Mayumi Hosokura: Crystal Love Starlight

All images © Mayumi Hosokura 2014.

The thing that stands in my mind so clearly about Mayumi Hosokura’s previous books is the pervading beauty of them, and the pleasure I felt with every turn of the page. Kazan and Transparency is the new mystery are undoubtedly two of the prettiest books I have ever seen. Her latest, Crystal Love Starlight, is once again filled with mesmerising pictures of absent naked bodies sprawled across the floor, a cool blue light resting over them. The bodies twist from page to page, flowers sometimes resting over those most delicate parts. This time, however, these images are offset by something darker. Instead of the quiet moments that spread through her previous work, something much louder enters the fray. Neon signs flash by; a Japanese strip mall, cars flying by on the highway. 

Two stories are at play here. The title alludes to the first. In 1992, a restaurant in the Gunma prefecture, situated about 2 hours away from Tokyo, was shut down after the owners were found to be allowing solicitation to occur within the restaurant. There is an otherworldliness to the photographs of neon signs shot around the area, removed of human trace, only consumerism remaining. 

The act of selling, selling sex, is reinforced by the other story. The young bodies with skin and figures ever so enticing are seemingly synonymous with Hosokura’s work. They appear under moonlight at first, in the backseat of a car, laid across a sofa. The images are impossible to locate exactly, yet the domesticity of them is clear. Then flash, the bodies lay fully exposed in an empty space, bright colour washes of blues and pinks draping them in light. 

Flicking through the book, the two stories crossing through each other, they merge together and create a narrative filled with desire. Hosokura controls the gazes that occur throughout. Photography, particularly that used in advertising, has long been prone to favouring the female gaze over the male, selling their product much like a prostitute solicits sex. Here though, sex of the models is at times hidden, leaving us unaware of who we are looking at, yet the beauty in their form and their skin still invokes desire. Their identity as men or women is negated, we simply engage with their gaze, spiked with enticement. 

Crystal Love Starlight is every bit as strong and exciting as Hosokura’s previous works, and her interlacing of history into elevates her work to a new level. The consideration of how to construct a narrative around the criminal case in such a delicate and thought-provoking way is a joy to see, and makes this one of the most pleasing books I have seen this year.  

You can see more of Hosokura's work on her website here. More details of her book are available from Tycoon Books here.


— James Brown