Monday, Mar 27, 2017
By Paige Silveria
This Tuesday, at New York's subterranean photobook shop Dashwood, cult Japanese photographer Mao Ishikawa is signing her first monograph to be published in the United States: Red Flower, The Women of Okinawa. The newly released silkscreen book features striking black-and-white photographs of Mao and her girl friends, who worked in segregated GI bars, along with their boyfriends - the black army soldiers who frequented those bars in American-occupied Okinawa from 1975 to 1977. The images of carefree 20-year-olds as they laugh and cry, drink and fall in love, contrast sharply with the divisive tensions of the militarily controlled island.
After just a few months in photography school — where she was taught by renowned photographer Shômei Tômatsu (who later championed her work) — Mao dropped out and returned to her home in Okinawa to begin her first project. "At the time I was young and rash, and before I gave it any thought I was already doing it," recalls Ishikawa. "I couldn't speak English at all but I went and talked to a proprietor of one of the bars and started working there that night. The customers were almost all U.S. soldiers in their 20s. Being around their age I was very popular. I had boyfriend after boyfriend. Sometimes one would rent an apartment and we would live together." Here, Mao recounts her experiences for the first time to an English audience...