By Ann Catherine In his series BREATH, Tomohide Ikeya asks the question, “What is the power of life?” Inside of a large, water-filled tank, he explores the theme of life force. Looking beyond the scientific, Ikeya explores the vital power exuded from human beings, giving power to life. To accomplish this effect, Ikeya would dive into a huge, black-backdropped tank, with a waterproof case around his camera, and take pictures with his models. Among these models are the dancer Mimoza Koike, of the Monte Carlo Ballet Company, and free-diver Ryuzo Shinomiya. They were also accompanied by contemporary dancers, as well as people who were missing limbs, paralyzed, or blind all worthy and capable, Ikeya contends, of producing life force. By including models who are not able-bodied, Ikeya endeavors to represent a wider cross section of society.
Throughout their lives people struggle and pursue “life” through a series of difficult situations. Each person has their own unique experiences which no one else can truly witness. In BREATH, he seeks to capture these moments. The underwater world of Tomohide Ikeya’s BREATH it is frightening, magical, and captivating. On land people may not be entirely aware of how valuable oxygen (and our access to it) truly is. In BREATH there are people who cry out and struggle in the depths as their bodies go into survival mode, struggling for air in the hypoxic world they find themselves in. Darkness surrounds them like an angel of death in wait. Bubbles, their life source, escape from their mouths, reflecting the harsher moments that individuals can endure. Where there is life, there is pain and hardship. Naturally, human beings fight to overcome, to tread water and break to the surface.
One of the photos that depicts the intense, life-sucking horror presents three people entangled together. They are struggling and afraid. They are floating in the darkness with a cloud of small air bubbles trailing from their mouths. Then there are those who embrace the underwater realm they in. The models dance or float along in the gently currents. The underwater world transforms from one of fear and struggle to one of tranquility. In some of these photographs, models wear clothing—a dress, a simple scarf—which enhances the gracefulness of their movements and the magnificence of the underwater setting. The extreme darkness and the soft sunlight breaking through the surface of the water produce an otherworldly effect.
In one image, there is a group of women bundled together, bathed in a silver light, all of them nude. Whether swimming close by one another, embracing, or swimming alone, these women are supporting each other. Here, the artist shows how important human relationships are. It also shows that even though life can mean pain, it can also mean joy. While collective joy is beautiful, it is important to acknowledge the beauty of each person’s existence. The ocean, like life, is beautiful and treacherous. Through BREATH, Tomohide Ikeya explores the power of life and where that power comes from. Every individual and their experience in the series matters, just like in life itself. To view more of Tomohide Ikeya’s works, visit his website