Japanese artist and photographer Kenji Wakasugi’s new art book Adore reveals an intimate glimpse of Madonna during her early years of fame.
In January 1985, Madonna went to Japan for the first time to promote her infamous Like a Virgin album. At just 27-years old, she was already well on her way to becoming an international sensation and style icon. Meanwhile, Japanese photographer Kenji Wakasugi was given a dream assignment for a local publication: a 45-minute studio sesh with the star, armed only with his camera, one flash unit and a single piece of furniture—a pink, plastic-covered sofa. What transpired was an up-close, personal and captivating photoshoot that fully represented Madonna at that time, right down to her legendary fashion including early Gauthier and Westwood pieces, Maripol designed crucifix jewelry, Boy Toy belt buckle and Healthy Swimmer crop top. Although Wakasugi’s photos were never published, kept in a private collection for over 30 years, they’ve now been released for the limited-edition art book, Adore, available on January 25.
Representing both a visual time capsule and a collector’s item, Adore is a 200-page homage to Madonna that combines the raw images of the young performer – reclining on the sofa, playfully dancing, or candidly staring into the lens – with those of Wakasugi’s own bustling, 1980s nocturnal world. These photographs are punctuated by his depiction of Japanese motifs, a contradiction of culture and nature often seen in his work. The design, including the aqua cover and bold black title, further emphasize his nod to 80s Japanese minimalism.
There are only 800 copies available in print, so if Madonna fans want to get their hands on this one, they should definitely save the date.
Available exclusively at njgstudio.com on January 25
More at ELLE Canada
To find new words to describe the importance of Madonna Louise Ciccone is a nearly impossible task. That’s why a photo book tells you all you need. The inimitable rebel energy of Madonna is on display in Adore Madonna, a new photo book by the Japanese photographer Kenji Wakasugi (out today on NJG). The monograph contains never-before-seen images from a 45-minute shoot in 1985 for Playboy Weekly Excite during her Madgesty’s first visit to Japan, commemorating the success of her breakthrough album Like a Virgin.
Adore Madonna is a testament to the everlasting power of the Queen of Pop, not only as a musical supernova but also as a symbol of fame, self-empowerment, and sexual liberation, as she models Vivienne Westwood, Jean-Paul Gaultier, and her signature bedazzled “boy toy” belt. The images captured that day by Wakasugi remind us that despite the passing of time, nobody does it like Madonna. “It is almost a miracle that 36 years later, they now became this art book,” the photographer told Interview. “There she was, inside my camera. Thank you, Madonna.” As all things related to the queen, the book is rare. There are only 800 limited-edition copies, with 100 featuring Wakasugi’s signature and a numbered digital print. Below, a few of the images from that fateful day in Tokyo, when Wakasugi captured a star in the early days of her journey to change the world.
Photo by Kenji Wakasugi.
In 1985, Madonna made her first-ever trip to Japan. She’d just released Like a Virgin, the follow-up album to her self-titled debut, with Nile Rodgers as a co-producer, and traveled to Tokyo to promote the record. For most fans of Madonna, this is likely the pop icon’s most identifiable era, especially visually speaking: teased hair, wedding dresses with fingerless gloves, references to Jean Paul Gaultier and Vivienne Westwood, the “Boy Toy” belt. And it was during this watershed moment that Playboy magazine tapped the photographer Kenji Wakasugi to shoot her.
The Osaka native was allotted 45 minutes with Madonna in a spare studio space, where he set up a pink couch covered in plastic and a flash unit—that was all in terms of props and equipment. There were no stylists, nor a glam team; Madonna came to the shoot wearing her own clothing (a bustier, Takara Kronoform robot watch, Maripol’s layered rubber and crucifix jewelry). As Wakasugi recalled, her energy and vibrant spirit did more than enough to fill the room.
“Madonna was very modest, had a great manner, and seemed powerful,” the photographer said. “I adored her smile.”
