Atsuko Tanaka

Atsuko Tanaka


Photographer Atsuko Tanaka was born in 1973 in Tokyo. She moved to the U.S. in 1991 as a teenager, and studied photography in Los Angeles before relocating to New York City, where she quickly gained recognition for her images of hip-hop artists. Equipped with a distinct sensibility that captured subtle expressions and moods of her subjects, it didn't take long before Atsuko found herself shooting the likes of Eminem, Jay-Z and Alicia Keys, as well as album cover art for popular Japanese artists. 

While continuing to photograph celebrities, artists and street fashion for both American and Japanese media, in 2006 Atsuko was named one of the "100 Most Respected Japanese in the World" by Newsweek Japan. Since then, her already wide clientele has further expanded to include well recognized names, such as international fashion retailer Uniqlo. Her iconic images of hip-hop artists have been also reprinted in photo books and used as T-shirt graphics.

Atsuko's clean but spirited images of people and places have so far appeared in publications worldwide, including The New York Times and design magazine Plus 81. She regularly contributes her work also to stock photography agency Corbis.

In fall 2011, Atsuko moved her base back to Tokyo after two decades in the States. She still frequently travels abroad for work and inspiration.



  • This was the 2nd time to shoot Usher and it was 2004.  Usher is always cool and he’s ready, very professional.  I really like that about him and respect that too.

  • I thought he was kind of tough and hardcore kind of guy, but actually he was very sweet and gentle.  He’s been through a lot that normal people can’t even think of, almost died, but came back and earned his dream as a very successful rapper/actor/businessman.  Where does his strength come from? I’d like to ask one day.

  • I think it’s been more than 10 years since the shoot with her.  She was small, cute and very likable.

  • This photo was taken when I had a shoot with Wu-Tang, but of course as you imagined, it was impossible for all of the them showed up.  It wasn’t bad though..I think everyone except Rza and Gza came to the shoot.  That led to another shoot with Rza and Gza another day, just two of them so I guess I was lucky?

  • I was a big fan of Outkast so the chorus of “Git Up Git Out” Cee Lo was singing still clearly stays in my mind.  I liked Goodie Mob too, but didn’t listen to them much.  Years later he became solo, that’s when I took this picture.  Then he formed Gnarls Barkley and released “Crazy”, I was like Wow…I think that changed his career really big and let the world know he’s really good.

  • One of the hip hop legend, Afrika Bambaataa.  I went to the Bronx to photograph him for G-shock catalog.  Lots of kids came along while we were shooting.  Yep, he’s the king of the street!  They seem very excited to put them on :)



  • Nas, Nas, Nas….He’s one of my favorite rapper.  Actually I’ve photographed quite a lot, maybe 4 times?  He was all in black at this shoot and looked really cool.  He’s always quiet and don’t really move much, but he’s got the aura that kind of make people wanna follow him and I think that’s really cool.

  • Nelly was nice.  The first time I photographed him, he had just released his first album.  He seemed very excited and was very energetic.  This time was the 2nd time and he seemed tired which kind of happened quiet often in the industry, the artist change after they experience a lot of things…At this photo shoot, I was told not to take so many pictures because he is tired, but I kind of did until she gave me a sign to stop..

    Just remembered he used to sing, “I am no.1″.  I like being no.1 too!  I wonder if he’s doing well…

  • I chose this for the 2nd time because Q-tip was the rapper I got the most excited to get to meet and even got an opportunity to photograph!  Actually this one was the second time I photographed him.  The first time was with A Tribe Called Quest in ’96.  I was a huge fan of Q-tip then so I got so excited and was very happy to meet him.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a polaroid of that.  This one was shot much later than that and I was already kind of used to meet and shoot these famous people :)


  • Hello!

    I wanted to do something different here from my other blog and thought about my polaroid collection.  When I used to shoot film, I always needed to shoot polaroid as test shot first to see if it’s ok.  I can’t think about it anymore since I’m so used to digital now, I can see what I shot instantly, but I love the warmness of polaroid. I had always asked the model to sign on the back.  This picture of Mr. Takeshi Kitano was photographed about 14 years ago.  I remember I got so nervous….lol




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