School girls lying sprawled out amongst scattered textbooks, the glimpse of a forbidden meeting underneath the cover of the hydrangea plants – these are just a few of photographer Keisuke Hasegawa’s compellingly provocative images that are engaging a powerful response.
Keisuke Hasegawa likes to photograph high-school girls. It may sound creepy, but in a country where schoolgirls are worshipped as the ultimate symbol of “kawaii”, it’s really not that much of a big deal. Well, at least it wouldn’t be, if the girls in his photos weren’t so dark and obscure. Straying away from the typical happy-go-lucky cutesy schoolgirl image, Hasegawa captures adolescence in its rawest, most shocking form, fuelling uncomfortable reactions from viewers and prompting social debate on childhood innocence and purity.
Why does Hasegawa choose to photograph schoolgirls? His answer is simple and plain. “Because I like them.” His sole reason for buying a camera was in fact so that he could photograph schoolgirls. And what about his spooky locations including ruins and abandoned buildings? “Because I like them.” Excellent.
Hasegawa may not have meticulously planned his subjects and style, but his works naturally hold the power to make the viewer think. They play on people’s delusions and imagination as they try to work out the story behind the puzzling images, and leave a deep impression that can’t easily be forgotten.
・Girl on girl
The book showcasing Hasegawa’s schoolgirl series is on sale only at a small selection of Village Vanguard shops in Japan. Nevertheless, he managed to sell over 5000 copies within the first few weeks. The book is becoming part of a wider a social commentary on female sexuality in Japan that is hard to ignore. The themes of friendship and romance intertwine and tangle, touching on taboo and breaking tradition.
“Let’s eat lunch together”, “let’s go to the toilet together” and “let’s get matching clothes” are all common phrases in adolescence, often forgotten as we get older. Hasegawa zooms in on that awkward stage in a teenager’s life where they begin to explore their sexuality and blossom.
・You only have one life to live
Hasegawa first took up photography in 2010 whilst he was a university student. After graduating and finding work in his hometown, he continued his activities as a photographer, building up a huge social media following on Twitter to the point where he quit his job to take his hobby full time in 2015. He now works on the 6jomaProject to promote up and coming indie artists.
As for Hasegawa’s message for generation Z? “You only have one life to live. Everybody grows old and everybody dies. You could die in a year, next month or tomorrow – nobody knows. You mustn’t forget that fact. You have to live in the here and now. As long as you don’t take it to extremes, don’t forget that it’s okay to enjoy the present. Of course, the future is important, but it’s what you do now that’ll shape that.”
To those who are living a troubled ‘now’ and can’t see the future: embrace the darkness like Hasegawa’s schoolgirls. You have nothing to lose when you’re finding yourself.