TAO 15

As a top tier model and rising star actress Tao Okamoto is used to playing a variety of

roles, but her latest endeavor puts her in the hands of photography’s next generation. The

exhibition – Tao Okamoto 15 at Hudson Studios, celebrates Tao’s 15 years in the

business via a host of collaborations with innovative image makers. Names like Jeff

Bark, Benjamin Lennox and Max Snow provide their unique interpretations of Tao’s

allure, while Tao takes on the role of muse with aplomb. The exclusive images shot over

the course of a year are set to be revealed next week and on the eve of their debut we

caught up with the talented Tao to discover the story behind this special project.

How did the idea for this exhibition begin?

TAO: Well, the idea actually came about shortly after I joined The Society and was

about to begin my press tour for The Wolverine. We were discussing my plans for the

season and how much I had really loved the new experience of acting. The roleplaying

involved in the craft and, of course, the overall collaborative tone of it gave me a

newfound love for being on set and playing different characters for photographers. Based

on this, the agency suggested doing something with a group of the most exciting

photographers coming up amongst the new generation. The project would be a way to

both expose them and also create a platform for that collaboration concept that I really

wanted to play with more. I’ve always loved new talent and new ideas, so needless to

say, my answer was a quick yes. This is how it all started! The fact that I was also about

to be celebrating 15 years of modeling led to the decision to focus on 15 photographer

teams participating in the event, and of course the name of the series Tao Okamoto 􀥇􀞒

􀉼which means Tao Okamoto “Fifteen.”

After 15 incredible years – what keeps the job exciting for you?

TAO: The excitement really comes from the transformative aspect of being on set in

front of someone’s camera while dressed up as a whole other person. The hair, the

makeup, the props, the lighting; it all makes me feel like I’m in another world and that

feeling never gets old. Also, when I see the team get excited and inspired as we figure out

the goal or mood for the day – I just love that feeling.

I know it is impossible to pick a favorite image, but if you can share the story behind

one of the pictures featured in the exhibition that would be wonderful. TAO: Every

image has a very unique and special story, but the one with Jeff Bark was particularly

interesting. He was incredibly excited about this, and we even had a little brainstorm

meeting over the phone a month before the shoot. On the day of, I had just come back

from Japan that morning and I got a phone call from my agent saying that Jeff’s car had

been broken into by somebody and the makeup artist’s bag was stolen. You would think

that the shoot would have been cancelled, but Jeff was still determined to make it all

happen – so we stuck to the plan and went up to Jeff’s beautiful house in upstate New

York…driving with his window missing the entire way! He put me in a bear suit in the

woods, which sounds already quite extreme, but the shoot went really well. Afterwards,

we came back to the city, and a few weeks later when the final image was ready, it ended

up being quite unexpected! We all loved the result, despite the humor in the process of

creating the photo. You will see at the exhibition what exactly he came up with.

What is it like to see so many different interpretations / versions of yourself?

TAO: When I heard I was going to be shot by 15 photographers, I was quite worried that

they would end up capturing similar images of me and that the show would be a little

repetitive. Amazingly enough, every photographer had their own unique ideas, and we

never really had to adjust things in order to make the photos look different from one

another. That’s probably a testament to their respective talent, and something I was of

course thankful for when looking at all of the different versions of myself that they

managed to capture.

What do you think will surprise people about this particular exhibition?

TAO: I would like to think the surprise would be the diversity that they will find amongst

the work in this show. I also think that people will be surprised to find out I’m already

celebrating 15 years of my career!

Can we expect a Tao 30 exhibition 15 years from now!

TAO: That would of course be amazing. I’m certainly looking forward to celebrating

something 15 years from now…who can say what, but it’s always good to have a goal

that keeps you in shape along the way!