Photo by Jaime Ibarra
Sonic Highlark follows his passion and lives life freely so that he can empower others to do the same. New York City is his home and that passion is photography, with a focus on portrait and lifestyle but really anything involving people. Whether it be for clients or himself, Sonic gives care to each image so that it best represents the project and tells a compelling story. As Co-Founder and Editor-In-Chief of online magazine Highlark, Sonic also shoots live music events and interviews artists utilizing both his photography and videography skills. He is extremely comfortable in both studio settings and on location, bringing his unique perspective as a Japanese-American growing up in the diverse culture of NYC to every shoot. Some of his commercial clients include Swisher International and New York Comic Con.
As a guitarist for Happy Anarchy, Sonic Highlark was in pursuit of his love for music. That led him to start Highlark Records with his best friend Mitch in order to support the band. The project was going well, but with increased tour commitments and “life” in general, major pieces broke off which the band could never replace. Fast forward to late 2014, he picked up a DSLR camera his wife had given him for Christmas the year before and took some classes to learn this piece of machine that was collecting dust. He made it a point to go shoot something once a week until it became routine. He then decided to give Highlark another set of wings as a photo/art blog. He knew that his photos weren’t great, but he figured that by the time anyone will be looking at his work, he should be better…. probably. A typical introvert, he didn’t want to do portraits thinking it would be “annoying” and possibly even awkward. One day, for whatever reason he said “Fuck it.” and learned how to use strobes and decided to try and photograph humans.
It was out of his comfort zone, but surprisingly it came natural to him. He even enjoyed it, and began reaching out to whoever he knew and offered free shoots in order to build up his portfolio and just practice. This led to him shooting well known DJs Jordy Dazz and Connor Cruise as well as models in the adult industry. Highlark was also growing and with few writers now on board, Sonic and Mitch added a music section to the site. They started reaching out to PR companies to cover shows and they mostly told them yes. It was killing 2 birds with 1 stone for Sonic, being able to see bands and shoot them at the same time; Weezer, Skrillex, Cage The Elephant, Electric Zoo Wild Island and Highly Suspect to name a few.
He never thought to be a journalist, but essentially that was what he was doing. Out of necessity, he started interviewing artists and bands as content for Highlark. After being accepted to cover SXSW 2016, he had almost 15 interviews lined up in 2 days. Hating the transposing/transcribing process, he decided to do these via video. Problem was, there was no one else to conduct the interview. Once again Sonic stepped out of his comfort zone and said “Fuck it.”
Not the smoothest operator in front of camera, but he had a way of vibing with the artists. He had chatted it up with the likes of celebrity tattoo artist Luke Wessman, Brian Viveros, Cipha Sounds and Fat Mike from NOFX. He always did his best to make sure to ask questions the artist(s) haven’t been asked before. They seemed to appreciate it and one thing is true with Sonic, whether it be a shoot or an interview, everyone has fun on set….. except maybe the interview he did with Fat Mike. Ironically it was his first published video interview and possibly poorest in production quality, but it has over 28k views and well…. it’s quite interesting.