The contents of that promotional shoot, considered relatively bare bones at the time, are now enshrined in a limited-edition book named Adore, published by NJG. Adore not only contains never-before-seen outtakes from the photoshoot with Madonna, but it’s also bookended by more pictures Wakasugi took during the 1980s: images of neon street lights, floral motifs, and commuters darting through the streets of Tokyo evoke the mood of that time, and speak to the photographer’s tendency to capture culture meeting nature. One look at Wakasugi’s website—which is chock full of outdoor photography much more akin to Ansel Adams’s style than Steven Meisel’s—and you wouldn’t be blamed for expressing surprise that a guy like him was commissioned for a Madonna shoot. But the Tokyo Technical School of Photography graduate has also lensed the likes of Glenn Close, Richard Gere, and Hall & Oates over the course of his career.
His soft-focus touch and tendency to capture people in their most natural state comes through in the Madonna photographs. On set, Wakasugi recalled that he wasn’t able to communicate with the star further than a few words of encouragement, but her “vigorous” personality told him everything he needed to know. She was more than comfortable in front of the camera.
“I don’t speak English, and there was no translator, so there was no conversation,” he added. “I said ‘Great!’ ‘Beautiful!’ through each pose and movement she made. She was 100 percent ready for the shoot, so I was inspired and committed. Between Madonna and I, there was a spark throughout the session. There was no room or space between us.”
Choosing which images would be included in Adore led Wakasugi to revisit the Playboy photographs for the first time, thirty-five years after the fateful shoot took place. As he thumbed through the pictures of Madonna at the cusp of her prime, he said he “never imagined” they would someday become an art book.
“The shoot became a fusion and synthesis of west and east,” Wakasugi said. “Madonna and I [represented the United States and Japan.] And through this process, I discovered a new vision.”
More at W Magazine
Photographer Kenji Wakasugi shares exclusive images of the young singer from his new book, Adore Madonna
Every significant artist has at least one defining work that consecrates their legacy. In 1984, the release of Like A Virgin was Madonna’s opportunity to consolidate the success of her debut record and properly establish herself in the charts. Drawing provocative parallels between her own name and the mother of Christ, while invoking the idea of the immaculate conception and flirting with eroticised religious imagery, this album was, for Madonna, just such a work. Amid the furore of controversy that surrounded its release, she ascended into the canon of popular culture and Like A Virgin remains one of the best-selling albums of all-time.
In January of 1985, photographer Kenji Wakasugi was waiting in a Tokyo studio to photograph Madonna on her first trip to Japan, on a promotional tour of Like A Virgin. He’d been allotted 45 minutes, commissioned by Playboy Weekly Excite. Wakasugi was unaware that he was about to immortalise the young singer on the threshold of almost-unprecedented stardom
“There was no stylist in my memory, just Madonna’s own personal style. She wore the same clothes she arrived in” – Kenji Wakasugi
It was an intimate shoot. “In the studio, there was one flash unit and one pink sofa, nothing else,” the photographer recalls. ”There were just a few people in the room.” Nearly 40 have passed but he can still vividly remember his initial impressions of the singer as she arrived. “She was beyond beautiful,” he tells Dazed. “She was vibrant, vigorous, energetic, bright, full of spirit.” Despite her manifest “power”, he was also struck by her modesty and professionalism. And, though the photographer and the singer had no shared language, Wakasugi recalls the “spark” that existed between them.
A new book, Adore Madonna, published by NJG Studio, gathers together Wakasugi’s photographs from that shoot. The black and white images capture the “Material Girl” in a time of unadulterated self-expression, wearing Maripol’s layered rubber and crucifix jewellery, and referencing to early Gaultier and Westwood. ”There was no stylist in my memory, just Madonna’s own personal style,” Wakasugi tells Dazed. “She wore the same clothes she arrived in when she came to the studio, and she did not change her clothes. She wore the coat when she got in the taxi.”
Take a look at the gallery above to see the portraits of Madonna taken by Wakasugi on that day back in 1985, including three exclusive images previewed here on Dazed.
