Herbie Yamaguchi


Among photographers that people truly look up to, Herbie Yamaguchi stands out as one revered by all. That includes me. I remember the first time I asked him to run a workshop for us: I was just one of all the other excited fans.

Herbie’s way of life inspires the dreams of young photographers. It’s because he has proven that if you just recognize your dream and work toward it step by step, then it’s within your power to realize it. Whenever you talk to Herbie, you get the courage to take that step that you weren’t able to take before. Several years ago, we ran a “walking the town workshop” in Noge. I’ll never forget his smile when he said, “Taking people’s pictures is fun, but also difficult, isn’t it?”

Actually, just the other day we held an event called “town-revi” (short for “town review”) with Herbie at Baraso, a bar in Noge, where we whetted our mental appetites with lots of discussion about photography. The participants enjoyed listening to stories that they couldn’t hear outside of that kind of a setting. The things that Herbie talked about at Baraso would lose their charm if I tried to write about them here, so instead I’d like to tell you about the conversation he and I had in the car while I was driving him home.

Just after we had gotten on the expressway he said suddenly, “I forgot to tell everyone back there about the most important trick to taking portrait photographs…”

It was such a Herbie moment. When he told me, I thought, ‘so that’s it! He couldn’t take such great pictures if we wasn’t doing that. I wonder if I too can do it–actually, if anyone can. But I wonder if anyone really can do it from the bottom of their heart.’ I had an internal debate about this.

“Saito, I forgot to tell everyone back there about the most important trick to taking portrait photographs: when you snap the shutter, you have to hope, from the bottom of your heart, for their happiness.”

He’s just too good, that Herbie Yamaguchi.

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