A Japanese artist who goes by the name of Photographer Hal seals couples in plastic normally used to store futon covers, then sucks the air out with a vacuum cleaner and snaps their portraits. "I am currently seeking new dimensions in portrait photography by challenging the majestic theme of mankind, defined through love," he writes on his Web site.
Vacuum-sealed: Ichi and Eri
Images from Photographer Hal's series, called "Flesh Love," are on display at the Wall Space Gallery in Santa Barbara, Calif., through January 29. The series is available as a book, and can soon be seen in an iPad app.
Anie and Uesugi
Photographer Hal, who previously worked in advertising, maintains that persistence is key when recruiting "Flesh Love" subjects.
"When I see a couple of interest I will begin to negotiate," he says. "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."
Vacuum-sealed: Mama and Mayachin
Given that Photographer Hal finds most of his models in Tokyo's nightlife haunts, it's not surprising so many of them dress in hipster garb.
Vacuum-sealed: Cathalin and Sugimo
This couple, however, opted to do a plastic pas de deux in more traditional attire.
Vacuum-sealed: Ringo and Inga
The pairs are bundled so tightly it can be hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. Though the subjects don't need to hold their breath for long (just 10 seconds), they'd probably best not be asphyxiation-phobic.
Vacuum-sealed: Suzu and Miki
While the vacuum-sealed couples appear to exist in a world all their own, props are allowed into the packages. Photographer Hal shoots with a Pentax 645D dSLR and touches up in Adobe Photoshop CS3.
Vacuum-sealed: Alice and Kazuya
The portraits in the "Flesh Love" series convey a range of moods. This one of Alice and Kazuya has a rather tender feel.
Vacuum-sealed: Maico and Lime
The models in Photographer Hal's series have included musicians, dancers, strippers, laborers, photographers, and businessmen and women, both employed and unemployed. He has photographed almost 80 couples, gay and straight and of various ages and ethnic backgrounds.
Vacuum-sealed: #035_C and Ryo
As intensely personal as Photographer Hal's portraits are, 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."