For the past ten years, Ayami Nishimura has shaped the pages of the world’s most famous fashion magazines and the looks of the prettiest models with her paint brushes. Meanwhile, Rankin was one of the most prolific photographers of his generation, shooting the likes of Madonna, Adele, Marc Jacobs and LindsAy Lohan.
But deep down, both of them confess to beING mostly “fascinated by faces.” After having collaborated on different projects including Dazed and Confused covers, Rankin and Ayami decided to fuse their talents once more, but this time into a book. The story of this unique moment of artistic symbiosis is available worldwide alongside exhibitions at THE Annroy Gallery in London, The Rankin Gallery in LA, and Diesel Gallery in Japan.
Pushing the limits of makeup art and photography, the book presents a series of close up beauty shots using as little special effects as possible. Ayami Nishimura completely redesigned her models' faces as if they were a sculpture or a landscape. For inspiration, she plunged into her childhood memories of Japan, the sceneries and special sense of femininity. Plastik* met with the artists to find out more.
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Tell us about the creative process involved in producing this book. What was the first vision you had in mind, and did your ideas stem from Ayami’s work?
As a portrait photographer, I am fascinated by faces - and an amazing makeup artist works with faces to bring out something different again. I wanted to publish a series of beauty books with the amazing makeup artists I work with - the first being Alex Box, and Ayami was an obvious collaborator.
Childhood memories in Japan and nature inspired Ayami’s make-up in this book. What inspired you and how were you able to translate it in your portraiture?
I am inspired by people - I always try to find a connection or to see something else in my subject that I try to bring out in the image.
We often hear about the model/ photographer or stylist/ photographer interplay, but we rarely hear about the chemistry between a make-up artist and a photographer. How important isthis dynamic in this particular collaboration?
The dynamic between a makeup artist and a photographer is always important - obviously more so in such a close collaboration but you always need to understand each other's vision and the direction that you want to take a shoot.
What is it about the human face that captivates you the most and how do you try to preserve it in the post-production stage of a portrait?
I try to retouch images as little as possible as I dislike losing the emotion in a person's face and the character. I am always drawn to people's eyes though - so much so that I recently held an entire exhibition of extreme close ups of the eye - eyescapes. They are so unique and individual yet out of context appear so other-worldly.
You are arguably one of the most prolific photographers and artists of our time. Between publishing magazines, shooting music videos and making documentaries, among many otherventures, where do you find your true vocation and escape? and What are your upcoming projects?
My current large project actually is named after the fact that I am still excited by my job and eager to work more... it is a new biannual magazine of which I am shooting almost every image in it - entitled The Hunger we have just launched issue two and at over 500 pages long it is a huge piece of work.
AYAMI NISHIMURA: MAKEUP ARTIST
You have worked with Rankin on several projects for Dazed & Confused and others. Tell us about the story of your first encounter and how this collaboration came about.
First I did a 4-page beauty shoot for Dazed & Confused, Rankin saw them and he really liked it. He contacted me to suggest a collaboration over a 24-page shoot that he was preparing; that was our first beauty together!
Your Japanese background plays a driving point and inspiration in the book. What fragments of Japanese culture were you keen on expressing and portraying through the images in the book?
I am interested in both traditional Japanese culture and crazy street fashion like one can see in Tokyo. What inspires me are kimonos, Kabuki, temples, traditional Japanese paintings and other ideas that are perhaps more eccentric like street elements, such as Ganguro or Gothic Lolita.
Before you get started, do you perceive the human body in your head as a white canvas or perhaps any other notion? What features of the human body fascinate you the most?
I normally picture the balance of one's body, face structure and features. On the cover of the book you can see an image inspired by an X-ray of a human spine - I see things like that!
After the rapid surge in plastic surgery and Botox, what do you think about the beauty ideal today and how hard is it to convey natural beauty?
I don't fully disagree of plastic surgery, I understand people who want to stay young and when it is well-done, I think it can be helpful. The problem is obviously that some people go too far; they just end up looking like they had surgery - nothing else. No one can avoid ageing, it is very important to keep a healthy lifestyle with a stable mind. The secret is to be beautiful from the inside and out.
If you were asked to create your ideal wonderland of pure fantasy, how would you describe it and who would inhabit it?
Age wouldn't exist anymore and no one would have to face illness. Also there would be no pollution; nature would be intact.