With a fascination for the recreation of fictitious personae, the resulting photographs by Joe Lai (b. 1977, French) resemble shots taken on film sets as advertisements for cinematic features. Imitating the manner of film stills, Lai is recreating a succession of characters in dramatic and occasional horror situations that hint at stories. Deliberately ambiguous, he engages the viewer by inviting individual interpretation.
Initially, the series was formed in Paris, France by photographing friends in the neighbourhood and in studios with the use of basic props. Gradually it widened to various outdoor locations in countries such as Japan, China and Hong Kong, by envisioning an extended range of characters and contexts. Throughout, fashion belongings from the 1960s to 1980s were utilised—styles linked to low budget Japanese horror films from the 70s, as well as Pinku eiga [Pink film], erotic Japanese movies from the 60s which were exclusively shot on 35mm film. These films dominated Japanese domestic cinema through the mid-1980s due to their high production value and talent. Lai’s intention was to engender atmospheric images in unidentifiable locations as if they were taken decades ago, acclaiming the women within these critical and popular films.
Showa, a 62-year period within Japanese history, can be translated as “the era of enlightened peace,” but it can also mean “the era of Japanese glory.”
Joe Lai is the recipient of the 2020 Libraryman Award.