Tokyo-based photographer Haruhiko Kawaguchi’s pictures of lovers tightly wrapped in plastic cocoons are, quite literally, breathtaking.
The series, called Flesh Love, involves putting couples in plastic bags, then vacuuming out the air inside. For a short period, the participants hold their breath while Kawaguchi runs to his camera to take two quick photos.
The resulting images are both bizarre and beautiful. A collection of portraits that see love at its most intimate, with the lovers seemingly merged as one blob of flesh.
“Men and women are attracted to each other and they try to become one,” said Kawaguchi. “With my pictures, I try to show this power of love by getting the couples as close together as possible. The less distance there is between them, the stronger the power of love.”
Amidst the dangers involved, the concept has become a popular theme for nuptial photos. This is Japan we’re talking about, of course.
We recently had the chance to talk to Kawaguchi about his work.
Where’d you get the idea to wrap people up in vacuum-sealed plastic?
“In my early explorations, I used to capture the models in a small room or enclosed space, these images can be seen in the photo books called Pinky & Killer, and Pinky & Killer DX.
“During the photo session, I often prompt the couple to pose as if they’re in a sticker photo booth, an extension of the regular passport type which cause friends to pose in many alternative and fun ways.
“The focal point of the concept was then extended for the publication Couple Jam to include the use of the models bathtub, usually in their own home. I think of the bathroom as being one of the most private and intimate place in anyone’s home, this provoked a shyness in the models, and created a unique excitement and inspiration in the scene.
“In my most recent project, I have applied the use of the vacuum sealed package, used to store futon covers in everyday life, I found that the couple can be sealed in, with the appearance of being freshly wrapped I have called this event Fresh Love.”
How did you prepare for the photoshoot when you did it for the first time?
“I constructed a photography set in my own kitchen. The lights are in the ceiling, so I just flip a switch and have everything ready. I have a few colored paper backgrounds, which I can leave rolled up in the corner.
“After the couple gets 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.
“For safety measures, I prepare some solutions – such as oxygen spray and coolant gel – as well as have a paramedic in case of emergency.”
How nervous were you back then?
“I was very nervous.”
Also, did people volunteer for this or were they models? If they were models, how hesitant were they at first?
“Every model is a volunteer, except for photoshoots for magazines and commercials.”
We read that the concept is becoming popular as nuptial photos. Are you surprised at all that people are embracing this style?
What are you working on next?
“Now, I am preparing for exhibitions in China, Germany, and the US.”