ISHIKAWA, Mao; Red Flower: The Women of Okinawa
In April 1975, wondering how to photograph an Okinawa full of US military bases, Mao Ishikawa decided to focus on American soldiers, and looked for work at bar where they came and went. She took a job in a bar near Kadena Air Base, in the Miyagi district of Okinawa City, that catered to African–American personnel at a time of unofficial segregation. She later worked at a similar business in Kin Town, home to the US Marine Corps base Camp Hansen. Ishikawa began by photographing the men who frequented the establishment, but her interests soon shifted to the Okinawan and Japanese women working in the bar. She grew close to these women with an unyielding love for black soldiers, documenting them over a period of two years. She was greatly inspired by their proud attitude to life: ‘What’s wrong with loving black people? What’s wrong with working in a bar? What’s wrong with living my life as I please?’ The resulting images, with their remarkable boldness and intimacy, would become her first book, Hot Days in Camp Hansen (1982). The images were thought lost for decades as the original negatives were destroyed; these prints were among those discovered by the artist’s daughter in 2012.