INTERVIEW: HARUHIKO KAWAGUCHI
LOVE IN PLASTIC
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.
Photographer Hal discovered his love for photography as a student while backpacking through the Middle East and India. To him, the camera proved an ideal tool to be able to somehow communicate despite the existing language barriers. Back in Tokyo, he joined an advertisement firm, which allowed him to improve his skills and start working on his life project: to capture and spread the LOVE!
At night, he often roams Tokyo’s clubs, "places which are full of activity like luscious night time bee-hives” in search of couples and lovers. In his first series, Pinky & Killer, he would position them in a confined space and encourage them to imagine themselves taking pictures in a tiny photo booth.
In Couple Jam he portrayed them folded up in a bathtub, while in his latest series, Fresh Love, he photographed dozens of couples vacuum packed in plastic on his kitchen floor. In some images, we see just the couple. Some are nude, though always decent. Others are fully dressed. Again, other images show the couple surrounded by all sorts of attributes, such as guitars, CDs or movies – symbols of what binds them together.
Many of his mostly young models are dressed in a delightful mix of punk rock and manga. Tight yellow leggings, mini-skirts, tattoos and giant pink Mohawks: you name it, Tokyo has it and Hal took it! In a way, his photographs show Tokyo as a future Pompeii. They show what an archeologist could find, say, a 1000 years from now.
We talked to Photographer Hal about, well, love of course. What else?
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