Friday, June 10, 2011

Light me up

I used to smoke. A lot.  Especially when there was a drink in my hand. There was something so lovely, routine and methodical about smoking that soothed me. It was also a chance to socialise.  You could meet the strangest, loveliest and most surprising people when asking for a lighter or loitering on a balcony.

My best friends are smokers so we would often lie in bed talking about boys, puffing away, occasionally pausing to flick our cigarettes into the swan ashtray. Sexy people in movies smoked, Scarlett Johansson in Lost in Translation and Mia Wallace in Pulp Fiction. Then there were the famous people that seemed cooler than cool, cigarette dangling precariously from their lips. The likes of Anna Karina,  Fabrizio Moretti,  Katherine Hepburn, Charles Bukowski and Catherine Deneuve. 

My Dad's friend puffed on cigarettes when I was an ankle biter and there was something magical and enchanting about watching the smoke slowly escape his lips. My first cigarette was wasted due to self conscious bum puffing and a coughing fit. My second cigarette was cut short when I was caught by the P.E teacher who threatened to call my parents.  My third provided my first real head rush, and was plucked from a packet of cigarettes that were all mine bought by an old man outside a pub. 

I smoked for nearly ten years, on and off and towards the end it spiralled into something all consuming that wasn't lovely, routine or methodical.  One day sweltering hot day in February last year I was sitting on a lawn having a picnic with friends when I looked down at my cigarette and felt baffled.  I couldn't believe I was risking my health for no particular reason and suddenly thinking about dying early or getting sick through my own unhealthy choices seemed ludicrous. I couldn't even finish the cigarette. 

I didn't tell anyone about my new resolution and transformed into an aggravated, irritable, over the top young lady who obsessively gnawed on chocolate bars and chewed gum. Anything to scratch that itch. I still get pangs sometimes. A lot of my friends still smoke and there are moments of lust when they light up and look so serene. Then there are the awkward moments at parties when suddenly I am alone and everyone seems to be on the balcony in a social haze of smoke having the best time imaginable. There are a so many moments but despite all the pangs and longing I think, finally, I am happier without it. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


It's all the same person!! School girls and teacher included! When I first stumbled across the works of Tomoko Sawada I was amazed. Her unending variance of looks made my mind boggle. The 400+ looks began with Sawada's self proclaimed inferiority complex and a fascination with how she could aesthetically transform through photography."As I looked at my pictures again and again, the gap between my real image and my image in a picture widened. In other words, my appearance could be changed easily, but my personality did not change." 

Her work emphasizes the emerging norms for woman in Japanese society which are diversifying further each day. Before I came to Japan I had two vague ideas in my mind; traditional demure kimono wearing women and crazy outlandish Harajuku girls. Sawada embraces all gender stereotypes- the giggling school girl, beauty pageant contestant, stern police woman or a hopeful young lady posing for omiai to name a fewIn turning chameleon Sawada's variances can be found in subtle details like a facial expression, posture or a kg or rwo lost or gained. Then there are the more obvious transformations; a haircut, a costume and make up application.

So amazing. Two great articles on her can be found here and here.