Robert Maxwell & Mie Iwatsuki

by Adam Kluger

Pink long sleeve dress with pleated overlay, Jose Luis González for Soid Studios New York. Black platform shoes, Joe’s

Mie and Robert, how did you two meet?

Mie: We first met on social media the last summer, Robert wanted to do a photoshoot with me, I think he knew I collaborate with a lot of artists. So usually, the first thing I do is to research the artist’s work. I looked up his works at https://robertmaxwellphoto.com/portraits and I immediately thought his work is compelling and spoke on the phone with him for a few hours. Later I found that most of my photographer friends all knew his name and as the photographer or the legend who shot all the celebrities in Hollywood. We decided to meet for a coffee to discuss the shoot a week later, and I noticed that he was very humble, he prohibited me to call him a legend. Then we spoke like hours because we have many crossovers and experiences in life between fashion, art, photography, modeling, and we each exchanged so many interesting stories that are never-ending… and that is still continuing today.

RM: I don’t remember. I probably saw her photo on IG or Facebook and knew right away this was someone special. We met for coffee, then sat in the park and I watched this beautiful creature float for six hours. Google Marc Chagall, Bella floating. He described exactly how I felt. I knew right away that I’d met the most beautiful, interesting, and diverse talented individual that I’d ever met. Only Gordon Parks Jr. comes close.

Why is there such strong creative chemistry between the two of you?

Mie: I think we trust each other now. I know I can feel relaxed walking into his studio and expect something magical to come out each time we shoot, even if I do not try or prepare so much. I think he feels the same way with me, we are always happy about our end product. After communicating with him in detail, we now know what we are looking for and not in our works, and I think in the end it is the “trust” in each other’s eye, we usually end up feeling the same and agreeing on the same about which work we feel is best.  And these days, even if Robert suggests doing something that is outside of the box which initially I didn’t think would be a good idea,  I now start to rethink to trust that idea or his instinct also, because he is usually right! (laughter!)

RM: I think she likes and appreciates my work. I think Mie is the most beautiful woman I’ve ever laid my eyes upon. So it was good for both of us.

Winter issue 2020 December

What appeals to you both the most about working together?

Mie: Working on the photoshoot knowing that I am going to get the most amazing images each time and all the time. He is one of the best photographers I have worked with before and he never betrayed or disappointed my trust in this regard. And thanks to him, there are more and more great photographers in the world starting to approach me these days because of seeing his work (of my portraits). I feel so lucky to have met him, but I hope he feels the same!  (Laughter!)

RM: A continuous unpeeling of the most interesting “onion” I’ve met, her infectious laughter, kindness, and humbleness. In my career, I’ve worked with 10-15 super-models. Mie is on a different level. This woman floats.

What is the special bond between an artist and a Muse all about?

Mie: I think when an artist and a Muse creates masterpieces, there has to be a certain kind of chemistry in between them all the time. It is not necessarily having a relationship as the old age discourse, but what I mean is that the chemistry also exists between people, good friends or someone who you respect, trust their work, having strong admiration for their activities, works, personalities and it could be just an atmosphere they bring out–One of such feelings or qualities may be elegance, grace, poise, intelligence & experience that never bore you and let each other to keep gazing,  I can not explain this in detail only by words. But after working with many artists,  masters, and legends in the art world, this is something I was also told, and I now can say so strongly this “Chemistry” has been one of the important factors the artists have created such timeless portrait pieces through the centuries.

RM: I’m not sure. This is the first time in my career where I felt the need to shoot someone more than once or twice. She’s like a drug and I’m the addict.

Mie Iwatsuki 2

Black wool coat with pleated belt and accordion pleated black and white skirt, Jose Luis González Black wool tights, Wolford. Black ankle boots, Vince Camuto

Mie Iwatsuki 4

Google Marc Chagall, Bella floating. He described exactly how I felt. I knew right away that I’d met the most beautiful, interesting and diverse talented individual that I’d ever met. Only Gordon Parks Jr. comes close.” – Photographer Robert Maxwell

Robert, what’s the secret to creating timeless images?

RM: Being honest and true to your craft. Not all the noise surrounding it. I’ve pissed many people off over the years because for me it was always about the photo, not ego.

Mie, why is the relationship between an artist and a muse so interesting to you?

Mie: It is the humanistic experience. Why we even create art, let’s start from there. We crave for something lasting impression in humanity, we all know that one day we are all gone,  but in what we create the spirit of our soul will always live there I feel. I want the viewers of 1,000 years from now to also experience and feel what I am feeling today from the artwork. I just happened to have studied art, art history, and familiar with artists and artworks from curatorial experiences, and today I hope to be some sort of A shaman who can connect the viewers of today and the future to the soul of the artists I love and collaborate in my life through the voice of a model. Robert Frank once said, –”There is one thing the photograph must contain, the humanity of the moment. This kind of photography is realism. But realism is not enough, there has to be vision, and the two together can make a good photograph.” I now feel that the master already knew. If vision is by the artist, this humanistic experience is by the invisible factor, “Monad” created between the subject or model and the artist. This relationship in moments is the key to making a lasting impression in art history.

