Enter Mika Ninagawa‘s residence-slash-office and you’re in for a treat — behind the unassuming facade, hidden from the outsiders’ eyes, is a small wonderland. Covered floor to ceiling in its owner’s signature imagery the place is a screenshot of her saturated blue-red-flower-fish works, even the air conditioner is masked with photo paper. I pull my camera out, turn the dial, click, click… Error. It’s dead. I guess some things are not meant to be captured. Besides, who could illustrate Ninagawa interview better than the award winning photographer, acclaimed filmmaker and the artist in her own right herself. Her ever present partner, Kanaya-san, nods. Ninagawa lights up a cigarette.
Interview by Andrey Bold
Bold: You’re are a prominent figure in both, commercial and art worlds.
Ninagawa: I guess it’s quite rare for Japan, but I enjoy working in both fields. Commissioned work is like a training for me — I’m often asked to do something I’d never think of myself, which eventually benefits my artworks. Some arty people don’t like me because I do commercial work, but I enjoy both.
Bold: So you don’t prioritize.
Ninagawa: If I were to choose one I’d pick art, that’s where I come from. However, I try to translate even my own work into an easily accessible form. I love both really.
Bold: Your latest movie, Helter Skelter (the film is based on the cult manga, written by Kyoko Okazaki, and follows the downfall of a young star, Lilico, who came to prominence through continuous plastic surgeries but can no longer sustain her beauty), is about cut-throat world of show business. As a person who makes a good living out of it, why did you choose to direct it?
Ninagawa: I thought it’s a very interesting theme. I decided to direct it seven years ago. Back then I wasn’t that successful commercially. I was actually quite confused when I finished filming. Am I in denial? I chose this theme because I sympathized with the character, but at the end it was hard to even advertise the film as the process mimics the story. I even had to re-think how to take photos. I completely understand why Erika had to take a break afterward.
Bold: Did you consider Erika for the lead from the beginning?
Ninagawa: Erika was my first choice, but there were some difficulties in casting her at the time. Considering other options I only became more confident it has to be her.