Following the shoot for our latest MTA drop, MAAP hung out with LA-based photographer Yudo Kurita to talk skate passions, design influences, a bit of modern Italian philosophy, AI and the great art of image making…and a bit of bike crime.
Art ever reflecting the artist, photographer-in-demand Yudo Kurita is a man on the move. On call with the likes of Carhartt WIP, Woolrich, The North Face, Nike and Warner Records, he's a multidisciplinary polymath who, in his spare time, also managed to co-found Comfort Magazine to "cover the contemporary anthropocene with a focus on, but not held to: art, music, fashion and journalism". Boundless energy made manifest in his body of work. Undoubtedly one of the premier image makers making waves in Los Angeles today, Yudo's schedule is as stocked full as his range of personal interests. Charging ahead, the only thing possibly slowing him down is a recent bit of bad luck:
"Yeah, I had my bike stolen! I just grabbed some coffee and was about to go on a ride but pulled in at home to take a work call. I was talking for 30 minutes, and then it got swiped. It's super annoying; they got me!"
Down but by no means defeated, he shakes it all off with a c'est la vie, ice-breaking laugh. Speaking to MAAP from his home studio in North LA, Yudo cuts a relaxed figure in a low-slung black cap and Valencia FC jersey. Unsurprisingly, black and white portraits and a few curated landscapes dress the studio wall. What is surprising is his modesty for someone so abundantly talented. Laid back and soft-spoken, he's super chill for someone who's super busy (and minus a bike). Laughing off such misfortune casts light on Yudo's easy-going vibe as does his generosity in taking time out of the work day to chew the fat with us.
In the market for some new wheels, "I have my eye on a Canyon", he promises to be back on the road soon enough. If not to enjoy rolling along LA's network of river trails, then to roll up to the skate park, a personal admission that the board was his first love. "I've been skateboarding since I was eight years old. I ride to skate spots rather than drive. It's not like New York or Paris where you skate from your house, given LA is so vast. I have several spots in a ten-mile radius, so the bike helps me get there. We go skate and riding there you get a nice warm-up."
Warming up for sure. Scroll through Yudo's feed, and it's instantly apparent his photography is working on another level. Less image-stream more a considered tableau of profound ideas from a mind operating at the very top of their game. Skate culture is just one of the formative building blocks that shaped his unique aesthetic, forging a pro career in a tough-to-break industry. Originally from Seattle, Yudo came up making zines, shooting friends in bands and hitting the slopes on his snowboard. Never one to be boxed in, the snowboarding was cut short: "I had sponsors and stuff, but snowboarding was super isolated at the time. Culturally there wasn't much crossover with anything else and overall it felt very closed minded about a lot of things and people I cared about. It's much better now, I actually just started again. But at the time, I stepped away from it and started to focus on photos, zines and trying to get my work in galleries."
He continues: "Slowly, I've been able to blend my art practice with my commercial work for the most part, which is really nice, and I'm really lucky and grateful for that." Talent with a camera is clear, but digging a little more, it's the breadth of Yudo's ideas that percolate and infuse the process. The images somehow resonating on another plane, transcending any two-dimensional fashion shot; "rather than blatantly talking about what I viewed of the world, it was more like internally what it felt like to me to exist in the world around me." In an industry sometimes dug out as dealing in the cold calculating manufacture of artifice, Yudo's approach bores a whole lot deeper. "I read a lot of philosophy stuff and paintings and just different mediums because I feel like I try to keep the inspiration idea-based rather than aesthetically based."
Naming Dutch fine artist Viviane Sassen and New York designer Hassan Rahim as influences, we pushed for some philosophy recommendations: "Have you checked out Frano Berardi? He's definitely very anti-capitalist, but with hints of that, he's not as overly pushy as some in that space. He's one of my favourite contemporary philosophers… I've been diving hard into all of that. After reading a lot of stuff like Plato, Nietzsche and whatever, finding more contemporary people has been really cool in ways like this person is much smarter than I am and affirms some of the thoughts I have about the world, but also super insightful and I feel I can learn from. You're not in an echo chamber when you're reading it."
Continuing with thoughts in future-forward projection, the conversation shifts to AI and how its frenetic pace of development is affecting the landscape. "That's a vast question! I'm paying attention to it, but I just don't really let it seep into my personal work. When I'm making stuff, I just keep where my head's at. Worst case in five years, maybe they don't want photographers. I'll still make my books and stuff, but that's cool. I'll do that because I love doing it."
You get the certainty when Yudo shares what makes him tick, that in five years' time, he'll still be killing it. On the immediate horizon, we get into what's next in the schedule. "It's a pretty cool end to the year. The third issue of COMFORT is coming out in October, and I also am fortunate to be a part of an exciting group show here in Los Angeles alongside some of my favourite artists in October as well. In December I'm releasing a personal book, titled NO FREE AIR, which will be accompanied by a solo show. Also in December, I'll be curating a photography show based on, mainly emerging, Los Angeles photographers. That's the thing I'm probably most excited about. I really love the gallery that it'll be at and it's an honour to get to do it."
Continuing on the local scene, "It feels like often people from other cities perceive Los Angeles photographers in some lesser way. I've been told multiple times " your work is so not LA" hinting at LA photography being bad. Like people still perceive LA photographers as like shooting people in swimsuits at the beach on a Ferrari or something, not to say that that's not happening here lol. But there are some brilliant photographers here making meaningful work and to have the chance to help show that is amazing."
With such a profound body of work past, present and future, Yudo's eye certainly captures something altogether different. With so much on his plate, he’s taking everything in his stride with a smile. Stolen bike notwithstanding, there's no hitting the brakes anytime soon.
Follow Yudo’s work at https://yudokurita.net/, @yudo_kurita and @comfortmagazine
Yudo’s photography was commissioned for MAAP’s latest Transit Apparel Project. Discover the collection here.