Artist vacuum-seals couples for portrait series

Japanese photographer bundles couples in plastic, then snaps their picture. The results are captivating and strange--and available for viewing in a book and iPad app.

Junko and Char
This "Flesh Love" portrait of Junko and Char, on display at the Wall Space Gallery, sells for $2,500. (Click to enlarge.) Photographer Hal

If you tend to feel smothered in your romantic relationships, these photos of vacuum-sealed couples might leave you gasping for air.

Yes, you read that right. Vacuum-sealed couples. Because what says love like being shrink-wrapped to your significant other like a couple of old wool sweaters trying to keep the moths away?

First, let us reassure the claustrophobic romantics out there that this isn't a 2012 version of getting pinned. It's "Flesh Love," a Japanese artist's exploration of the intimate ties that bind (very tightly).

"I am currently seeking new dimensions in portrait photography by challenging the majestic theme of mankind, defined through love," the artist known as Photographer Hal writes on his Web site.

New dimensions, indeed.

For his photos--some on display at the Wall Space Gallery in Santa Barbara, Calif., through January 29--he wraps willing couples in plastic normally used to store futon covers, then sucks the air out with a vacuum cleaner. The subjects have to hold their breath, the photographer tells CNET, but just for 10 seconds, enough time for him to shoot a couple of quick pics with his Pentax 645D dSLR.

Sometimes the models are clothed, other times naked, and occasionally they'll bring a prop, like a guitar, into their vacuum pack of love. The results--weird, whimsical, sometimes tender, and often embryonic--appear in a book from Japanese publisher Tosei-sha, and will also be available in a $13 iPad app.

While the photo sessions are necessarily brief, it's probably safe to say that even the most bonded couple might have reservations about being cocooned in plastic wrap. The artist explains how he finds his subjects:

"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."

Somewhat amazingly, this is not the first time we've seen shrink-wrapped people. "Shrink," an installation on display in Germany two years ago, vacuum-packed people between two large plastic sheets, with a transparent tube between the two surfaces regulating the flow of air. For the duration of the performance, the person inside moved slowly and changed positions, varying from an almost fetal position to one resembling a crucified body.

That installation, by Lawrence Malstaff, was part of a larger exhibit that examined the possible long-term effects of climate change and pollution.

Photographer Hal's photos have a much more personal quality, though he also intends to make a political statement:

"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."

Click on the gallery above for more images from the "Flesh Love" series.

(Via Designboom)

About the author

Leslie Katz, Crave's senior editor, heads up a team that covers the most crushworthy (and wackiest) tech, science, and culture around. As a co-host of the now-retired CNET News Daily Podcast, she was sometimes known to channel Terry Gross and still uses her trained "podcast voice" to bully the speech recognition software on automated customer service lines. E-mail Leslie.

 

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