IZIMA KAORU イジマ カオル （伊島 薫) (1954- ) Kyoto. (Prefers to spell his family name "Izima" instead of "Ijima.")
Tokyo-based photographer and TV commercial director. Formerly the chief editor of zyappu, a progressive fashion magazine which folded in 1999 because publisher Korinsha went bankrupt.
Major themes Actresses posed as a corpse.
Education Tokyo College of Photography. After graduating, spent 1 year in the US.
Career After returning to Japan from the US, started off as a photographer. Took about 5 years before his career took off. Worked as a fashion photographer, video clip producion, and TV commerical director. Started zyappu magazine in 1994.
One regular feature of zyappu magazine was a short pictorial called "Serial Murders of Actresses." It featured photos of an imaginary murder of a famous Japanese actress who lies dead in a river, road, or elsewhere while wearing brand-name clothing which is cited in the text. He tried to show that even corpses can be beautiful.
He has continued this photo series even after the magazine folded. Sample photos here.
Twenty installments of this series were put into the book, sitai no aru 20 no hukei (A Corpse in 20 Scenes) published in 1999. In the years following, he published more books with this theme. (See Book review links below.)
Exhibitions In early 2001, exhibited corpse series in Germany and New York. In Nov. 2001, exhibited at PhotoGuide Japan's Kyoto International Photo Showcase 2001 group show. In spring 2002, exhibited at fa projects in London, UK.
Book reviews below.
A Corpse in 20 Scenes - sitai no aru 20 no fukei (死体のある20の風景)
Twenty famous Japanese actresses (including two actors) pose as a dead body dressed in brand-name clothing in various settings.
Published: Feb. 2, 1999
Price in Japan: ¥3,990
Qualities: Soft cover, color photos
Size: A4 landscape, 102 pp. Language: Japanese, English, and romaji
I can't review this book without first mentioning zyappu magazine (reviewed below) established in 1994 as the brainchild of editor-in-chief IZIMA KAORU (this book's photographer). You could see the review, but to save you the trouble, just read on.
IZIMA's zyappu magazine is an unconventional, quarterly fashion magazine published by Korinsha in Kyoto. It is unconventional because the fashion photos are not the usual catalog-type photos you see in mainstream fashion magazines. The photos are aesthetically beautiful while the model shows off the fashion items. The model is posed in unconventional, striking, or animated ways. She may be screaming in hysteria, or she may be fat and beautiful. Looking at the photos in zyappu is never boring. Not only that, the entire magazine is written in romanized Japanese. Sometimes there is English or Japanese inserted, but everything else is romaji. The magazine is very original and creative.
One regular feature of the magazine is the "Serial Murders of Actresses" (Zyoyu Satuzin Ziken) series. Each installment shows a few photos of a famous actress posed as a murdered corpse in various settings such as a river, beach, or park. A different actress (actors also) is featured each time. The murder victim is always wearing or using famous-brand fashion items. It could be a Chanel suit, a Gucci dress, a Christian Dior dress, or some accessory. The photos are accompanied by a news article describing the scene of the imaginary murder and the victim.
At first glance (and after concluding that these photos are not for real), you may be repulsed by the concept and think what kind of twisted mind would do this? Who would ever think of using a "corpse" as a fashion model? Only IZIMA KAORU. He does not have a twisted mind. On the contrary, IZIMA is a very sane and nice person. During a recent meeting with him at his zyappu office (which served as one of the murder scenes) in Meguro, Tokyo, he explained it to me: "There can be beauty even in things not usually considered beautiful." Can a corpse serve as a model for fashion photos? "Why not?" says IZIMA. Corpses are grotesque, but he says "They are beautiful." Corpses are gross, but he says "They are sexy." And he concludes, "Murder scenes are erotic."
I started to see a parallel to the name of his magazine, "zyappu." (It was first spelled "jap.") He wanted to take something negative ("jap" being a derogatory term for Japanese and Japanese-Americans) and make it something positive. I must now admit that if I hear the word "Jap" somewhere, I will also think about IZIMA's delightful magazine. Thus, my mind may no longer associate the word entirely with only negative things.
When people look at things and ask "Why?" IZIMA will ask "Why not?" This is what makes him so interesting and innovative. He's not doing it just to be different. And he's not a radical out to revolutionize the world either. Rather, he has a desire to make people aware of other perspectives, views, and possibilities. Especially the possibilities concerning beauty. He uses his very good eye for photography and sense of aesthetic beauty to show us what he means.
The book starts with some commentaries by critics. An English translation is provided and it's okay, but it needs some polishing and proper editing. I know translating art critic comments is always difficult. Art critics always try to sound too intelligent or scholarly or philosophical. It can be very difficult to understand what they mean since everything is so abstract. After the commentaries, there is IZIMA's short essay on why he created this series of photos and his thoughts on death.
