Haruhiko Kawaguchi, better known as Photographer Hal, has traveled the world with his intimate images of young couples happily in love. We see them cramped together in bathtubs or vacuum-packed in plastic. Hal’s work is all about love, yet at the same time, offers a wonderful cross section of Tokyo’s young, vibrant and very colorful club scene.
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What’s the big thing about LOVE?
Men and women are attracted to each other and try to become one. This fundamental desire carries an energy that affects all matter in the world. I wonder why we have to make such an effort to become one. Possibly, we were originally one. Since I believe this, I intend to visualize the power of love by adhering and unifying couples. The smaller the distance between them, the stronger the power. The law of gravity too shows that the pull is stronger when two objects get closer, and glue too is stronger when applied thinner. To be adhered shows their strength. Later, I decided to vacuum-pack couples as a method to show their coherence.
What is the strangest LOVE story you ever heard?
When I once shot a 20-year-old woman and a 60-year-old man, their skin was pulled by the vinyl, so their age showed no difference. There may be an anti-aging effect in vacuum-packed shooting.
Most of your images portray mixed couples, some two girls. Whatever happened to Tokyo’s boys? Are they too shy? Or is that too much of a taboo still?
There are some boys in my work. It is not a taboo. Some of the boys look like girls in my work, a bit like drag queens.
If not LOVE, what subject would you LOVE to work on at some point in the future?
I think anything in the world is based on love. Whatever I photograph must certainly be concerned with love.
What’s the LOVE in your life?
Love is what drives you to live.
You traveled quite a bit in Asia. What did you LOVE the most?
The amazing view of Chomolungma (Mount Everest).
What’s your favorite film about LOVE?
Billy Wilder’s Two for the Road (1967).
What’s your favorite LOVE song?
Come Together by Primal Scream.
What’s your favorite saying about LOVE?
Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies (Aristotle).
If you could have any photographic works, what 3 images (and by whom) would you LOVE to have on your wall?
An image of paper trash by Kazuo Kitai who is a very big name in Japan. It is the most punk picture I’ve ever seen.
INTERVIEWED BY: PETER SPEETJENS