Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Beautiful Death: Photos by Izima Kaoru

Izima Kaoru: Landscapes With a Corpse

From the series "Tominaga Ai wears Prada"

In my experience, death is never glamorous.  The reality of our physical ends has too much to do with our earthly origins and functions to be attractive.  I recall reading in Kenneth Anger's Hollywood Babylon, the story of a movie star in the 1940s, whose career had gone south on her.  She desired a glamorous end, and so, dressed all in white lace, in perfect makeup, on a beautiful white bed in a beautifully appointed room, she swallowed a bottle of sleeping pills.  However, instead of turning into Snow White for the newspapers, sickness came before death and she died in the bathroom in a decidedly un-photogenic state.
Cautionary stories aside, death is something that needs to be pondered, meditated upon and accepted.  Perhaps those of us in the West can gain something from the Buddhist concept of death and life as two equally important parts of the same whole.  In our culture we concentrate only on the life and deny the death.  Perhaps by contemplating, since we each must one day die, what our ideal moment and place for death would be - even what we'd like to be wearing, we can gain a perspective that will enrich our experience and deal honestly and creatively with what is certain to come to us all.
To this end, I am happy to share selections from the series 'Landscapes with a Corpse" by photographer Izima Kaoru.  This work has challenged me to examine my ideas about death, the effects and significance of death on the world around us, and the significance of my own death and it's consequences.  The text and photos are  taken from the Andreas Binder Gallery, which represents Mr. Kaoru       
From the series "Kuroki Meisa wears Gucci"

Izima Kaoru encourages his female models to develop their own ideas about their transience and their death and translates these ideas into photographs. This eventually led to a series that was totally focused on the requests of his models and the scenario of death. Based on classic depictions of landscapes and interiors, each of his highly aesthetic photographs gradually zooms in on the victim who died in perfect beauty, even down to a detailed close-up of her face.. 
From the series "Erin O´Connor wears Vivienne Westwood"

Apart from the victim, all his scenarios are completely without humans, whether they are secluded streets, landscapes or rooms. They are devoid of any form of life, and nothing else exists. The viewer first experiences this state of desertion through a photograph taken from a distance. We are under the impression that the dead woman is looking at her own body, which is no more than a shell. Death is celebrated by Izima Kaoru in style, as a special event. In doing so he refers to three classic genres: Japanese landscape photographs with the traditional aesthetic element of transience, scene-of-crime photos with their documentary quality - an influence that cannot be denied in Kaoru's scenes - and fashion photography "with its demonstratively erotic and situational artificiality"
From the series "Koike Eiko wears Gianni Versace"

Izima Kaoru himself puts it like this: "Death is inevitable for everyone. Even the fear of death can hardly be avoided by anyone. Nevertheless, it is possible to come to terms with death or with the idea of dying, to work through it in a lengthy process and ultimately to accept it."
In Buddhism the practice of meditating on death is seen as a means of detaching oneself from the diversions of life. Izima Kaoru’s models hardly present themselves as renouncing life, yet Izima does ask us to consider that feigning death will help them towards accepting it. Whether this is correct or not, it is certainly true that death is seen differently in traditional Japanese culture than in the West.
To understand the context of these photographic series, we need to grasp the artist's method of depiction: he certainly does not see himself as a reporter or photographer who wishes to illustrate reports on unusual deaths or human relationship dramas through the presentation of shocking imagery. Rather, he wants to stage death in the context of enticement and temptation and to do so with attention to the most minute detail. He has well and truly mastered the art of depiction. Obviously, his scenes of death in these “Landscapes with a Corpse” are imaginary. Yet they refer to a long tradition of romantic themes, tragic ends and "beautiful deaths".
 for more of the photos and the text, visit

1 comment:

Sister Shirley said...

I've always been fascinated by our culture's need to intersect beauty with death. It almost seems like there's an impulse to stop beauty from the decays of age by "freezing" in death, which we know isn't possible.

This reminds me of the L'Inconnue de la Seine death mask, a staging of death as a transcendent state of bliss.

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