ContemporaryJapanPhotography

Interview with Tokyo’s Photographer HAL

Below you’ll find our extended conversation with Photographer Hal, whose work has been featured in Vice, The Huffington Post, NeoCha, The Telegraph and Juxtapoz! He’s a fascinating man, and you can become one of his photographed subjects on our Japan Photography Tour!  Contact Matt@asiaarttours.com for more information! 

Photographer Hal brings complete strangers to his confined, crucible like spaces only to convey his continuing theme of ‘love of the couple’. The initial title Pinky & Killer used a small space or room to capture the willing couples, soon followed by the title Couple Jam which brought the focus even closer to the subjects who were placed in a bathtub together. “I am currently seeking new dimensions in portrait photography by challenging the majestic theme of mankind, defined through love.”


“I want to capture love as it really is and the bathtub is an ideal vehicle to encapsulate the vivid reality in my images. A grand theme in mankind is Love, and I, Photographer Hal, am challenging the majestic theme!”

“Those in power are continually guilty of segregation and discrimination, can we realize peace under such conditions? You who are standing on the earth, no matter where you are, love the person in front of you. From two people to a group, a town to a community, a city to a country, from border to border, the ring of love shall prevail. I have started to create my ring of love in the city of Tokyo, believing that some day a world peace without segregation and discrimination will come true.”\

Photographer Hal’s latest project is called Flesh Love All, which captures not only the couples but also all the surroundings in vacuum sealed package to create an image where everything in the world becomes one.

Through the medium of photography, the couple has become Photographer Hal’s chosen vehicle to express the principle theme of world love, this will of course require a search to find subjects who are willing to participate. “I go to Kabukicho in Shinjuku, underground bars in Shibuya and many other places which are full of activity like luscious night time bee-hives. When I see a couple of interest I will begin to negotiate. I’m sure that many people initially think of my proposal as unusual or even look through me like I am completely invisible, but I always push forward with my challenge to them. The models appear from all walks of life and individually have included musicians, dancers, strippers, laborers, restaurant and bar managers, photographers, businessmen and women, unsettled and unemployed, et al.

As a couple, I have photographed a wide variety of variables which include being young and old, from the same or opposite sex, of different race, having different styles, girls from the north and men from the south and many others who have been willing to participate. There have been occasions when the situation has become complicated, for example if a couple have disagreements, begin to argue or even fight! There are also the inevitable no-shows and the couples who split up before I can complete the images. On one assignment I had to visit a prison later to obtain permission for the final print. Happily though, for the most part I’ve had many joyful moments with many interesting scenes to capture. There was even a couple who married soon after one event, and it all began in a bathtub!”

Asia Art Tours:  How did you come up with the concept of  FLESH LOVE?  What does it mean to you? 

Photographer Hal: I always inspired by formaly my work. I think that the fun of couple photography is in a couple’s degree of adhesion. If a picture of a couple is taken outside, they will be shy, but if it loves passionately, each other will be embraced strongly. 

The degree of adhesion expresses the depth of love. 

It was interesting when putting in the couple, since the interesting golden bathtub was in the Love Hotel before. Since a bathtub is also at what home, it is a place with sufficient an appreciation person feeling a reality for a photography act. After published photobook Couple Jam, i had seeked the material which can stick a couple in an everyday life article. Then the 

vacuum bag for bedding was found. 

Asia Art Tours:   You photograph couples being very very close together, can you tell us about the process… how do they breath?

Photographer Hal : When you embrace your lover, sometimes you wish to melt right into them. To realize this wish, I’ve been photographing couples in small, or even cramped spaces like motels and bathtubs. As my work has become more and more intense, I’ve noticed that communication is indispensable. This time, I reached the point of photographing couples in vacuum-sealed packs, in a set that I’ve constructed in my own kitchen. The lights are in the ceiling, so I just flip one switch and have everything ready. I have a few different colored paper backgrounds, which I can leave rolled up in the corner.


After the couple get in the vacuum pack, I suck the air out with a vacuum cleaner until there’s none left. This gives me 10 seconds to take the shot. In this extremely limited time I can’t release the shutter more than twice. I’ve been in there myself, and the fear I felt was overwhelming. As the shooting continues over multiple takes, the pressure of the vacuum seal grows stronger. At the same time, the two bodies start to communicate, and whether through unevenness of limbs or the curve of joints they begin to draw a shape of what they want to express. The two lovers draw closer until they finally transform into a single being. Looking at these vacuum-sealed packs

of love, we can imagine a more peaceful world. For me, the vacuum pack is only a means: the important thing is connecting to someone.

4. Do you view love as being similar to your photos? Is it possible to become as intimate as these couples? to become one being? 

Photographer Hal : I am making works to express the strength of their love. I imagine that couple will be in close contact with each other eventually becoming one.

5. Lastly, what are you thinking about at the moment? What ideas are exciting or scaring you? 

Photographer Hal : Now I am thinking of bringing everything closer together. I am looking forward to seeing it soon.

Background

Born, educated and currently residing in Tokyo.

Living through my university days I was starving for encounters with different people from other cultures around the world. As soon as I had the opportunity I left Japan and began my travels with a special focus on the Middle East and India. It was here that I first became aware of my passion for photography. The camera became the key to overcoming shyness and limited local language abilities and I could in some way communicate with the people I met. After graduating from university I joined an advertising production company in Tokyo and this enabled me to acquire a much wider set of photographic skills. The assignments were varied and unique including celebrities and established fashion icons. It was the crucible of my technical ability and the focus in my work soon became the people.

Author Matt Dagher-margosian

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