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Take a tour round Izumi Miyazaki’s weird and wonderful creative process


Izumi Miyazaki

For Found in Adobe Stock, It’s Nice That has commissioned creatives to explore the world of Adobe Stock’s collection to make a new series of works. The project asks each creative to dive into the depths of Adobe Stock as a starting point, and then devise new short stories or create new worlds from chosen images. We follow each creative’s journey on their stock narrative endeavours and unpack how they used their individual findings to make innovative final pieces.

Bizarre, bonkers, but incredible nonetheless, Japanese photographer Izumi Miyazaki took matters into her own hands at the tender age of 18 years old when she displayed an artistic prevalence far beyond her years. Rather than enjoying the last of her school days, Izumi landed right into the hearts of thousands with her Photoshopped masterpieces that saw her sandwiching her head between two white slices of bread, place two baguettes on her head like a bunny and, even more brilliantly, reimagining her dinner as a UFO.

Wonderfully original since her debut on the creative scene seven years ago, the witty image-maker has gone on to exhibit internationally to the delights of many. She has danced on top of a giant rice ball, transformed the selfie into a hilarious means of storytelling and all in all, developed a punchy visual language that instantly communicates joy.

So it may come as no surprise that for this latest Adobe Stock commission, Izumi was high up on the list of dream collaborators to work with. For the self-taught photographer, who usually incurs inspiration through visiting museums, reading books or watching films or music videos, the commission presented a completely different method of working. She’d never used stock imagery in her practice before and was even less familiar with the quirky descriptive titles prescribed to the stock images.

Young woman eating fresh fish

When asked to produce five new artworks in response to five titles from the Adobe Stock library, Izumi’s first honest reaction was that they were “very crazy and funny.” And what more could you expect if you were presented with phrases like: Young woman eating fresh fish, People sharing watermelon at table, Portrait of a woman with pasta on head, Young woman holds cabbage leaf in front of her face and Woman with tin can of conserved fish at table.

“At first, I tried to draw them to understand the situations,” Izumi tells It’s Nice That. Without seeing the Stock image in any kind of capacity, Izumi’s fantastical imagination was left to run riot with the titles. In her signature fashion, the photographer opted to create a series of self-portraits in line with her surreal, otherworldly aesthetic. For Young woman eating fresh fish, Izumi’s first thoughts were: “This title is really crazy.” And that’s coming from an artist that’s conceived some pretty radical ideas like French fries raining down on a ketchup-teared Izumi, to a self-portrait of the artist surrounded by floating broccoli while a cheese sauce drips from her nostrils.

Once she considered the title further, Izumi decided to simulate an equally “crazy world”. Mouth wide open, Izumi places herself underwater while a fishing hook hangs down at an angle, luring her in with a baited sardine of sorts. Interpreting Young woman eating fresh fish in a wholly different light, Izumi turns the world upside down as the only reason the fish gets eaten, is to catch “beautiful women” in turn.

Portrait of a woman with pasta on head

For her second interpretation, Izumi was faced with the title Portrait of a woman with pasta on head. Though its a literal title, as you can expect when it comes to an Izumi interpretation, nothing is as literal as it seems. “I could imagine what the actual image is” says the artist, “So I wanted to make something different.” Wearing nothing except two forkfuls of squid ink pasta twirled up in her hair, Izumi’s reinterpretation of this stock image saw the artist take on a more contemplative expression.

“I’d been thinking that hair buns are actually a bit similar to rolled spaghetti” says the photographer on the surreal image. “My hair is really black, so I thought squid ink spaghetti would be perfect for my hair” and managing to artfully twist the slippery black knots into a common hair style, Izumi’s vision came to life. She highlights the vivid contrast of red and black in the composition, clashing the surreal subject matter (a pasta salad on her head) with a directly confrontational gaze.

In the image, an alien hand, similarly adorned with the same black nail polish as Izumi’s, lurks into the frame and teasingly handles the forkful of pasta coming out of her head. Is Izumi also going to be scooped up by the fork? And what on earth does her thoughtful expression mean in this strange interaction? All in all, the self-portrait artist provokes many mysterious questions, but at the same time, it’s these peculiarities that give Izumi’s work her idiosyncratic panache.

Woman with tin can of conserved fish at table

In another fish-related Adobe Stock image title, Woman with tin can of conserved fish at table, Izumi explores the human’s treatment of animals. “Sometimes, we have animals as pets, and other times, we eat animals as if they weren’t even alive.” Drawing on this double-standard to inform the third of the commissioned images, Izumi conveys a curiosity around the disregard for fish as animals, which are often seen as less sentient beings and therefore, less entitled to our sympathies.

Dressed in a regal red dress with a high collar and puffed sleeves, Izumi recreates an elegant dining portrait. In one hand, she presents an opened tin of fish to the camera, holding it with care in her flat palm. In the other hand, Izumi dangles a fish by her crimson painted fingertips above a fish bowl which magnifies the accentuated sleeves of her puffed dress. The only live fish in the scene is in the fish bowl, and the three variations of fish – dead, alive and canned – echo Izumi’s concerns around the devaluation of fish as sentient creatures.

People sharing watermelon at table

Alternatively, in People sharing watermelon at table, the first word that jumped out to the artist was “share”. “I thought this word has many meanings” says Izumi, “But I wanted to communicate a meaning that shined a light on giving rather than losing out.” So in her fourth interpretation, Izumi replicates herself five times along a wide panel. Accessorising her hair with red and green to match the colours of the exotic watermelon, the photograph captures an array of Izumi’s expressions like still frames of an animation.

Young woman holds cabbage leaf in front of her face

In her final, and most unusual Adobe Stock narrative image, Izumi took on the title of Young woman holds cabbage leaf in front of her face. With a hole for her eye crafted out of a cabbage, Izumi’s fifth interpretation of an Adobe Stock title appears at first glances, to be the most literal. But upon deeper study, we can in fact see that a tiny caterpillar is protruding from the cabbage leaf.

On this peculiar turn of events, Izumi says: “I was interested in the word ‘young’” and focusing in on this word, the artist went onto distinguish a connection between the freshness of a ripe cabbage with the freshness of a young caterpillar prior to its metamorphosis into a butterfly. When she thought about a “young woman” however, she importantly realised that, “the definition of a young person is contrastingly unclear.” Depending on the person, “a young woman” could imply anyone from infancy to the middle-aged. “So I made my face invisible to avoid this misapprehension” Izumi adds on the matter.

Though this commission asked the Japanese artist to approach her image-making practice in an entirely new way, in actuality, the task at hand amplified Izumi’s ability to imagine new storylines from a given situation. “This way of working has been really interesting and eye opening” says Izumi on its verbal approach. “I’d like to try working again in this way by myself, or through a different project” as it’s allowed her imagination to stretch in different directions.

Even though she “really didn’t understand” why people chose to document these moments in an Adobe Stock image, this element of the unknown only added to the exciting potential of a newly constructed storyline. “I usually make work from my own ideas” she says, “So this method of working has been completely different and I’ve used totally different parts of my brain.” But despite this turn of events in Izumi’s already wonderfully whacky creative direction, the result of the commission is very much in line with the rest of her more personal output. And fundamentally, she takes viewers on an otherworldly tour like no other.

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