Photographer Hal

Two lovers rub on some lube and hop in the (vacuum) sack.

The internet is abuzz with the latest “wacky trend from Japan”: couples in shrink-wrap, often naked (and sometimes a bit hairy). But this isn’t something Japanese teenagers are just going out and doing with their friends, like the equally widely-reported “eyeball-licking” fad. The images are actually a project called “Flesh Love,” by award-winning Japanese photographic artist Haruhiko Kawaguchi (who goes by the artistic moniker “Photographer Hal”).

The “trend” dates back to 2009, when Kawaguchi first began shooting the series he says makes a profound statement about love and intimacy. His latest series, “Flesh Love Returns,” launched in March.

Most recently, the always-excitable Daily Mail ran a story about the project under the scary headline:

The reality is a little less sensational. Here’s how it works. Two lovers rub on some lube and a coolant gel and crawl into a clear plastic bag, sometimes with earthly possessions that hold meaning for them. They embrace as tightly as they can, then Kawaguchi uses a vacuum to suck out all the air, bringing the two people really quite close indeed. Kawaguchi then snaps the photos.

Photographer Hal

Headlines have focused on how potentially dangerous the procedure is, and that’s why Kawaguchi always has paramedics standing by at the shoot. He also knows to work very quickly. Once the oxygen is sucked out of the bags, he has only a few seconds to capture the images on camera. So to say the couples “risk their lives,” as some outlets report, is a bit of a stretch.

Kawaguchi says:

“In this extremely limited time I can’t release the shutter more than twice. They’re never in danger, though, as I have a rescue body guard on hand at all times.”

Art marketplace ArtFido posted a video that shows the whole process, and it’s all done in a very professional and controlled manner.

Yeah, it looks crazy and weird. Because it’s art. So what’s Kawaguchi’s message? He explained it to the Daily Mail:

“With my pictures, I try to show this power of love by getting the couples as close together as possible. The less distance there is between them, the stronger the power of love.”

A statement about the inclusivity of love. | Photographer Hal

Which is sweet, really, and makes you look at the photos in a new light.

The artist expands on the concept on his website. He explains that he shoots couples from all walks of life, from strippers to businessmen to the unemployed.

“Those in power are continually guilty of segregation and discrimination. Can we realize peace under such conditions?” he asks.

To this end, Kawaguchi seeks to capture the breadth of love by including couples with age differences, same-sex couples and interracial couples.

“I have started to create my ring of love in the city of Tokyo, believing that some day a world peace without segregation and discrimination will come true.”
 — Kawaguchi

As Kawaguchi told the Daily Mail, “I think love is the most important thing in the earth.”

Photographer Hal

We think so, too.