This book compiles five years worth of installments of zyappu magazine's "Serial Murders of Actresses" series. Since the magazine is a quarterly, five years produce 20 installments. The current Spring 1999 issue celebrates the magazine's 5th anniversary. (See the image of the magazine's current issue.)
The photographs start with KOIZUMI Kyoko dumped in a trunk in a lush green forest, the same one you see on the book's cover. You first see a faraway shot of the murder scene so you can see the immediate surroundings. Then the camera gets closer to the victim, and you can see how her face has been made up to look "dead." This is the usual progression of the photos. It starts from a wide view, then it gets closer. The photos make you feel like you're approaching the scene yourself and walking around the victim to examine the body. The victims always look beautiful and the eyes are always open, but never looking into the camera lens. There are three or four shots of each of the 20 murder victims. You could think of them as movie stills. The composition and quality of the photos are topnotch. The photos have a lot of color, but the color tones are sometimes slightly subdued, conveying a slightly cold feeling.
The murder scenes are almost evenly divided between indoors and outdoors. The outdoor shots have more impact especially when you think about how he posed and photographed the corpse at that place. And how the actress had to endure various elements like snow (on a steep slope of Mt. Fuji), a cold waterfall, a dirty and smelly river, and cars and trucks speeding by on a busy highway. It's quite mind-boggling. In really public places (like the Shinjuku Park Tower building's steps), the photo shoot had to be done very early in the morning when there was hardly any people (and gawkers).
The series have a common thread and pattern but there is also great variety in the subjects, settings, fashion, make-up, and murder situations. (For a complete list, see the "Wardrobe" and "Location/Setting" at the end of this review.) There is even a touch of humor. For example, actor NAGASE Masatoshi (husband of Koizumi Kyoko, the first "victim") is dressed as a drag queen while lying dead (with newspaper stuffed in his mouth) in a small, local playground. Another one is YAMAGUCHI Tomoko lying face up in a large pile of yellow M&M's chocolate candy bags on the back of a dump truck. She's wearing a black dress which contrasts well with the familiar, yellow M&M's candy packets surrounding her body. Then there is MOTOKI Masahiro found in IZIMA's zyappu office sitting on a chair next to the window. He committed suicide by putting a magnifying glass over his eye (now burnt and bloodied) to burn through his brain.
The "most grisly" murder belongs to AKIKAWA Risa whose body has been shoved right through the back of a sofa while a pair of scissors is stabbed in her breast, with bright-red blood all over her chest area. And the "most beautiful" corpse must be HOSOKAWA Fumie whose nude body is lying face down on her bed. Only a bed sheet covers her behind, and there is no blood. Her face (eyes open) is beautifully made up as you can see with a close-up shot.
The "Most Unbelievable" Award goes to TOMITA Yasuko who is floating face down in the dirty and smelly Meguro River. If you look at the photos, you would assume that they were digitally altered. (All the photos in the book look kind of fake because of the color tones, etc.) Certainly, IZIMA and her manager did not make her dip herself into that god awful river water. But the photos are for real (except for her death of course), and none in the book were digitally composited. She really was in the Meguro River and her face really was partially submerged during the photo shoot. I was shocked and astonished while IZIMA-san explained to me how he did it.
Before the shoot, he showed her photos of various possible locations where he thought would be a good place for the photo shoot. It was she who chose the dirty Meguro River. IZIMA was taken by surprise since he didn't expect it, but was delighted. The original plan was to have her lie in the river mud (even that sounds really yucky) while the river water level was very low, exposing the river bottom. However, while they were setting up, the water level rose, and by the time IZIMA was ready to shoot, the muddy river bottom became covered by shallow water. However, Yasuko remained on site and lay in the shallow water for a good 10 minutes with her face (eyes open) partially submerged in the water while IZIMA scurried near and far to photograph the scene. The resulting photos came out much more dramatic, impactful, and mind-boggling than they would have been with just a muddy river bottom. And this installment remains my favorite in the book (it originally appeared in the Winter 1997 issue of zyappu). IZIMA had much praise for Ms. Tomita. And me too. I'm now a bigger fan of hers.
Another behind-the-scenes story concerned the shots of SATO Aiko for the last installment in the book (and the installment in the current Spring 1999 issue of zyappu). She's in a Mercedes sports coupe slumped in the driver's seat with the windshield cracked by a bullet hole. I remarked to IZIMA-san that it must have been expensive to replace the windshield after the shoot. But he said that it was a fake bullet hole that was drawn on the glass by an artist. You can't tell the difference when you look at it from a distance. So it looks real in the photos. Clever.
Each installment has captions mentioning the victim's name, date, location, and the fashion pieces worn. However, IZIMA does not collect any advertising fees from these fashion houses. So essentially they are getting free advertising. Sometimes though, they will lend their fashion pieces for the shoot. However, when borrowing such items, they have to be returned in their original condition (no fake blood stains, etc.) so IZIMA is forced to buy some of the items worn by the corpses so he can sully them with fake blood or dirty river water.
