so spot on, Maliha! When I was younger, I struggled with the alienation I felt in Japan as a Japanese-American; lately, however, I have grown more comfortable with being a bit of a cultural anomaly. During the workshops, I do try to be mindful about disclosing my hyphenated status from the beginning so as not to misrepresent native Japanese narratives – that said, I have thoroughly enjoyed sharing with people the deep and at times conflicted love I have for my country. I would absolutely consider living and working there, hopefully as a photographer.

Maliha

Back to your work now. I see that you have a very distinct style, whether it is your photography or print design or web design, they are all very raw, and rustic. How did this style develop? Did you experiment a lot with other styles before settling to this (assuming you have settled at all…) or did it come to your naturally?

Haruka Sakaguchi

My style in both design and photography is an amalgamation of the places I’ve lived in, I think. In Vancouver I developed an appreciation for natural textures; in LA I became obsessed with spatial minimalism; in NY, I have been exploring classic grid systems and color minimalism, as mentioned before. I did experiment with a LOT of styles, yes – some of which would make me blush ten times over and would never show to the public, haha!

Maliha

Something totally unrelated (because I’m just sooo curious)! What’s the secret to your style and beauty routine? In all your photos that I’ve seen, you look so natural and effortless, do you have some kind of must-do thing that you do every day?

Haruka Sakaguchi

Oh you are going to be so disappointed – I am the worst person to ask for beauty/style advice! Perhaps the closest thing I have to a beauty routine is to get 7-8 hours of sleep a day. I also try to rely on the least amount of product as possible, i.e. use a good cleanser at night but simply wash your face with water in the morning to let the natural oils do their work. As for style, I usually only wear black/greyscale colors to minimize time spent deciding what to wear (I told you this was going to be bad, haha) and believe that comfort breeds a level of confidence that no amount of accessories/makeup/5-inch heels can replicate.

Maliha

Thank you so very much once again for allowing this little peek into your life, Haruka. If you’re in my town some day, I hope we can grab some tea (or coffee if that’s what you prefer) and chat for real, in person!


All photographs are by Haruka Sakaguchi, and have been used with her permission.
You can see more of her work on her website.

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