It all began a few years ago when I discovered what I call now « The little red book » but which in fact is « Scoffing pig ». What a fantastic name for a book. This is a small (10 x 14 cm) hardcover handmade leporello double sided printed. The photographs are really Japanese style which means for me dark, grainy and highly contrasted.
But in fact, it all began long before, when Nozomi grown up beside her parents who had a farm with pigs and cows. During her childhood, Nozomi discovered the ambiguity of the situation, developing a tenderness for the cattle which has to be slaughtered for economical purposes. She felt sad for the animals but never resigned to become vegetarian (she claims that her favorite food is Korean Barbecue and intestines).
So far Nozomi had made three series of handmade photobooks, each in different editions.
Scoffing pig « leporello edition » was ultra limited and became instantly widely acclaimed, so a newsprint edition of 1000 was produced later.
This first book focus on pigs in piggery. When you open the book, you discover landscapes from and around the farm, small details, larger views, but all in a « daily life in the countryside » ambiance.
You walk on a path where you come across who can possibly be Nozomi’s father with a cow, you can play with a calf in the yard, or watch a sunflowers field covered by the first autumn snow. Despite the photographic process and some specific landscape, that could be in a farm we know, close to the place we live. And then you turn the book to discover the other side of the book and, suddenly, there are complete different photographs.
A series of 46 close up portraits of pigs, all facing us and sometimes behind bars, like detainees in cells. These become grotesque photos (some similarities with Bruce Gilden street photography transposed in a piggery), but they are sad at the same time, the future of the pigs is already written. It seems that one side shows some freedom at the farm while the other could be the dark side of the custody. The permanent ambiguity…
The second book that I called « The triangle book » was even more limited (10 copies) and its subject was the milk and meat production from cows. Its title is « Milk and meat from happy farm ». Still handmade, it has a nice funny shape of a triangle and when you open it, the pages open in a square. Apart from the cover and the colophon page, the book still associates the black and white photos with a red background which becomes an aesthetic identity in Nozomi’s work (it will reach perfection in the here below « red edition »). In this book, we discover the daily life of a farmer, the fields, the buildings. It is like visiting the farm with Nozomi’s father explaining the production, introducing some cows. Our eyes are caught by details on walls, plants or flowers in the yard, the number of a cow. We could even smell the animal musk. Triangle hardcover, 20 x 20 cm, 48 pages, signed and numbered .
The Hidden Blood (third book) was published early this year in conjunction with her exhibition at Reminders Photography Stronghold.
Published in three versions, all printed on demand during the time of the show, there was a trade edition, a red edition and a collector edition. Far before the others, my favorite is the « Red Edition ». The trade edition is a bit common and the collector’s one a bit pricey. The « Red Edition » is probably the accomplishment of Nozomi’s sophisticated book design and handcrafted fabrication. It is made of twelve leaflets assembled by a band, including an introduction with a small color photograph pasted and the last one which is the colophon. Those two are on red paper. The ten others are made of photographs printed full frame on different white and red paper. Opening with black and white photos, you finally open it on a red photograph. Inside the leaflet, there is a loose print in black and white of the photograph printed in red, creating a mise en abyme of the depicted landscape. The result is very intriguing because you finally don’t read the image the same way, depending on the print effect. The hidden blood refers to the slaughterhouse and the red prints uses the same cinematographic effects from some horror movies, when the sight of a victim is tainted by the red of the blood, we discover landscapes as a metaphor of those seen by the slaughtered cattle. The sophistication of the book remains hard to describe, like the fact that the leaflets are paired by the previous back and the next front, but this book in red edition is absolutely one of very best of the year ! Wonderful print quality for this softcover book, 20 x 28 cm, 68 pages, signed and numbered for the red edition.
I had a discussion with Nozomi a couple of years ago about the possibility of her to come in France for a kind of résidence in farms I know. That would be fantastic and I hope she keeps that in mind !
More about Nozomi Iijima : http://iijimanozomi.com/
A video of « The Hidden Blood » : https://vimeo.com/116326472
Reminders Project and Reminders Photography Stronghold : http://reminders-project.org/rps/
All images copyright Nozomi Iijima and RPS.