An interesting development is that IZIMA now has a two-year waiting list of actresses wanting to appear in this "Serial Murders of Actresses" series. Since the magazine comes out only four times a year, he's got at least eight famous actresses in the pipeline. I think he can now say "I told you it was a good idea!" to all the fashion magazine editors who rejected his corpse fashion model idea before he started zyappu magazine. It is safe to conclude that he is succeeding in turning something negative into something positive, and something ugly into something beautiful. I have to congratulate him.
This photo book is so unconventional and so unique that I would rate it as one of the best and most memorable for the second half of this decade. My only complaint is that it does not include the original story that appeared with the photos in the magazine. The murder's circumstances, which often contain some humor, is not explained for each of the 20 murder scenes. It's possible though, to check out back issues (a few are sold out) of the magazine at certain bookstores. After seeing this book, you'll definitely want to check out future issues of the magazine and see who's the next "victim." (Reviewed by Philbert Ono on March 29, 1999)
- Note: zyappu magazine was discontinued in 1999 when publisher Korinsha went bankrupt.)
- Many thanks to IZIMA KAORU for inviting me over to his office to hear all these stories (not to mention complimentary copies of his photo books). It was a pleasure meeting him. He also welcomes comments about the book.
- Actresses/actors in the book (in the order of appearance): Koizumi Kyoko, Akikawa Risa, Sakai Maki, Takahashi Keiko, Nagase Masatoshi, Hosokawa Fumie, Yamaguchi Tomoko, Hirota Leona, Fukikoshi Mitsuru, Shinohara Ryoko, Shingyoji Kimie, Motoki Masahiro, Matsuyuki Yasuko, Katase Rino, Michele Reis, Tomita Yasuko, Kirishima Karen, Inamori Izumi, Suzuki Honami, Tsuruta Mayu, and Sato Aiko.
- Wardrobe: Koizumi Kyoko in Sybilla one-piece dress, Akikawa Risa in Chanel suit, Sakai Maki in Barneys New York pajamas, Takahashi Keiko in Yoji Yamamoto dress, Nagase Masatoshi in Comme des Garcons one-piece dress, Hosokawa Fumie with Tiffany items, Yamaguchi Tomoko in Christian Dior dress, Hirota Leona in Katsura Yumi wedding dress (with Fukikoshi Mitsuru), Shinohara Ryoko in Vivienne Westwood, Shingyoji Kimie in Hermes, Motoki Masahiro in Brooks Brothers suit, Matsuyuki Yasuko in Gucci dress, Katase Rino in Sybilla dress, Michele Reis in Givenchy dress, Tomita Yasuko in Prada one-piece dress, Kirishima Karen in Calvin Klein dress, Inamori Izumi in Tocca one-piece dress, Suzuki Honami in Valentino suit, Tsuruta Mayu in Dries Van Noten, and Sato Aiko in A.P.C. shirt.
- Location/Setting: Koizumi Kyoko in a forest in Aokigahara-jukai, Akikawa Risa in Restaurant Bar Cento Cose, Sakai Maki at Tama River in Atsugi Narasawa, Takahashi Keiko on Mt. Fuji (5th station), Nagase Masatoshi in a park in Meguro, Hosokawa Fumie in her bedroom in Minami Aoyama, Yamaguchi Tomoko on the back of a dump truck in Meguro, Hirota Leona on Kujukurihama Beach in Chiba Pref. (with Fukikoshi Mitsuru), Shinohara Ryoko in the men's room at the Ashigara Service Area on the Tomei Expressway, Shingyoji Kimie on the steps of the Shinjuku Park Tower, Motoki Masahiro in IZIMA Kaoru's zyappu office in Meguro, Matsuyuki Yasuko on the set of her promotion video, Katase Rino on the Rainbow Bridge, Michele Reis in a restaurant in Hong Kong, Tomita Yasuko floating in the Meguro River, Kirishima Karen in the yard of her home in Moto Azabu, Inamori Izumi in her kitchen in Setagaya Ward, Suzuki Honami in painter Yokoo Tadanori's studio, Tsuruta Mayu in a storage room in Shinagawa Ward, and Sato Aiko on the shore of Lake Motosu (Fuji Five Lakes)
Landscapes with a Corpse 1999-2000
Sequel to A Corpse in 20 Scenes (see review above). Seven pictorials of Japanese actresses (OTSUKA Nene, NAGASAKU Hiromi, KOJIMA Hijiri, six teenage girls, YUKI Nae, SAEKI Hinako, and MATSUDA Jun) posing as a dead body dressed in brand-name clothing in various settings.
