Otto Masters has carved out an extraordinary niche for himself with his skills as a photographer and visual storyteller. A recent graduate from London College of Fashion photography, Otto is making big waves with his stunning and surreal photographs. Giving careful thought to lighting, location and storyline, and with strong focus on composition, models and prop selection, Otto's ability to combine multiple elements with meticulous attention to detail is what sets him apart. He has had his work shown in several exhibitions such as Blurred Borders, 71A Gallery in 2016 and Photographers United, The Print Space in 2019. He has also had work featured in publications such as Sicky Magazine and Teeth Magazine and recently shot a campaign with fashion giant Burberry. As a master of his art, we were thrilled to spend some time getting to know him, delving into his practice, struggles and life goals:
How did you get started in photography?
I started at 14 years olds. It was just a hobby back then. I was paying around, always documenting, doing photoshoots with friends. I was also in love with nature so iI'd photograph that a lot. I then took it as an A level photo, and studied it at University of South Wales and London College of Fashion. So I've studying it for 7 years, and working full time for 5.
How would you describe your style?
My style sort of takes on a role of dark romantic storytelling. My work often has a hidden narrative or meanings within the work that can be deciphered if people wish to do so. I try to shoot with analogue processes and am continuously trying to push boundaries of what is a fashion image and how fashion sits within other genres of photography. As stated earlier I often look to past history and am really invested in the relationship between Japan and Europe, especially around the meiji restoration when Japan opened up to the west and how this explosion of culture affected both places in both directions. It was such an exchange of ideas and still continues to do so. I try to explore these ideas with Japanese creatives so it continues to be an exchange of creativity.
What are you inspired by?
Nature, past history, old fine art pieces, the relationship between East and West. I'm constantly in a conversation, interpreting each other. Different spheres of media is also a big inspiration for me. If I find something interesting in different industries, such as the anime gaming industry and its history, I'll incorporate it into my work. Japanese culture has a huge impact on me. Some of my favourite artists include Nobuyoshi Araki and Shomei Tomatsu.
What is crucial to your creative process?
Research. I always bring elements from the past into my work, whether that be past stories, or histories, or researching different cultures, plants, food or animals. Anything can inspire my work and I always try to bring no obvious elements into the picture.
How did you keep working during the lockdown?
During lockdown I wanted to respond to the world situation but also keep creative. I started a fine art project/self isolation diary, creating still life installations of found objects in my home and surrounding area, and also some documentary photographs. I wanted to play with light coming into my home and bring elements from the outside, in.
What is your favourite shoot you’ve done and why?
I shot a really great story about plastic waste in fashion. We collected all the plastic used by MatchesFashion in their photography studio from a week's work, mainly single use plastic used as garment covers to protect items, and used this to tell a story of how plastic is suffocating the earth. We mixed floral elements with darker tones, as plastic slowly suffocated the set and styling. It was a really magical story.
Do you have any advice for anyone reading this wanting to become a professional photographer?
My biggest advice is figuring out what things interest you outside of photography, and how you can bring this into your work.
Can you tell us about some exciting upcoming projects you're currently working on?
I've started a big personal project inspired by ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arrangement. It was a three day shoot; 8 different models, professional hair and makeup, styling, a big production! I wanted to capture fashion as a fine art, and photograph as a painting. The concept was exploring the relationship between nature and humans. Every single branch and its position means something, as do each model. Hopefully this will be for an exhibition.
Lastly, what do you envision in your future? What are some of your life goals?
I want to be one of and work with the big dogs in photography. I hope to be shooting big fashion campaigns, not just the classical fashion spread and have my work displayed in galleries. Essentially, my goal is to be free to create whatever I desire.
Building on all this momentum, Otto also recently completed a large-scale shoot with ikebana boards, prints and arrangements, and is working to exhibit it this Spring - make sure to follow his Instagram and check his website for updates and future projects!
We are blown away by this young artist's talent, passion and drive. Otto is imposing himself on the fast-pace and ever-changing creative industry in a unique way. He uses nature and humanity - with elements of Japanese culture - to his advantage, creating outstanding and beautiful images. When looking at any of Otto's work, you can feel the passion, talent, and hard-work that went into producing it. Check out his Isolation editorial in collaboration with YUGEN here.
By Juliette Eleuterio