Who are some of your artistic and creative influences?

Mie: For me, definitely the long working & personal relationship with the legendary photographer,  Robert Frank, and master painter, Alex Katz, The numerous sittings and having opportunities of conversations with such masters have helped me to gain significant insights and ability to distinguish what is really good work.  They both have “reached” to the point where whatever they would create is always masterpieces, without the need for explanations. Have you encountered any artworks that make you cry just by visual experience? It takes usually, some decades for artists to get there, it is really hard, but the key being honest, being themselves, true to their vision, and having beliefs and having humanistic experience, I have always believed in this. Actually, this just made me recall that recently there were some people who contacted me and have said that they started to cry by just looking at a picture of mine, and it was one of Robert Maxwell’s portraits of mine in which I am wearing a fur hat. . So, I also want to say this. I feel that Robert Maxwell is also one of such rare artists who can leave a lasting impression by his timeless work.

RM: Edward Weston, Walker Evans.  Disfarmer was my favorite though.

Mie Iwatsuki is more than just a model. She is the embodiment of serenity and elegance. She is like a walking installation of fine art that was curated by the muses. Once I discovered her vast knowledge of art and love of architecture, Mie inspired me to style her in this unconventional layout. In a story that crosses pop culture, Asian influences, and avant-garde clothing, even under the most rigid lenses Mie Iwatsuki stepped out of her comfort zone and made my styling and story come alive.

– Celebrity Stylist Ty-Ron Mayes

White jacket, top and ruffled dress, Jose Luis González. Black tights, Wolford. Silver boots, Soid Studios New York

How has the art world and art/photography changed over the years?

Mie: It has been the same in the art world for few decades, it has been increasingly hard for artists to create new work. I think only 2-3% can make it, and they say only 5% of 500 galleries are making money. I think the same applies to photography. Especially now the Covid impacting a lot of artists friends in NYC or elsewhere. But I do believe good art sometimes comes out from their struggles, and they never stop creating. Once the female artist I respect, Robert Frank’s wife, June Leaf has told me in a conversation that “Artists do not create work for money, they create because they have to create.” –This resonated in my mind so deeply, and I wanted to cry when I heard that. I feel for artists usually, and they can also feel me sometimes. Even if the world has changed, artists will always be here.

What do you both do for fun? What else are you both passionate about?

Mie: I think Robert will say cooking, and he is a great cook. Once he created Japanese lunch for me and my makeup artist, after I learned the recipe from him,  I ended up cooking the same dish over and over at home. He is a better cook than I am, and I like to cook these days especially during Covid, I do not go out to eat, so I cook a lot. Robert has inspired me to cook Japanese food! (Laughter!)  but true. And my other passion is to write, write my experience working with artists or photographers I collaborate with.  I think artist lives in me also, I used to paint, play piano, so I can feel what artists are feeling sometimes. My other passion is traveling, taking my parents to travel around the world, and let them also experience what I have experienced. Since my father prohibited me from going study abroad alone and told me that he would not finance me and he would only agree if I go on my own, I had to save money and pass a scholarship exam to come here, but I still feel guilty leaving my parents when I was young. I feel I hope to give back something to my parents so I take them on trips abroad every year, (for example Hawaii, Cambodia, Cebu, Paris, Taiwan, Bali, Korea, Vietnam, Okinawa, etc) When I tell this story to people they all say they want to ask me to be their daughter!  then I would tell them then they need to give me a monthly allowance. (Laughter!)

Burnett New York

Burnett New York

RM: Cooking and riding my motorcycle around this beautiful city 

Any interesting art/celebrity anecdotes?

Mie: Well, I already talked about what Robert Frank and June Leaf said in the prior conversations, So I would like to share what Alex Katz has told me before.  He said he thinks people see things in their cultural backgrounds. And then their personalities are different, all people see things differently inside the culture, outside the culture. Ernst Gombrich said that African art is symbolic and Impressionism is realistic. And he would say, ‘”To whom?” to an African, an Impressionist painting is not realistic. And their art is realistic. It’s a different culture and a different way of seeing.  — This opened up millions of ways of possibilities for me to see things. and this is why, I would like to be inside of artists’ brains or philosophy, understanding their personalities and experiencing their realities. There are so many possibilities in art, artworks, artists, and art history in humanity. So, I hope everyone does not stop creating.. and I will keep writing about my collaboration & experience with them.

RM: I have a ton of stories. Wouldn’t be correct to share.

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