Tsuyoshi Ito: the Starter
Project Basho was conceived by one person back in 2002. He hoped that this “place” will serve as a place for photographers to inspire one another and grow together. His name is Tsuyoshi Ito, a native Japanese transplanted in Philadelphia late 1990’s.
Interview with Tsuyoshi Ito
— What was the idea behind Project Basho?
Tsuyoshi: I was living in Philadelphia after graduating from Temple and wanted to start something that would be a center for culture — where people could gather together because of their love for something. I tried different formats with my friends, like assembling a group to share their work monthly, and organizing exhibitions in abandoned buildings. After some thought, I realized I should stick to photography, but the idea for Project Basho was born long before then.
— Why was Philadelphia the ideal location?
Tsuyoshi: When I started Project Basho, there was no place in Philadelphia to learn exclusively and extensively about photography. At the time, I commuted to New York for advanced workshops, learning from people at the forefront of the industry. So I thought I could contribute something here at home.
— What does Project Basho mean?
Tsuyoshi: In Japanese, Basho means “a place,” but it’s more like “locus,” or center. Basho is a place where photographer gather. I tell people it’s a place of photography.
— Looking back on the decade, what are you most proud of?
We offer quality educational opportunities for people who want to learn about photography, and we teach about 400 students each year, which is significant. But what we do also spurred more competition, raising the quality and the amount of opportunities available in Philadelphia. I think people have more opportunities to learn locally than ever before.
— What excites you about the future of Project Basho?
Tsuyoshi: We have been soul searching for a long time, and I know that we want to keep focusing on photography education — but education is changing quite a bit. I am curious to see if we can be agile and adaptive enough to keep doing what we do. These days, this challenge is what excites me the most.
— What do you want people to know about Project Basho?
Tsuyoshi: Project Basho is a pretty unique place. It combines the art and technical sides of photography and does not reduce photography to a matter of software or hardware tricks. The instructors we work with have backgrounds in both the art and commercial sides of photography, and we always strive to maintain a balance.
We are also an integral part of the photography ecosystem in Philadelphia. We work with many volunteers, including recent graduates from local colleges, giving them opportunities to learn how we run our organization. We also hire local photographers and MFA graduates to teach here, helping to support their livelihoods as working photographers and artists.
I take photographs of anything I like, not based on certain categories.