Publisher: Edition Lintel & Nusser, Munich (Germany)
Price in Japan: ¥5,000
Qualities: Soft cover, color photos
Size: B5 oversize, 85 pp. Language: English and German
Before reading this review, be sure to read the review for A Corpse in 20 Scenes above if you haven't already. The concept behind this book is very similar.
This book was published in Germany as an exhibition catalog for IZIMA's photo exhibition held in early 2001 in Germany (Büro für Fotos in Cologne and Galarie Andreas Binder in Munich) and New York (Von Lintel & Nusser).
It is not widely available even in Japan (one Tokyo bookstore was selling it for 5,000 yen). Through a special sales arrangement with the photographer, we can sell this book at a special price. Moreover, he has given us autographed (with an ink brush in Japanese) copies to sell. So order now! (Of course, you can read the following review first.)
Unfortunately, publishing house Korinsha in Kyoto went bankrupt in 1999. It had published many photo books and one of them was A Corpse in 20 Scenes which came out in early 1999. It also published zyappu magazine which then had to be discontinued. It was a double whammy for IZIMA Kaoru, the photographer of A Corpse in 20 Scenes and the chief editor of zyappu. Besides not receiving his royalties for the book (though this doesn't bother him), he no longer had a magazine to publish his "Serial Murders of Actresses" pictorials. The book also soon went out of print and there was no chance of a second printing.
However, that didn't deter him from continuing his corpse series. From 1999 to 2000, he was able to persuade at least seven Japanese models (mostly Japanese actresses) to pose as a dead body dressed in brand-name clothing and accessories. They were OTSUKA Nene, NAGASAKU Hiromi, KOJIMA Hijiri, six teenage girls, YUKI Nae, SAEKI Hinako, and MATSUDA Jun.
I called on IZIMA at his office in Tokyo in March 2001 and he told me about this new book and his exhibitions in Germany and New York. It was our second meeting, and like our first meeting two years before, he had interesting stories to tell.
The first pictorial in the book shows OTSUKA Nene (wearing a Tuzigahana kimono) in a large Japanese-style minka house. She is lying dead on the tatami mat next to a low table. Since there is no blood, she could have died eating or drinking something that was poisoned (lots of snacks and mikan tangerines on the table). These photos were actually IZIMA's second attempt for this shoot.
The first attempt was held at an earlier date at another minka house. He had everything set up, and Nene was all made up and posed as the corpse. Just when IZIMA was about to click away with his camera, the owner of the house saw the set-up and objected. He was aghast at seeing his house used as the setting for a "corpse" even though everything was fake. The owner thus prohibited the shoot and before IZIMA could even press the shutter button, they all had to leave.
Later, he found a willing minka owner with no qualms about the shoot. That's where the pictures you see in the book were shot. Poor IZIMA-san had to bear the expenses of both the first and second attempts, so Nene's shoot turned out to be an expensive one.
The next pictorial shows NAGASAKU Hiromi slumped against the trunk of a cherry tree in full bloom in a park in Tokyo's Setagaya Ward. She is wearing a dark Louis Vuitton overcoat and her blackened eyes are wide open. Since there's no blood nor any signs of violence, it's hard to imagine how she died. Perhaps she was wandering near a crow's nest full of baby crows and the mother crow swooped down and fatally pecked the nape of her neck. (Crows in Tokyo are known to attack humans who pass by near the nest.)
Next is KOJIMA Hijiri (wearing a black Yohji Yamamoto evening gown) sprawled across two plush, red chairs in a large concert hall (Orchard Hall in Shibuya). The place is empty, and there's some blood oozing from her nose. Whenever you see blood, it always means that someone did something physical to kill her. But it doesn't make any sense to see a beautiful dead woman in a luxurious concert hall completely empty and totally lit. You figure it out.
Although each pictorial shows only three or four shots, the next pictorial shot on Okinawa gives us seven shots. We see the bodies of six teenage girls (wearing X-girl) scattered on a shore on Okinawa. I asked IZIMA what was the possible scenario in this case. He said that maybe they were on a boat which sank in a storm and their bodies washed up ashore. Ah yes, that could be it. A few of the girls are lying face down and others are face up. It was low tide and the setting was perfect. This must have required extra footwork because there were six models instead of one. He got one group shot and one closeup of each girl. Boy, if something like this really happened, it would be a national tragedy.
After tropical Okinawa, we go to snowy Niigata in a small town called Echigo-tsumari. There we see YUKI Nae lying face up in the snow wearing Jil Sander. It's good to see that she has a hood covering the back of her head. But it must have been really cold nevertheless. For this shoot, IZIMA got the locals involved as well. He invited the local residents (even the children) to observe the shoot from behind the camera. Everyone was very supportive. Something like this rarely happens in their town.
Back in Tokyo (Minato Ward) is SAEKI Hinako wearing a Junya Watanabe dress while lying dead in a narrow alley in a residential area. Since she has starred in the hit horror movie Rasen as a dead girl coming back to life, posing for this book suited her very well.
