If I was somewhat unimpressed with Ninagawa Mika’s Sugar & Spice, well, it was probably the wrong book to jump into Ninagawa’s work. After all, Ninagawa is very well known for her particular and peculiar use of color, which Sugar & Spice didn’t really show to full effect. To remedy that, I ordered Ninagawa’s new Tokyo book (unboxing and review coming sometime next year) and 2003’s excellent and inspiring Acid Bloom.

Acid Bloom is all about color, really. And not just any color: Ninagawa Color.

Like many of her generation, Ninagawa used a color copier to reproduce her photographs; unlike others, Ninagawa’s copier had a broken sensor which caused it to pump the saturation beyond most reasonable levels. So unreasonable, in fact, that “the color process and inks were specially designed by Toppan A.D. department for hi-color and hi-definition….”* It (the color) is really incredible: gorgeous, luscious, headache-inducing, hard-to-look-at-but-impossible-to-look-away-from color, and the book fairly reeks of ink. I bought this copy from Vincent Borelli, who claim to have new copies in stock, so the ink stench might fade after some time (and may not exist in used copies), but it remains strangely pungent in this copy 18 years after publication.

I’m not complaining, and it does make me sneeze, and it’s totally worth it.

The photographs are luscious, gorgeous, and vary between full macro, close up, and landscape focal distances, featuring a cherry blossoms, grasses, roses, maybe marigolds, and some flowers and plants that my darling, adorable wife could probably identify, but that I can’t, plus spiders, an ant, a preying mantis, and a couple of other bugs.

I remember, early on in my play with cameras, just wholly enamored with macro. If you saw any of my early 365 project (you didn’t) or many of my 7/52s (nope, you didn’t) I shared a ton of (bad) macro images. I’ve largely abandoned that in my film years, but I remember the feeling of really getting into the macro mindset, really getting in tune with the little objects or scenes. Ninagawa describes feeling in her brief introduction.

It’s the moment I feel like a plant, or like a bug alighting on a flower,
that I release the shutter.

When I’m not in this heightened state,
I may shoot a beautiful flower beautifully, but that is all.

For me, the process of photographing a flower is something more, something that goes beyond the flower.

When I’m photographing well,
I am always floating on another plane — a place between this world and the world beyond.

Ninagawa Mika. Acid Bloom. Nazraeli Press, Tucson, Arizona. 2003. unnumbered.

And before I even got the book, I grabbed the +4 Macro filter that came with the Olympus OM10 kit I acquire from Dad last year,** and, well, I’ll share my results in a couple of days, God willing. And then, once I got the book, well, let’s just say I hesitate to share the pictures I made in response to Ninagawa’s now 20-year old flower pictures, but I guess I will anyway.

It’s sort of like the Olympics: it might look easy, but you probably can’t do it, not without a good few years of practice, and not without finding that “other plane,” that “place between this world and the world beyond,” that really fine, sublime, near-spiritual macro photography really shines, and where Ninagawa’s work just lives.


My only problem with this book is its size and shape. It’s a really tall, coffee-table style book, which won’t fit even on my “oversized” shelves, and about 1/3 of the pictures are landscape. Sure, it’s great to have the pictures printed so large, and they might not work so brilliantly at a smaller size, but I hate turning a book sideways. It’s a minor nitpick and it’s really very very white of me to complain about such a silly thing. Acid Bloom is a great book, and overall rates a solid 4.5 stars.

Vincent Borelli Rare & Contemporary Photography Books still has new copies available, and you can find used copies for more money. I went with the new one, and as I said, it still reeks of ink. I await the time when I can look at it without sneezing, without my eyes watering… I guess that should be a complaint too? Eh. It’s just a consequence of the special printing, I think, and Ninagawa’s work wouldn’t look the way it does without that.

* Ninagawa Mika. Acid Bloom. Nazraeli Press, Tucson, Arizona. 2003. colophon
** I should really share the unbagging shots one day… maybe soon; maybe not.

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