Explore: Japan’s Love Hotels

Belgian photographer Zaza Bertrand captures sincere fantasies in Japan's love hotels

Belgian photographer Zaza Bertrand has been selected as the winner of the IBASHO gallery’s inaugural photo competition. Zaza’s recent photo series called Japanese Whispers, focuses on the secretive world of Japanese love hotels. Rabuhos- Japanese for love hotels- are the physical representation of the pragmatic separation of love and sex. In a culture that appreciates decency, chastity, and social conformity, rabuhos host a space to practice the antithesis of these values.

Zaza entered this world as a non-Japanese speaker and planted her camera and herself as fixtures in the love rooms. In trade for her entry, she was responsible for paying the room fee. Zaza’s approach left her completely vulnerable to her models. Her subjects were the ones who dictated which rabuho would be visited, which led to little art direction for her photographs. Due to this technique, the viewer is left feeling the tense and disaffected relations between Zaza and her subjects.

“You find true mix of shame, secrecy, kitschiness, mystery, romance, intimacy and of course lust… The rabuhos are an outlet for the rigidity of the society, a safe haven for the normal and the weird, for dreams and secrets.” – Zaza Bertrand

IBASHO’s gallery curator, Zippora Elders, mentioned that Zaza’s work “impressively captured the uncanny tension between pragmatic intimacy and sincere fantasies of romance. The result is a suspenseful photo series that feels simultaneously alienating and somehow vaguely familiar, and that intriguingly balances between documentary and fictional narrative.”

Zaza’s work is on display at IBASHO in Antwerp until 18 December.

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