So far, the corpses look pretty tame with little or no blood. But not so for the last corpse who is MATSUDA Jun. The setting is a large field of beautiful sunflowers in full bloom. In the middle of the field is a dark hole with no sunflowers. That's where Jun is lying dead (with eyes wide open) in a Marni dress and blood all over her neck, shoulders, and arms. Perhaps she was on a date with her boyfriend who got angry during an argument and killed her. It was summer, and Jun had to endure crawly bugs on the ground during the shoot.
These sunflowers in Tsunamachi, Niigata bloom for only a week in summer, so IZIMA had his timing perfect for the shoot. Again, he had to secure the cooperation of the local authorities for this shoot. For the overhead shot of the sunflowers, he was elevated by a crane truck (similar to those used by power companies to reach utility poles) on the road at the edge of the field.
The progression of each corpse series is the same as the previous book. First there's a wide view of the whole scene, then it gets closer and closer to the corpse. And the eyes are always open, except for OTSUKA Nene and the girls on Okinawa whose eyes were closed.
Except for the name of the model and what they are wearing, there are no captions explaining the pictures. If you teach a storytelling class, maybe you can use this book to have your students make up a horror or mystery story for each corpse.
Since there are only seven pictorials in this book, it does not surpass the twenty featured in the first book. It's also less dramatic than the first book with less blood and mutilation. But then, the fewer number of corpses in the second book obviously means that there will be less. Each shoot requires a lot of energy and effort, and IZIMA-san can do only a few per year. Although the actresses are not getting paid for this, he still has to pay for travel and other expenses. Rest assured that he will continue this series (perhaps even outside Japan with non-Japanese corpses) and I look forward to seeing more. (Reviewed by Philbert Ono) Reviewed on: 2001.5.10
- P.S. If you are in Kyoto, you can see this book in the library at the Kyoto International Community House (Kyoto-shi Kokusai Koryu Kaikan) where I donated a copy.
IZIMA KAORU 2000-2001
IZIMA's latest addition to his Landscapes with a Corpse series. Six pictorials, including the first-time appearance of European actresses (Helena Noguerra, Aure Atika, and Barbara Rudnik), show the women posed as a dead body dressed in brand-name clothing.
Published: March 2002
Publisher: fa projects
Price in Japan: ¥2,300
Qualities: Soft cover, color photos Size: B5 landscape, 60 pp.
IZIMA KAORU is now starting to include non-Japanese actresses as his "victims." French singer Helena Noguerra, French model Aure Atika, and German actress Barbara Rudnik are included in this book along with Japanese actresses SATO Yasue, OKAMOTO Aya, and FUKASAWA Elisa.
This book was published in London, England as an exhibition catalog for his photo exhibition held March 5 to April 20, 2002 in London's Bear Gardens by fa projects. The Forward is written by Chris Townsend and hardly comprehensible by normal people.
The catalog's first pictorial is "Sato Yasue wears John Galliano." The forest backdrop is similar to KOIZUMI Kyoko's in the original A Corpse in 20 Scenes book. The first shot shows a wide-angle shot of the forest (located in Niigata Pref.), and if you look carefully, you can see a body lying down in the middle. The second shot is a close-up of the entire body clad in a black dress and facing up. There's a flowery design on her chest, and a red streak around her neck and down her chest. It's hard to tell if that's blood or part of the dress. Her eyes are wide open. The third shot shows the body from a lower angle.
Next is "Helena Noguerra wears Vivienne Westwood." It starts with an ivy-covered, exterior wall of a large, upper-class, apartment complex in Paris, France. One window in the middle is completely open, and you can barely see a body lying down on the floor. The second shot shows the interior of the apartment's living room where there's a body lying on the red carpet. The third shot tells us that the body is a young female who is dressed in black lingerie, but still no signs of foul play. The fourth and final shot is a close-up profile of the head and shoulders. She's obviously a beautiful woman, but no blood.
The third victim is "Aure Atika wears Paul & Joe" in four photos. First you see a wide-angle shot of a straight country road with a woman in a white dress lying on the roadside grass next to a field of lavender flowers. There's also a fallen bicycle nearby. The next shot is a closer view of the bicycle and body. It looks like she got hit by a car while riding the bicycle.
The next shot is from behind the lavender flowers where you see blood on her cleavage and white blouse. The last shot, a close-up of the upper half of her body, will make you even more confused. She's clutching a bloody knife, and there seems to be bullet or knife hole in her blouse in the middle of the blood stain. The question is, was it a drive-by shooting or a suicide? If a suicide, why do it in a place like that? This is perhaps the most mysterious pictorial in the book. The location was Provence in southern France.
The next pictorial, "Okamoto Aya wears Eri Matsui," combines joy and sadness. The victim is wearing a white bridal gown. But she's at the bottom of a staircase in a large house (actually Mod's Hair beauty salon in Aoyama, Tokyo), and a large pool of blood has formed next to her head. She apparently fell down the stairs on her way to her wedding. A groom's worst nightmare.
