Edges of the Rainbow: LGBTQ Japan, published by The New Press is an intimate photographic glimpse into the queer world behind the closed doors of modern Japanese society. In a set of more than 150 color and black-and-white photographs, photographer Michel Delsol and journalist Haruku Shinozaki have brought together a fascinating group of individuals to create an unforgettable look at a proud and resilient community on the margins of Japanese society. Michel Delsol answered a few questions about the book.
How did you start photographing the LGBTQ community in Japan?
This book is a commission from the Arcus Foundation, whom together with the design consultancy firm Emerson Wajdowicz Studios (EWS) in New York, are producing a series of books published by The New Press on LGBTQ life in different countries, including Saint Petersburg in Russia, Mexico, Australia, and New York City during the Pride March. I specialize in portraiture and am always especially pleased when the core subject is the freedom of expression of one’s self within a limiting culture or legal framework.
How has the work been perceived in Japan?
At the start, and because the project originated from the USA, it was perceived by our subjects as an important and necessary bridge between cultures, something good for all. Once in Japan we were quite often invited by our subjects to go to their workplace, meet their families and stay overnight at their homes. During the production their commitment and belief in the project deepened, notwithstanding the fact, or perhaps because of it, that a model release had to be signed before the first click of the shutter and that they did not have the right to look at any of the photographs.
Once the book had been edited, we received the endorsement of Gon Matsunaka who produced the project Out in Japan. Most importantly, our subjects are very pleased with the book and are now actively sharing news of it on social media. As the book is just being released, it is perhaps too early yet to know its position or effect on a larger scale.