This award-winning series is the latest in Photographer Hal’s long-term project dedicated to exploring love and the connections we share with one another. Vacuum-packing people into their surrounding landscape, these impressively-staged portraits are his most ambitious yet, evoking many emotions from the intimacy of relationships right through to the common claustrophobia we have all felt during the pandemic.

Artist’s Statement

Everyone loves their close relations (family, friends, and partners). But I think that it is important to expand that sentiment more broadly. We should spread that same compassion to those outside our immediate circles, and make connections to those beyond our own larger communities, too. With that belief in mind, I started a project to vacuum pack couples and the landscape surrounding them. We are in the midst of a global pandemic. People are both physically and mentally hungry to connect with others. Although I began this project before the pandemic, I think these works are especially symbolic of the desires of people now.
Photographer Hal

Why the Critics selected this work

In his ongoing Flesh Love series, Photographer Hal, aka Haruhiko Kawaguchi, vacuum-packs people. Literally. Naked couples in a bathtub, fully clothed couples in everyday settings and, now, whole families with their surroundings. The main purpose of Hal’s work is to affirm the importance of love and to explore the intimacy and the desire of a unique and supreme connection with the other. But if looking at his images could already make us feel uncomfortable and claustrophobic before the pandemic, now the lack of air experienced by his subjects for the shot (about 10 or 20 seconds) becomes prophetic. Inevitably, the photographer has to deal with the so-called elusiveness of meaning. If prior to Covid-19, we could think about suffocating forms of love or symbiotic relationships, now we think about the disease shortening our breath, the need for protection from the contagion, the lack of socialization. Sometimes images have an independent life from the intention of their creator. That’s their weakness and, at the same time, their incredible strength.
—Elena Boille, Deputy Editor-in-Chief and Photo Editor, Internazionale

I was drawn to Photographer Hal’s work for the originality of his project, and for the artist’s skill in coherently aligning the idea and its realization based on the times in which we are living.
Enrico Stefanelli, Artistic Director, Photolux Festival

Photographer Hal’s portraits are unconventional and bizarrely beautiful. His work combines the physical with intangible moments in time. As time barrels forward without waiting for anyone or anything, these photos attempt to immortalize memory.
Eslah Attar, Photo Editor, New York Times

Read more in this in-depth essay by Joanna L. Cresswell.