INTERVIEW | Teppei Sako “Sword and Sandal”

Teppei Sako “Sword and Sandal” Teppei Sako “Sword and Sandal”

Sword and Sandal incorporates the idea
that this marks the starting point of my journey.

Teppei Sako entered the video work Made of Stone for the 39th edition of the New Cosmos of Photography in 2015 and captured the Grand Prize by unanimous decision.
We spoke with him about the changes he has gone through in the year since his victory and about the creation of his latest project, the solo exhibition Sword and Sandal.

To use a baseball metaphor,
it was like I’d finally found my ideal swing.

— Has anything changed about yourself since you won the Grand Prize?

I went through an artist talk event and the public Grand Prize selection meeting, sandwiched between winning an Excellence Award and the New Cosmos of Photography exhibition. Over this time, I had a change in how I view my production and work. I had had few opportunities to talk about my work before, but the New Cosmos of Photography required me to speak in front of an audience. That necessity forced me to really think about my work.

The audience was made up of regular visitors as well as people in photography and the arts. So I had to make my explanations easy to follow since I was showing my works and making a presentation in front of regular people. So I’ve had more occasions to consider how to explain my works as well.

Once my ideas about my works were more firmly grounded, I felt like I’d come to an understanding of a very difficult book. To use a baseball metaphor, it was like I’d finally found my ideal swing, and now as a batter, I can adjust to any pitch. Like I can say with authority: “This is what the book is written about.” My understanding has emerged little by little.


— Why did you choose Venice for the location of your new collection Sword and Sandal?

It was an intuitive choice, so it’s hard to say why exactly. But the Venetian Lagoon is famous for glassmaking and a place of waves and light, and I thought those elements might make it a perfect place for photos. A bit of self-delusion could have been at play too [laughs]. I also believed heading overseas was the fastest way to give the creative process a jolt. I had a hunch my intuition was right because of my experience going to the U.K. as an exchange student in third year of university. Just pick up and head off somewhere far, far away. And what I found when I actually did go was that the light felt really very close.

— How did you come up with the title?

I’m actually pretty bad at deciding on titles. On the other hand, I find going with something like “Untitled” rather pretentious, so it’s quite a dilemma for me. A desire to make films led me to try to create video works. And because my previous work Made of Stone was a quote from a film, I decided to relate this title to a film as well.

Lots of films have been set in Venice, but my knowledge of Italian film is pretty much limited to spaghetti westerns [laughs]. I was thinking about Leone and Corbucci, those kind of films, when I submitted a work that quoted The Great Silence by Corbucci to an exhibition in Osaka in August. I decided to stay on this path and come up with a title that reflected Corbucci for this work too. In looking up his filmography, I discovered an old Italian film sub-genre of historical epics called sword-and-sandal. The name seems to have come from the frequent appearance of gladiators in the films. These sword-and-sandal films were a launching pad to later success for a number of young directors, one of whom was Corbucci, working on shoestring budgets. Since I, too, had just made my debut, I took the name Sword and Sandal incorporating the idea that this marks the starting point of my journey.


— In your Sword and Sandal collection, photographs are expressed in combination with video. For you, what have you noticed about the enjoyment of photography and the enjoyment of video?

I’ve been taking photographs for many years. But they never turned into finished works. Photography’s value system remains the display of single photos, forcing you to choose a single photo from hundreds. I was never able to do that. In a work like Made of Stone, I could put in 27 photos and no one would get angry [laughs]. It’s strange to say it, but I’ve been able to submit my works as something slightly different. For example, when it comes to entering the New Cosmos of Photography, having your photos in a book format is the best way to go, but when it comes to the exhibition, you can’t exhibit all the photos in your book. Which again leaves you no choice but to choose.

My photos have yet to mature beyond a certain standard, and it’s something I know I have to work on. The challenge I’ve set for myself is to try to put multiple photos into a single photo, a kind of regression, I suppose, to the idea of a single photo. For Made of Stone and subsequent video works, I inserted time as a way to stretch the prime decisive moment to click the shutter and take a photo — the “ah” moment — into an extended “ahhhh.” With the photos in Sword and Sandal, however, I took multiple repeated and simultaneous “ahs” of the subject facing the camera and inserted the decisive moments in fragments, like “ah, ah, ah, ah.” I find narrowing in on videos and photos in this way works well at the present time.

— What are your plans for 2017?

I have plans for exhibitions and art fairs this year, but, like last year, I also want to go and shoot in lots of locations. And last year I started self-publishing small booklets of photographs called Chill Town, with one booklet for each place I visit. I hope to continue making these as well this year.

— Thank you very much.

Teppei Sako

A new solo exhibition “Sword and Sandal”

October 29 – November 20, 2016
Tokyo Photographic Art Museum

  • Sword and Sandal — video work (15:28)
  • A truth told not in words, but in light — video work (16:02)


A snapshot is the release of the shutter at the decisive instant when you encounter something unexpectedly: a fleeting “ah” moment. Using video, I have tried to extend short “ah” moments into longer “ahhhh” spans to more precisely capture the decisive juncture where the spontaneous nature of the subject manifests itself.

My solo exhibition Sword and Sandal presents video works consisting of material I shot in Venice in July 2016 and photographic works that insert “ah” fragments, wholly divorced from the decisive instant, into a single frame that says “ah, ah, ah, ah.”


Teppei Sako

Born in Osaka in 1988. Studied at the Glasgow School of Art (U.K.) as an exchange student in 2010. Currently enrolled in a doctorate program at the Graduate School of Art, Kyoto Seika University.

Solo Exhibitions
2016 Sliver (Ponto 15 / Finch Arts Gallery, Kyoto)
Carbon, Copy, Analog, Delay, (Yebisu Art Labo, Aichi)
Sliver (space_inframince, Osaka)
Group Exhibitions
2016 Art Court Frontier 2016 #14 (ArtCourt Gallery, Osaka)
showcase #5: Serendipity (eN arts, Kyoto)
Kyoto Seika University Graduate File 2016: Question of the Future (Gallery Fleur, Kyoto Seika University, Kyoto)