i-D online talk to Japanese photographer Katsu Naito about his latest book and exhibition at east London’s concept store LN-CC.
Taken during the early 1990’s, West Side Rendezvous is a collection of photographs that capture the transexual and transvestite streetwalkers of New York’s meatpacking district. Naito encountered his subjects in the late afternoon once the local businesses and slaughterhouses had closed for the day, leaving room for a subculture of drugs and prostitution to emerge. The 45-image series consists predominantly of portraits, presenting the subjects going about their everyday lives. Some works are more stylised such as a nude image titled ‘China Doll II’ in which the subject stands hand on hip with his genitals tucked neatly behind him.
Now on show at LN-CC, i-D online talk to Naito about his memories of the photographs, now twenty years old.
How did the series ‘West Side Rendezvous’ first come about? This project started with my curiosity of how the subjects risk their lives to earn their living. Back in the late 80’s I lost several friends to Aids and this prompted me to take interest in them.
What attracted you to them? It was the way they looked at first, but as I got to know them better, their personalities won me over.
Did you develop friendships with any of the people you photographed? I don’t know if I can say friendships, but they trusted me. Sometimes I would bring a heat pack to keep them warm in winter, have a cup coffee with them or visit their houses and meet their families.
How does it feel looking back at the images twenty years later? When I look back at my photographs I try to see them as if someone else had taken them. The meatpacking district has changed completely and the people I photographed aren’t there any more, which I feel gives a certain power to the series.
How did the title come about? I wanted show a mischievous side to them in my title. I cracked my head for a few days and it just came to me one morning.
What other projects are you working on at the moment? I am selecting negatives to print of Harlem where I lived from 1987-1997 and I’m also shooting fly fishing environments.
West Side Rendezvous by Katsu Naito is published by Wild Life Press. An exhibition of the works will run at LN-CC, London from July 22nd-31st 2011.