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Kitaoka had gone to an open studio at the museum to look around. “It’s always interesting for me to watch other artists work. I’ve always had this thing about hands. I just think hands are great. So I approached the curator and said, ‘Is it OK if I contact some of these artists and ask them if they would like have their hands photographed?’ She said, ‘Sure.’ “. Kitaoka explained his belief that hands reveal the truth about a person. “They immediately hid their hands,” Kitaoka says, laughing. “But they were intrigued.
“So the majority of them were very enthusiastic about it, I just went to their studios and set up my little lights and started shooting a couple of them, and after a few of them saw the images, then all of them wanted to do it.”, He photographed them while ballet folklorico shoes they worked, Included in the subjects are a singer, painter, sculptor, choreographer, lighting designer, stage actor, cellist, poet and TheatreWorks artistic director Robert Kelley, Kitaoka found a connective thread, “Everyone, whether they realize it or not, greatly expresses their art through their hands, And as I started going through this project, all of them became more cognizant of how much they use their hands, All of us, whether we’re artists or not, express ourselves a lot through our hands.”..
This began as simply a personal project. “When you’re a commercial photographer, I believe you should always have personal projects,” Kitaoka says, “because you art-direct those yourself, and it certainly keeps me sharp and keeps my interest in photography high. When you do your own work, you can do whatever you want.”. The curator approached him about presenting it as an exhibit. At first, Kitaoka said no, saying he’d always viewed exhibits as a bit narcissistic. One of the final subjects he shot, mixed media artist Werner Glinka, changed Kitaoka’s mind.
“He said, ‘Why do you go to galleries, Mark? For inspiration, right?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘Well, then you should quit being selfish, Why wouldn’t you let other people be inspired by what you do?’, “I always have an answer for everything, This time, I had nothing,” Kitaoka says, laughing, Fifteen artists, 29 hands? How does that math work? One of the artists depicted, a resilient local poet, lost a hand in his days as an ballet folklorico shoes overworked butcher, Knowing his subject’s backstory is important to Kitaoka..
“One of the things I love about photography, being in the commercial world, is you’re not so isolated, like fine art or landscape photographers, people that kind of do it all by themselves. I like people, so I like to get to know them.”. Getting to know people was what initially drew Kitaoka to photography, as he grew up in Anaheim. He and his friend were the only Asian-Americans in their high school. “Pretty much we were invisible,” Kitaoka says, laughing. “I could never get a date. I started taking portraits of people and I discovered early on — women love to have their picture taken. I had a little darkroom. And I quickly realized that I loved photography.”.
Kitaoka went to work for Mervyn’s stores and he was asked to relocate to the corporate offices in the Bay Area, “I thought, the Bay Area, I don’t want to move there, it’s so artsy-fartsy!'”, However, two things immediately appealed to Kitaoka, when he made the move, “There was no smog … and tap water tastes like bottled water.”, Soon he had fallen in love with the area, “I’ve been up here 38 years now, and I’d never go back, I love the people here, ballet folklorico shoes I love the water, And I love the arts,” Kitaoka says with a laugh..
When his children were in high school, Kitaoka bought a digital camera, to document his daughter’s involvement in theater. (His daughter is now 26 and his son is 23.) His passion for photography was rekindled. When the school’s regular photographer didn’t show up, Kitaoka was asked to shoot a performance. That went so well, he was asked to become their regular photographer. He learned his craft for theater-shooting. In 2007, he went to see a performance of “Forever Tango” at San Francisco’s Post Street Theatre. He was so taken by the movement, he asked if he could return and take photos. A publicist asked how much he would charge to use one of the photographs.
“I had no idea how much to charge, I came up with a number, She accepted it right away and I thought, ‘Oh, I should have asked for ballet folklorico shoes more,'” Kitaoka says, chuckling, Working with low light and rapid movement is challenging, “I really think, for dance photography, you either have the ability to time it right or you don’t, I don’t think it’s something you can learn, I think it’s innate.”, Following that first paying gig, Kitaoka found himself much in demand, He photographed “Grey Gardens” at TheatreWorks, and subsequently became the company’s performance photographer..