The fact that Photographer Hal goes by Photographer Hal should tell you everything you need to know about the Tokyo-based creative. His photos are just as off-kilter as his moniker. They capture club kids wearing wacky pieces like devil horns, watermelon-patterned spandex, and geisha makeup. Hal's aren’t simply portraits of trendy kids partying; he places his subjects in the most absurd, comical predicaments.
In Flesh Love Returns, he covers his couples in shrink wrap. The suffocating physical closeness of these partners communicates a form of intimacy so powerful and cherished, it needs to be protected from the world. And the bathroom-centric series Couple Jam illustrates the jubilant weirdness of Tokyo’s youth culture.
Couples are photographed squished in bathtubs, their arms and legs twisted and stretched like contortionists. It feels like we’re seeing cool kids post-clubbing: smudged eyeliner, messy wigs, and slumped, hungover bodies. It’s a deeply authentic vision of Tokyo, a clear result of Hal spending his entire life in the capital.
“I think of the bathroom as being one of the most private and intimate place in anyone's home,” Hal explains to me over email. “The bathrooms provoked a shyness in the models, and created a unique excitement and inspiration in the scene.” Hal says his mission is to document real moments of love. “The bathtub is an ideal vehicle to encapsulate this vivid reality.”
Hal first began exploring photography when he traveled across the Middle East and India, after graduating from college: “The camera became the key to overcoming my shyness… I could, in some way, communicate with the people I met.”
Since then, the photographer has been working hard to overcome financial constraints and incorporate the medium into his life. For example, at some point he worked for an advertising production company to expand his photography skills and currently takes on a host of commercial jobs to fund his creative dreams: “It’s not easy to live as a photographer,” he admits.
This mixture of corporate sterility and ebullient creativity in Hal’s life makes him perfect for capturing the magical change that occurs when the sun sets in Tokyo. “Many Japanese people work for companies,” he says. “The personality is suppressed on a weekday wearing a suit. When they go to an underground party, they turn to a more aggressive fashion.”
It's clear that Hal’s artistic obsession with relationships is an attempt to make sure love stays alive in Japanese culture. And Hal recently found a piece of the elusive, breathtaking phenomenon for himself; he just got married. He has his own love tub now and, just like his subjects, takes regular baths with his wife. In Hal’s world, love is bathtubs and bathtubs are love.
This article originally appeared on i-D US.