The next corpse, "Fukasawa Elisa wears John Galliano," is in a spectacular location with Mt. Fuji in the background. It's a clear, cloudless day at the Nihon Land amusement park in Susono, Shizuoka Pref. near the foot of Mt. Fuji. The actress is lying in the middle of a movie set all by herself. It looks like a large studio light fell on her. The light has tripod legs with wheels and it looks impossible for it to fall down like that. But therein lies part of the mystery and irony of IZIMA's visual presentations.
The final victim is a German actress in "Barbara Rudnik wears Yohji Yamamoto." She's sprawled face-up on the floor of a glass elevator in Munich's airport terminal building. The bullet hole on her forehead and blood on the glass wall eliminate any doubt about how she died. (She's on the book's cover.) It looks like a gangland assassination.
IZIMA-san tells me that he will do five or six more corpses this year (2002) and hopes to eventually publish all the corpses in a single book. I really look forward to it. (Reviewed by Philbert Ono) Reviewed on: 2002-05-10
IZIMA Kaoru 2002-2004
This is Izima Kaoru's fourth photo book in his ongoing "corpse" series of actresses, models, and singers dressed in high fashion posing as a corpse in a wide variety of places. To get up to speed, you should read the reviews of the previous books published since 1999.
Publisher: Bijutsu Shuppansha
Price in Japan: Y3,150
Qualities: A4, soft cover, color photos Language: Japanese and English
This book's Japanese title translates as "The Scene as Last Seen." It features eleven fashionably "dead" women. These women were murdered. You can see signs of unnatural causes of death such as a bloody bullet hole or an arrow piercing the body. But what shouldn't be a pretty sight, is actually pretty. That's where Izima's artistic genius comes in. Besides the fashion element and wide open eyes, the women themselves are beautiful, and the surrounding environment also plays an major part in the overall aethetics. It can be a very wide-open plain of green grass along the ocean coast or inside a hot-pink pachinko parlor. There are usually four or five shots of each body, and they always include far and closeup shots so you can see the entire scene as well as the beautiful face of the corpse.
The victims appear as follows (family name first for Japanese names). Click on the links to see sample photos provided by the Von Lintel Gallery in New York which exhibited this work in 2004. Note that I still haven't interviewed Izima-san about this book yet, so after I meet him, I will revise this book review.
Itaya Yuka wears Commes des Garcons, 2002 Only two shots of her in a beautiful hydrangea garden in full bloom. No sign of foul play.
Tanja de Jager wears Christian Dior, 2002 The only non-Japanese victim, propped up on a large, lonely tree in a thick mist. She wears a fur coat while a thin stream of blood flows from her mouth.
Natsuki Mari wears Luisa Beccaria, 2003 I burst out laughing when I saw these photos. She's lying dead on a truckload of red tomatoes that have been dumped on the ground. I wonder what they did with the tomatoes afterward.
UA wears Toga, 2003 This is perhaps the most dramatic scenery in the book. She's lying on a wide expanse of green grass near the ocean. An arrow pierces her heart. She's the one on the book cover.
Igawa Haruka wears Dolce Gabbana, 2003 She's lying on a bridge below another bridge for trains. I wonder how Izima took the faraway shot. There's considerable distance between the far and near shots, and she must've been lying there for quite a while. She has a bloody wound above her left breast.
Tomosaka Rie wears Miu Miu, 2003 She is sprawled on the pavement in front of a fork in the road at night, with a vending machine providing most of the lighting.
Tominaga Ai wears Prada, 2003 This is at Kansai International Airport in Osaka. She's in the departure lounge with many yellow chairs. A bright, uplifting scene indeed, except for the sole human body lying on the floor. It's amazing that there are no people around. But then, you don't ever see other people in these pictures.
Hasegawa Kyoko wears Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, 2003 She's lying with the garbage on the street. She wears a red dress and black bra and stockings. She's the fourth victim to wear red.
Koike Eiko wears Gianni Versace, 2004 This is another aesthetically pleasing series. She's inside a large pachinko parlor whose dominate color is pink and red. Her cleavage and legs are well exposed over numerous pachinko balls spilled on the floor. Again, the place is empty.
Kato Ai and Nakashima Mika wear Vivienne Westwood, 2004 This pair of women lie on bed in a room that is completely white. It's hard to discern what the cause of death was. It could be strangulation since there are strings near the bodies. But the closeup shot shows a perfectly normal-looking neck. And the mystery continues...
See more photos from the book at galerieandreasbinder.de.
(Reviewed by Philbert Ono. Special thanks to Izima Kaoru for a copy of the book.)
Sleeping Matsuyuki Yasuko - 眠る 松雪 泰子
Reviewed on: 2004-01-24 Last modified: 2005-04-03
Photos of actress Yasuko Matsuyuki sleeping.
