Monday, August 30, 2010


160g LOVES – Izima Kaoru

"Fukasawa Elisa wears John Galliano", "Erin O'Connor wears Vivienne Westwood", "Tominaga Ai wears Prada" … fashion shoots? Not in the typical sense. Japanese photographer Izima Kaoru (born in 1954) shares the language of a fashion editorial in his pictures (they were indeed imagined for Zyappu magazine at first), but these are linked with another thematic: the thematic of the crime scene.

Japanese photographer Izima Kaoru

Unlike crime scenes from popular TV shows such as CSI, NCIS, Cold Case or many others, Kaoru’s images are a high stylization of the motive of death.

High because of the pictorial quality of the landscape and the sets, the quality of the colors and the composition, but also high as in haute… Couture. The aestheticism of death is conveyed through clothes. The clothes are the matches of the crime weapons: they are already the post-mortem shroud."

Read full article @ 160g

Death Becomes Her
Lucy Silberman  
 The first death shot by Kaoru; Koizumi Kyoko wears Sybilla, 1993. Courtesy Von Lintel Gallery and the artist.

"The suitcase is not large, but it fits her curled frame; her possessions (a stuffed rabbit, a clock, what looks like a French horn) provide a nest for the perfectly-coiffed woman who is most certainly dead--or made to look that way. Izima Kaoru has been crafting and capturing the death fantasies of models and actresses in his native Japan for over a decade, photographing his victims from multiple vantage points to tackle a subject that has not always been well-received. And while the cause of death may not always be apparent in his work, Kaoru's fashion photography background (not to mention his penchant for couture) shines through, providing a strange and beautiful contrast to the lifeless forms of his subjects. Izima Kaoru's latest body of work will be on view at New York's Von Lintel Gallery beginning tomorrow.

LUCY SILBERMAN: What's the fascination with death?

IZIMA KAORU: Death is an important moment for every human but we tend to ignore or hide it as if we have no business in it.

LS: You mix this with an interest in fashion.

IK: Fashion photography is a simulation play on everyday lives or life styles, to fulfill the readers' desires for the ideal lives or styles that they want but cannot be courageous enough to lead. I think then, the moment of death can be simulated as a theme of fashion photography, as well.

LS: It already corresponds in the manner of a "fashion victim."

IK: I am at the other end from fashion victims. The reason why I was working with fashion magazines is because fashion photography was, for me, a place to experiment. Where innovative fashion designs are born, innovative fashion photography will be called for and be born as well.
LS: How do you decide which models and actresses to photograph?

IK: Whether she can play a beautiful corpse. Whether she can enjoy [the] project with me."

Read full article @ Interview

THE PICTURE OF DEATH - "Koike Eiko met her stylish end in an empty pachinko parlor. Clad in a low-cut turquoise Versace dress, the buxom Japanese model lay on the floor amid clusters of pachinko balls, her immaculately lined eyes staring vacantly at the ceiling. Did she slip on the balls? Succumb to a sudden heart attack? Izima Kaoru, the man behind her mysterious demise, isn't telling.

Since 1993, the 50-year-old former fashion photographer has been shooting celebrities and models in fantastical death scenes for his controversial series "Landscapes With a Corpse." (Exhibitions of the works, currently on display at F A Projects in London, are planned in New York and Munich for this fall.) The idea came to Kaoru while he was organizing shoots at Japanese fashion magazines, and looking for fresh material. "It occurred to me that death can happen to anybody; it is a part of life and it is always there," he says. "I thought the depiction of a murder or an accident would be a very powerful, provocative setting for a fashion shoot."

In fact, it was so provocative that no magazine in Japan would run the images. Undaunted, Kaoru started his own magazine, Zyappu, and published the photos himself. The art world took notice. Over the next decade he exhibited in galleries in Europe, the United States and Japan; last fall one of his "corpse" photos was the main image used in promoting the prestigious Paris Photo festival, held annually at the Louvre (where Kaoru has sold 23 prints from the series). These days, subjects are so keen to be immortalized in scenes of designer-draped fatality that there is a two-year waiting list to pose for Kaoru.

The photographs themselves are stunning, if unsettling. The florid settings, striking compositions and sensuously dressed damsels evoke John Everett Millais's 1852 painting "Ophelia" and the films of David Lynch, bits of pulp horror mingled with high fashion. In some images the gore is subtle--a demure trickle of blood from the corner of a model's mouth--while in others it is flamboyantly gruesome. Other times there is no trace of violence at all. Each "landscape" is rendered in a sequence of four images that begins with a long shot and ends in a close-up, further suggesting a cinematic influence: the juxtaposition of eroticism and horror is reminiscent of the thrillers and slasher movies prevalent in both Japanese and Western pop culture.

Kaoru downplays the cinematic quality of his images, as well as his role as a provocateur. As the project developed over the years, he came to believe that such "fantasy deaths" are a way of confronting mortality by presenting its lighter, glossier side. "What interests me now is the way in which one looks at one's own death... the perspective of what the scenery would look like to the person who has just died," he says. "Today most people die in the hospital, and this has distanced us from death. I believe that human beings should take death back to the day-to-day experience of life."

Kaoru has found greater acceptance as an artist in the West than in Japan. Although the series has been exhibited widely in galleries in Europe and the United Kingdom, only one solo exhibition has been held in Japan, back in 1999. "There is a deep-rooted suspicion in Japanese culture that makes people nervous about speculating on death," says Nicholas Baker, director of F A Projects. "Japanese people do not really discuss anything on death," concurs Kaoru. "I don't think they have a mind-set to take death positively."

For the beauties in Kaoru's photographs, however, such apprehensions are cast aside when it comes to acting out their Dior-drenched ruins. In fact, the models themselves collaborate with the artist on the setting and manner of their death, as well as the outfit. Koike Eiko, whose parents ran a pachinko parlor when she was a child, could think of no better place to spend her final moments. But what was her cause of death? "It isn't revealed," says Baker. "Izima has been moving away from overt depictions of violence." And moving toward a subtle understanding of one of life's greatest mysteries."


Art in Review; Izima Kaoru 
Published: November 12, 2004

"Go ask a female model how and where she would like her murdered body to be found, then photograph her for dead in the prearranged spot. That's the off-duty pursuit of Izima Kaoru, a Japanese photographer well known for his work in fashion. 

In this show of color images from his continuing ''Landscape With a Corpse'' series, the tableaus range from a body placed in the cleft of an old tree (Tanja de Jager wearing a Christian Dior fur) to one sprawled on the floor of an empty airport lounge (Tominaga Ai in a Prada ensemble). 

The most dramatic is a very large C-print showing Natsuki Mari in an outfit by Luisa Beccaria, lying amid a large tumble of tomatoes in a huge, flat industrial wastescape, neatly piled in the foreground with blue trash-filled sacks. But eyes open, face spattered with red paint to simulate blood, Ms. Mari, truth to tell, could be on a regular shoot. 

The work is in fact not such a stretch from high-end fashion photography, ever alert for manipulable new bodies (preferably living) and outré settings to display designers' often bizarre creations. Mr. Izima is a superb photographer; his shots are dramatically arranged (usually in a sequence, from distance to close-up) and his models, even in pseudo-death, are groomed and gowned to a fare-thee-well. In the self-important world of high chic, his irony refreshes. " 

Link to original review @ NY Times

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