Interview with Photographer HAL
Name: Photographer HAL
Bathtubs, couples, love and challenge are strong themes throughout this artist’s work with other key elements including individuality, style, communication and intimacy.
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.” Photographer Hal’s latest project is called Fresh Love, which captures the many varied and fresh couples in vacuum sealed package.
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.
“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.”
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!”
“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.”
It is a pleasure to meet you. Your photos are speaking out against segregation and discrimination and promoting peace and understanding for everyone. Why is this message important to you?
Flesh Love expresses how two persons’ bodies connect together to form one body, so I thought of it as an important theme against segregation and discrimination and to help promote peace.
You spent a little time working in the advertising industry. How was your experience there?
I learned photographic technique from advertising work and by collaborating with many kinds of professional people who inspired me.
The places you go to find your subjects, in Shinjuku and the underground bars in Shibuya, have many more people who may be more open minded to your art. Do you find this is true?
In Pinky & Killer and Pinky and Killer DX you used small spaces to force your subjects together. How did you approach them? What did you say to them?
The photographic subject was asked if they could have their photos taken and then pushed in narrow place. The photographic subject was pressed whatever space was around so we might be take the photo.
Were all the subjects couples already or were some strangers?
At first everyone were strangers. Some couples stood up and had their photos taken and then later did not want me to use their photos.
Taking it to the next level of intimacy you photographed couples in their bathtubs. Some are dressed for the photos in different ways. How does this differ than your previous work?
It differs in the form and softness of the body, respectively. It is a collaborative work which transforms them becoming one like a puzzle.
In “Flesh Love” can you tell us the process you go through when sealing your subjects inside? How do they breathe and how long do they have to hold their poses?
They can’t breath at all inside for 10 seconds so I have to photograph them very quickly, usually the shutter time is 2 or 3. As long as they are vacuum-packed they can not move. They are frozen completely.
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.
In your bio you say that you first became interested in photography as a way of overcoming shyness and language. When you approach people to be in your photos, though, you are not shy. Have you overcome your shyness or does the goal of getting subjects for your photos become more important?
No, probably I have not overcome. It seems that I will change if I have a camera although I am usually quiet.
You have two solo upcoming exhibitions for your work in October, 2012. One at the Gallery Tanto Tempo in Kobe, Japan and another at the Blue Sky Gallery in Port land USA. Is this your first solo exhibit in the US of your work?
Yes, as a solo show. I am very excited!
In 2011, you won first place at the “Art of Photography Show” in San Diego, CA. What work was the prize for and what response did you get of your work?
After San Diego, I would often get contacted by journalists, galleries, and collectors from all over the world who had seen the “Art of Photography Show”.
What inspires you to create? How do you think of the concepts for your photos?
I am inspired by everything in my life.
Are there any other photographers or artists whose work you admire?
Stanley Kubrick, Irving Penn, Daido Moriyama, Walt Disney, Gaspar Noé, Ravi Shankar, Andy Warhol, etc.
How is the art scene in Tokyo?
There was a serious disaster in Japan last year. (ed. Earthquake) It was a very shocking occurrence for the Japanese who were used to peace. I think that this thing has also influenced Japanese artist’s expression. Those who get married increased in number after the earthquake disaster.
The existence of man is uneasy and mankind feels they are a very small thing in the world after a natural disaster. Therefore, those who love each other like and understand my work — it proposes making strong connections with each other.
Where can we go to find out more about you and your work?
Solo show “Flesh Love”will be held at Gallery Tanto Tempo in Kobe Japan on October.
Gallery Tanto Tempo: http://tantotempo.jp/newsite/en/index.html
Solo show “Flesh Love”will be held at Blue Sky Gallery in Port land USA on October.
Blue Sky Gallery: http://www.blueskygallery.org/
ipad application Flesh Love
Photo Book Flesh Love