“It was a surreal experience… like a dream,” says artist and photographer Monika Mogi of her aptly-titled first photo book, Dream Blue – which charts three days of nudity, frolicking and friendship in the Nevada desert in 2017.
Based in New York City via Tokyo, Mogi has, over the years, developed an off-beat signature style, plastering collages to fancify walls and making uber-cool resin ashtrays to, er, glamorise smoking. But it all started when she was 17 while working on the shop floor of a clothing store. When a colleague caught wind of the photography she was putting out on the side of her 9 – 5, she was introduced to a couple of creative heads. It would lead to her one-woman Mogifying mission, setting up her own online shop and collaborating with the likes of SSENSE, adidas by Stella McCartney and rock band Jerry Paper.
Oftentimes, Mogi’s photography explores intimacy and the richness of spontaneity, pulling various influences from her upbringing and those around her. Such is the way in Dream Blue, where she draws in on her close friends as subjects – particularly longtime friend and muse, Kiko Mizuhara.
“Naturally, we’re best friends and have so many things in common, from growing up with single mothers to our tastes in music and art,” she says. The photos were never intended for a specific purpose, though. “We’ve been holding onto these and felt like it was the right time to release them in this way,” Mogi continues on the photos which see Mizuhara mostly in the nude. “They’re all nude photos but not really nude as in sexual – just very human in nature.”
Accompanying the photo book is an exhibition at PARCO Museum in Tokyo – an immersive experience featuring a life-size cutout of Mizuhara floating in a hot spring. “We wanted the space to feel like the viewer was entering our world,” Mogi explains. “Each viewer should feel as though they’re on the trip with us.”
We can’t wait. But, for now, read up on Dream Blue, friendships and much-needed escapism in our catch-up with Mogi below.
Congratulations on your first book! Where did the title Dream Blue come from?
Blue is my favourite colour. Also, the sky is so big and blue – blue feels like the core of nature and life. The Japanese title is Yume no Tsuzuki”, meaning dream continued. We liked that feeling of a dream continuing on in our regular lives away from this beautiful place…
So, Kiko and yourself are close collaborators. How did your friendship blossom into a creative collaboration?
We have so many things in common. Somehow, we seem to be going through the same emotions during points in our lives, like falling in love, going through a break-up, having déja vu and relating to dreams. We just get each other, and so it’s easy to collaborate.
Why did you choose this series of photos to be the subject for your first book?
We didn’t plan on making a photo book when we went on this trip to Sierra Nevada [California]. We were there on vacation and felt like taking photographs against this beautiful natural landscape – it felt natural to chase the sun and take off our clothes. It felt like going back to how nature intended for us to be. We looked back on the photos four years later and decided that the world was ready to see them.
Given the nudity in the imagery, was this series shaped by any specific values you have regarding female nudity, and ideas of liberation around it?
Yes! These images are of a nude female, but we were very aware to not include any poses that could be viewed as sexually suggestive. We wanted to keep it genderless. We want people to experience the feeling of running naked in an open space and feeling free. That’s all we want people to feel from these photos – a feeling of emotion in the wild.
Tell us a bit about the accompanying exhibition being held at PARCO in Tokyo.
We wanted the space to feel like the viewer was entering our world. A life-size cutout of Kiko floating in the hot spring was printed on a large lightbox, so it feels like she is actually in front of you. The flow of the exhibition goes from sunrise to sunset, with all the photos taken over a span of three days, so we can take the viewer along on the trip.