Shot in zoos in Germany and Japan, Berlin-based Japanese photographer Tomoko Kawai’s book “Intimacy of Paradise” ruminates on the spaces humans build for exhibited animals. Rather than the animals themselves, Kawai’s photographs depict the uncanniness and staged nature of the imitated environments in which zoo animals spend their lives. Through photographs of curtains printed with images of an expansive forest, astroturf placed on linoleum floors, melting ice floating in narrow pools and strangely combined vegetations, Kawai examines the disconnection between animals and nature immanent in the human-centered approach of the zoo, and creates visual rifts that highlight the artifice and artificiality of these simulated natural spaces.
“Over several years of photographing zoos in Germany and Japan I gradually became aware of a sense of incongruity and confusion. I began to realize that I had not previously had a way of thinking that framed animals and humans in a mutually confrontational relationship. It was as if I was being discovered as a human being and suddenly a division appeared that I had not consciously anticipated. ”
― Tomoko Kawai