Ordeal by Roses

by Eikoh Hosoe (1933- )

05 January 2015

This is a special book for me. It brings together one of my favorite photographer with one of my favorite author.
Mishima is the one that asked young Eikoh Hosoe to photograph him after he had seen his photos of Butoh Dancer Tatsumi Hijikata ( which later became another memorable book called Kamaitachi ). Hosoe took the role of Director and Mishima offered himself as subject.
Shot over a period of a year, the result is a fascinating compilation of baroque, surreal, and ultra sensual “Tableaux Noirs” where Beauty and Death share the lead, symbolized by the book title; Bara meaning Rose and Kei Punishment. First literally translated Killed by Roses, Mishima later changed it to Ordeal by Roses. He personally supervised the second, monumental and international edition of the book ( designed by Tadanori Yokoo ) before his ritual suicide that shocked the world in 1970. He most certainly had intended BARAKEI to be a sort of testament and the last chapter can be seen as an enactment of Mishima’s own death.

Eikoh Hosoe is an “Extreme” photographer. His photos are always intense. They kind of mistreat you. They challenge you esthetically, intellectually and technically.
I will later present three other books by him: “Embrace”, “Kamaitachi” and “The Butterfly Dream”.