Published: 2003.11.15 Publisher: Asahi Press ISBN: 4255002533 Price in Japan: ¥2,100 Qualities: Soft cover, color photos Size: A5, 240 pp. Language: No text
There he goes again. Izima-san continues to surprise us with unusual and intriguing photo works. By now, you must have heard about his Landscapes with a Corpse series where actresses pose as murdered corpses.
Now add sleeping actresses to his unusual photo repertoire. Of course, there's nothing unusual about seeing candid photos of actresses asleep. But what's unusual is seeing an entire photo book of an actress sleeping. I've never seen any photographer do that before.
The book has nothing but photos of actress Yasuko Matsuyuki sleeping under a table in her living room. She lies on a few blankets on the carpeted floor and clings to a blanket while wearing a skimpy white dress that well exposes her legs. Izima shoots her from all angles as well as closeups of her eyelashes, legs, hand, etc. It's daytime light and Izima does not use flash.
For this shoot, she stayed up all night and then went to sleep at around 8:30 a.m. when Izima came to her house to start shooting. Izima is there clicking away during the entire several hours when she slept. He obviously did it very quietly so as to not disturb her sleeping. The final photos of the book show her waking up and smiling.
I asked Izima-san why he decided to photograph sleeping actresses. He says that he likes the human condition when the person is totally defenseless and inactive. Although the faces of sleeping people are actually different, they start to look the same. And there are obvious similarities with his corpse series, but the sleep series is not grisly.
He was surprised to find that more women than men thought the book was interesting. And people either liked or didn't like the book. No in-between opinions.
Izima has already shot a few other actresses sleeping, so if he can find more publishers, expect to see more books of his sleeping actresses. (Reviewed by Philbert Ono)
Colored Beauty Kaoru Ijima x Masako Takano - New Beauty 2
Reviewed on: 2002-07-22 Last modified: 2005-04-03
Portraits of people whose skin is colored, literally. Part of Izima's idea of what human beauty can or could be outside the conventional realm. He even playfully wonders how fashion clothing would match all these different skin colors.
もし人類の標準的の白、黒と黄色の肌色がより多くあったらどう見られるのか。似合うファッションと服装も変わるだろうと想定しながら撮影したポートレート集。写真家の「新美人」論である。やはり人間は、どんな肌色であっても美しくなれる。この本がその証拠です。 この本はもう書店で売られていないが、PhotoGuide Japanで販売しております。注文方法はここ。（国内の値段は郵送料込みで3,000円です。）
Published: 1995-12-06 Publisher: Korinsha Press (out of business) ISBN: 4771302057 Price in Japan: ¥2,400 Qualities: Soft cover, color photos Size: A5, 96 pp. Language: Japanese, model names in English
Izima-san has been pursuing the meaning of human beauty in the unconventional sense since the 1990s. His corpse series featuring Japanese actresses posed as a corpse in fashionable clothing aimed to show that even a corpse can be beautiful.
With Colored Beauty, he shows that people can be beautiful even in different candy colors. Imagine if the human race was composed of people having 20 or 30 different skin colors. Would racial prejudice be worse or better than now and how would it affect the fashion industry trying to make clothes for all these different skins? It really is an intriguing thought.
And what if the Japanese race were composed of green, blue, and red-skinned people? Well, that's what you see in this book. The people do look beautiful, but it's less due to the skin color and more to the way they are posed and photographed. It proves to me that human beauty is not dependent on skin color.
The fashion items the models wear also complement their skin color and vice versa. One model named Makiko is nude and red-skinned from the waist up. From the waist down, she wears a pair of blue jeans. Karen Kirishima is also red-skinned wearing a blue blouse and blue-jean shorts. Adding to the color complements is the plain, solid-color background paper in the photo studio.
Almost all the photographs were taken in the studio with perfect studio lighting. But there is one model with green skin who was photographed in the street among ordinary people. She is also ordering something at a fast food restaurant with the girl taking the order looking oblivious. A touch of humor in the book.
It should be mentioned that the skin colors are not just everyday colors. They are pretty exotic with names such as mahogany, strawberry, nutmeg, lilac, rose pink, cherry (the girl on the book's cover), and lemon (the model above). The color was applied by make-up artist TAKANO Masako who also writes about why she chose a particular skin color for each model.
Some of the photos also appeared on the cover of "zyappu (jap)" magazine that Izima started. He also held a "Colored Beauty" photo exhibition in Shinjuku in 1996 which I happened to see. The photos were printed on huge billboards. They were really eye-catching and impressive.
Since the publisher of this book has gone bankrupt, bookstores do not sell this book. However, Izima-san has made his extra copies of this book available for sale by PhotoGuide Japan. (Reviewed by Philbert Ono)
New Beauty I - Kaoru Ijima x Karen Kirishima 新美人論 I - 伊島薫 x 桐島かれん
Reviewed on: 2002-07-22 Last modified: 2004-09-02
B/W portraits of actress Karen Kirishima wearing a stocking over her head.
