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Person to Know: An Artist Who Invented Her Own Twin

By Bianca Husodo

Imano and her pasted doppelgänger posing with model Fei Fei Sun in Loewe’s Fall/Winter ’19 edition of  “Publication”.
Fumiko Imano
Imano and her pasted doppelgänger posing with model Fei Fei Sun in Loewe’s Fall/Winter ’19 edition of “Publication”.

Fumiko Imano is a pioneering self-portraitist. Long before front-facing cameras on phones were the norm, the Japanese artist had already mastered the independent act of immortalising herself in visual formats. Imano’s photographs, however, hardly adhere to the conventions of those that now proliferate the digital realm. The 45-year-old shoots her images on a 35mm camera. Armed with scissors and glue, Imako then cuts and pastes the developed photos into pared-down collages. The main subjects are recurring: More often than not, they are the photographer herself along with a second self — Imano’s own imaginary doppelgänger.

In contrast to today’s modern glossy images, Imano’s final photos are wry and starkly real. The segregating lines of the different layers, always slightly askew, are never concealed. Often, Imano and her twin are pictured in scenarios that, albeit playful, are still very much anchored in the realities of Imano’s life. During a sunny trip to Los Angeles, Imano and twin devoured a breakfast burrito. In Paris, they posed pouty-lipped on Hôtel de Crillon’s velvet settee; and in her room in London, they threw a party for two.

“People think I love fantasy and fairies and so on, but I am a very realistic person,” says Imano in an email correspondence with T. “People see my works as illusions, but for me, there is not much illusion.”

Fumiko ImanoLoewe “Publication” Fall/Winter ’19.
Loewe “Publication” Fall/Winter ’19.

In a time when imagery is Photoshop-moulded into unrealistic standards, Imano’s work can perhaps be seen as a retaliating riposte. Yet, participating in the discourse is not her conscious intention. When asked what she perceives her work as, she writes, “I don’t know what exactly. Maybe it’s about challenging myself.”

Beginning at the age of 18, Imano’s self-portraits started as a self-inquisitive adolescent's means of discovering oneself. But it was not until sometime in the early aughts, in the latter part of her twenties, that Imano — who grew up in Brazil and studied Fine Art at London’s Central Saint Martins before returning to Japan — felt the need of an additional character in her photos. Not knowing how to readjust into a culture that was supposedly hers but was unaccustomed to, she fashioned a twin — or a visual representation thereof — in a bid to imagine her could-be milieus. “Somehow a story is created when I duplicate myself,” the artist-photographer says.

Fumiko ImanoLoewe “Publication” Fall/Winter ’19.
Loewe “Publication” Fall/Winter ’19.

Imano’s art is a solitary practice. To create her images, she assumes multiple roles: She is the model, stylist, make-up artist and photographer. It’s of little surprise that the idea of collaborating doesn’t come naturally to Imano. But when Spanish luxury house Loewe reached out to collaborate on a project, however, it did.

The project had her working alongside creative director Jonathan Anderson, art agency M/M Paris and stylist Benjamin Bruno — luminaries of their fields — to churn out a spread for Loewe’s biannual coffee-table tome, “Publication”. (Since 2014, Anderson has been spearheading the creation of these hardcover books, of which come in limited editions of 1,200.) Taken around the Maison de l’UNESCO building in Paris, the Imano twins posed with guest model Saskia de Brauw. A narrative play on sightseeing, the trio linked arms against an Eiffel Tower panorama and bid battle with baguettes.

Fumiko ImanoLoewe “Publication” Fall/Winter ’19.
Loewe “Publication” Fall/Winter ’19.

This season, the fictional duo returned for a Fall/Winter ’19 instalment. Joined by model Fei Fei Sun, the Imanos posed in a minimalist “flower shop”, where ikebana flower arrangements, made by house florist Amy Humphrey, became anchoring props. Imano as an idiosyncratic florist and Sun as her customer, the clothes they wore — Anderson’s latest offering for Loewe: a clinched checkerboard blazer, slick fur-trimmed coats and a pearl-encrusted jacket — were poetically juxtaposed with the blooms.

“Having to do everything myself is very limiting, and lonely,” she admits. “But collaborating with Loewe, it’s totally different. Also, I don’t know what is going to happen so it’s exciting.”

Here, Imano answers T’s Artist’s Questionnaire.

What is your day like?

My day is free.

What was the last thing that made you cry?

When I saw Sagrada Familia in Barcelona for the first time last summer, I couldn’t stop crying.

What’s the first piece of art you ever made?

Drawings of myself.

What do you listen to while you’re making art?


What other mediums do you intend to explore?

I would like to do something about “living” — things related to clothes, food, houses.

What’s your worst habit?

Eating a lot.

What’s your favourite artwork by someone else?

“Have You Seen the Horizon Lately” drawing by Yoko Ono.