Red Flower, The Women of Okinawa by Mao Ishikawa
Red Flower, The Women of Okinawa, consists of 80 b/w photographs that date from 1975 to 1977 in Koza and Kin, Okinawa, primarily from Ishikawa’s first book Hot Days in Camp Hansen by A-man Shuppan in 1982, but it also includes unpublished work from the same period.
Red Flower exhibits Ishikawa’s celebration of the courageous and honest lives of women she met and befriended while working at military bars at a time when social and political tensions between the US and Japan were on high alert.
It consists of five chapters of pictures, followed by her essay dedicated to the publication: girls gossiping about boys, working at bar, meeting their boyfriends at home, enjoying themselves at the beach, and their children for the future of Okinawa. Red Flower is the pivotal work for Ishikawa, since it marks the starting point of her subsequent long career as a photographer.
Especially for this particular project, Ishikawa’s engagement to the subject was enormous; she worked as a server at the bars along with the other girls and had relationships with boys she met there for two years. Thus, her personal involvement enables her to capture the actual events and scene without theorizing or romanticizing. In Red Flower, Ishikawa reveals her very honest personal documentary in all sincerity, while still maintaining enough detachment from the subject to be able to perfectly capture the scenes with her sharp eyes.