ストッキングを頭にかぶせても美しいと主張する写真家のイジマさんの1993年の写真集。モデルは桐島かれん。 この本はもう書店で売られていないが、PhotoGuide Japanで販売しております。注文方法はここ。（国内の値段は郵送料込みで2,500円です。）
Published: 1993-01-22 Publisher: Pipeline ISBN: 4771301298 Price in Japan: ¥1,980 Qualities: Soft cover, B/W photos Size: B6, 230 pp. Language: Japanese and English
Wearing a stocking over the head is another unconventional possibility of looking beautiful, according to IZIMA KAORU.
New Beauty IThis book is a collection of B/W studio portraits of model and actress Karen Kirishima, born to an American father and Japanese mother. The photos were originally shot for a fashion magazine called MR High Fashion. Although Izima could only publish a few of the photos for the magazine, he felt compelled to publish all 450 photos (even the three defective ones) in this book. He was elated by Karen's cooperation in posing in absurd ways. The photos were taken in a single photo shoot in Nov. 1991. Karen later posed for Izima-san a few more times for other projects.
Since you see all the pictures he took, there are slight variations of the same shot or pose. She wears a variety of different stockings on her head, and the stocking usually distorts her face, sometimes to an extreme degree. Some shots might remind you of a bank robber wearing a stocking as a disguise.
The book gives almost no explanation of Izima's ideas behind the photographs. But you can surmise that he thinks that this is or can be human beauty, distorted face and all. It's hard for me to say that a woman would look beautiful with a stocking over her face. It reminds me too much of that bank robber in the movies. But the way Izima-san did it, you could call it art. Sculpture is probably more accurate. He used stockings and a human face to create a living sculpture that he photographed.
Since the publisher of this book has gone bankrupt, bookstores do not sell this book. However, Izima-san has made his extra copies of this book available for sale by PhotoGuide Japan. (Reviewed by Philbert Ono)
Stunning pictorials featuring high fashion items, interview, art work, essays, and "Serial Murders of Actresses." Kaoru IZIMA is the chief editor. Ceased publication in 1999.
Published: Quarterly (ceased)
Publisher: Korinsha Press & Co.
Price in Japan: ¥1,200 Size: A4, 127 pp. Language: Romanized Japanese
The magazine's Editor-in-Chief, IZIMA Kaoru, is a well-established fashion photographer and TV commercial director. He is also out to change things in Japan's fashion scene. Just look at this magazine. You'll see something that you'll never see in any other magazine. The entire magazine is written in romanized Japanese or romaji.. It makes it mighty difficult to read the text for most Japanese. When the magazine first started, the text was in normal Japanese. But he later started incorporating more and more romanized text until the entire magazine's text (except advertisements) used romaji. Izima says that change is necessary for Japan to be a cultural leader and that Japan must find "threads to bind us together, and roman letters can be one of these threads."
Note the name of the magazine. He uses a derogatory term for Japanese and Japanese-Americans. First it was spelled "jap," and now it's "zyappu." The pronunciation remains the same in Japanese. The reasoning for this is that he wants to take something negative and turn it into something positive. He very well may have succeeded. After all, when I pick up the magazine these days, the name no longer reminds me of the derogatory term anymore.
In any case, we must credit Izima for being original, creative, and progressive. Qualities which most Japanese fashion magazines and editors lack. (They keep copying or imitating Western fashion magazines.) His photos are stunning and original. (Sometimes he uses the alias name "Arizona Goro" in the photo credits.) The magazine's format makes you forget that it's a fashion magazine. It looks more like a portrait photo book. It does not follow the conventional catalog format which most fashion magazines are based on. But as evident by the photo captions citing the brand and price of each piece of clothing worn by the model, it definitely is a fashion magazine, albeit a very unconventional one
One regular feature is the "Zyoyu Satuzin Ziken" (Serial Murders of Actresses) series. This series feature surrealistic photos of an imaginary murder of a famous Japanese actress who lies dead in a river, road, or elsewhere while wearing brand-name clothing which is cited in the text. Some digital retouching must have been used for these photos. I'm sure they didn't have Tomita Yasuko float in the dirty Meguro River! (Footnote: Kaoru Izima has told me that she indeed was floating in the river for this shoot. No digital retouching was done on any of the photos in this series.)*
The magazine also contains interviews, columns, and classified ads. I wonder who actually reads the text. Perhaps only the headlines, but surely no one reads the entire romanized text! (Reviewed by Philbert Ono) Reviewed on: July 26, 1999
- In early 1999, a photo book titled "Sitai no aru 20 no hûkei" showing 20 installments of this "Serial Murders of Actresses" series was published.