People | 20 QUESTIONS

Reylia Slaby: Picturing a brighter future

by J.J. O'Donoghue

Contributing Writer

Name: Reylia Slaby
Age: 25
Nationality: American (Japan born and raised)
Occupation: Photographer
Likes: Cooking, yoga, reading
Dislikes: The cold

1. Why did you choose to become a photographer? It was a gradual thing. There were cameras around the house when I was growing up, but it also stems from when I was around 16 and a semi-professional graphite-pencil artist. When drawing became work, I was more drawn to photography as an outlet for self expression.

2. What is “fine art photography” to you? My personal definition would be a piece where the main focus is the photographer’s vision, emotions and theme, using artistic techniques, unlike, for example, most fashion photography, where the main focus would be the clothes and the client’s direction.

3. You were home schooled here in Japan. What was that like? Homeschooling had thousands of different layers to it, both positive and negative, but as a whole it was an incredible experience. It truly enabled me to take charge in what I was interested in and it gave me the time to properly hone those interests.

4. What do you like most about your work? Currently, the flexibility and the freedom that comes with it.

5. Is there anything you think you could happily photograph for the rest of your life? That would have to people. The style may change, but people and capturing the inner workings has always been the thing I have chased after in photography.

6. What do you do to relax or retreat? These days it has been a bit hard to relax because of the winter and because of shoots. But there are certain things I do to escape. I adore reading. Reading has always been major component in my life. Hiking also helps me relax.

7. What are you reading right now? “The Wander Society” by Keri Smith. It’s a beautiful book, both in presentation and content. It’s filled with quotes and teachings from people who had very free spirits, and it also shows how incredible wandering and exploring the world can be.

8. What’s your perfect day off? Being by the beach, planning creative projects, having interesting conversations. Being with my sisters and my boyfriend, at peace with the now with no talk of stress or the future.

9. What’s your favorite Japanese word or phrase? I think one that I’ve been using a lot is “akan” (“あかん,” “No way!” in Kansai dialect). It’s too flexible and fun to not use.

10. Have you ever had any strange requests in your line of work? I was once asked by a tour guide who I didn’t know to participate in a shoot with a budget that would have given me about ¥400 an hour. That was definitely surprising.

11. What kind of projects have you enjoyed the most? Recently I’ve been finding myself more in-studio, as opposed to when I was concentrating on fine art work, which was outside using natural light. My recent studio portraits have been gloriously fun, albeit challenging — there is a certain amount of calculation involved.

12. You were a child model from a young age. How was that? I can only say good things about it. It was handled in a way that made it a very valuable experience. I saw a fascinating working world and being mixed into the blend of it all, I had to learn how to work with adults.

13. If you could choose anyone, who would your ideal dinner date be? Recently I’ve really been wanting to have all my sisters together. There are five of us, and I can’t remember the last time we all sat together and talked. We grew up in such close-knit quarters being homeschooled; I really have been missing that.

14. What makes a great photo? A great photo is an honest photo.

15. If you could photograph anyone, who would it be? Off the top of my head, I’d love to photograph Ellen DeGeneres.

16. What’s next for you? My next project includes developing my fashion-based work with more fine-art themes. I also want to be able to take the time to properly examine issues that I’m passionate about and create projects around that.

17. Why do you think so many people are obsessed with SNS photography? Because it’s easy and people see others being able to make a living through just being popular and showing off the prettier sides of their lives. It’s also fun and connects you to many people, which is incredible. It’s only when it interrupts your personal growth that it gets out of hand.

18. What drives you to distraction? I absolutely hate it when I can’t remember where I put something, or when I forget something. That drives me crazy for days.

19. What do you think you would have become if you weren’t a photographer? If I had had the road open up to me, I would have been a writer, a researcher or a journalist. I also could have been a graphite artist, if I had continued.

20. If you could live in any a Japanese era, which would you choose? It would probably be in the future. I’m optimistic about the future of Japan and its globalization. I would love to live in a time in Japan when not being completely Japanese isn’t an issue.