Ruth Negga, for Mastermind

Exposure: Tess Ayano

Japanese-American photographer Tess Ayano aims to make images to record what she feels rather than what she sees. We talk to her about her work, which crosses fashion, editorial and documentary

Rather than project an idea onto her sitter, Ayano meets them where they are; savouring the delight of the present, acutely aware that if they meet again, life would have changed, and so would they, creating an entirely different encounter. It’s this devotion to the beauty of impermanence that produces Ayano’s transfixing images.

Although Ayano was born in California, her formative years in Tokyo shaped who she is and her creative sensibility. At 14, she returned to the west coast and despite the initial challenges of learning English and acclimatising to the culture, Ayano decided to stay.

She studied at New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, where she focused on photography, hand printing and the philosophy of aesthetics. She deepened her practice by working as an archivist for the Light Gallery in New York, handling their 19th & 20th-century prints collection, drawing inspiration from work by artists like Andre Kertesz, Paul Strand, and Alfred Stieglitz.

Top: Ruth Negga, for Mastermind; Above: Gigi Hadid for American Vogue. All images: © Tess Ayano