Adore Madonna by Kenji Wakasugi is published by NJG Studio and is available from January 25 2020
More at DazedDigital.com
On sale now HERE
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‘Adore’ ❤️ Thank you to all those who have reached out about the new Madonna publication. Due to the high volume of enquires, we are announcing on Instagram the book will be available for pre order from 1pm (UK) tomorrow 23rd January,
Published for the first time by NJG 200 pages, 111 large format images, 10 contact sheets featuring 324 frames.
Two editions available – ‘Limited Edition’ comes with a canary yellow bellyband with Madonna’s name in Japanese text, foiled in an ebony embossed dye. The ‘Strictly Limited Edition’ features a neon pink bellyband, foiled as above. About to drop at
Madonna’s brand new record ‘Like a Virgin’, produced by Nile Rodgers, you know the producer of Duran Duran, Sister Sledge and David Bowie.
In fact the entire Chic team plays a part on ‘Like a Virgin’.
The record includes nine fantastic songs including ‘Love Don’t Live Here Anymore’, ‘Stay’ and the title song that is currently out on single.
(also on maxi cassette).
The advert has been added to our Like a Virgin page (Adverts section)
- ‘Limited Edition’ – with signed and numbered certificate by Kenji.
- ‘Strictly Limited Edition’ – as above with a signed and numbered edition print. Printed on Legacy Baryta, 100% alpha cellulose, archival satin finish, acid free paper. Dropping soon.
Mike Tyson’s had his share of celebrity scandals over the years, however, not everyone knows he once praised an infamous fascist dictator. Tyson once praised Benito Mussolini, comparing aspects of his mannerisms to hip-hop culture. Oddly enough, Tyson revealed he drew inspiration from Mussolini for a song he collaborated on with Madonna.
Mike Tyson on why Benito Mussolini was ‘mesmerizing’
According to Rolling Stone, it all started when Madonna wanted to work with Tyson. “Madonna calls you and tells you to come somewhere, you go,” Tyson says. “I didn’t know what the hell I was going there for.” Tyson came into the studio to see Madonna and her producer. He rapped over a track called “Iconic,” talking about his life. Tyson said he felt like his music career could actually take off because he worked with Madonna. Considering “Iconic” was released in 2015 and Tyson hasn’t had any hits since then, his feelings proved incorrect — at least so far.
Tyson revealed he drew inspiration from a surprising — and upsetting — source. “When I did it, I think about being some guy like [Benito] Mussolini and they’re really arrogant, but you try to come from a positive perspective and be uplifting,” he said. “You watch Mussolini on television — even though we don’t understand what he’s saying — he is so mesmerizing. I look at myself in that way.”
Tyson went on to praise Mussolini — the man responsible for the death of democracy in Italy and a close collaborator with Adolf Hitler — even more. “I know people may say ‘this guy’s a fascist’ and all this stuff, but man, you can take positivity from watching him,” added Tyson. “No wonder why Hitler was attracted to him. This guy’s a hypnotic figure. There’s so much pride behind what he’s saying. I’m not even Italian and I feel the pride he’s projecting. He had that street swag; he was doing this stuff with his hands and moving his head before it was even hip-hop.”
What the collaboration between Madonna, Mike Tyson, and Chance the Rapper is like
The final song is a collaboration between Madonna, Tyson, and Chance the Rapper. According to XXL, Madonna wanted Jay-Z on the track instead of Chance the Rapper but Jay-Z felt someone less established should be on the song instead. For the most part, it’s a celebration of the concept of being an icon. Considering everybody on the track is an icon, the track seems self-aware. However, there’s nothing directly about Mussolini in its lyrics. If it weren’t for Tyson’s comments, no one would connect “Iconic” to Italian fascism.
How the world reacted to ‘Iconic’
So did this bizarre and unnerving combination of Mussolini, Tyson, Chance the Rapper, and the Queen of Pop resonate with audiences? “Iconic” did not chart at all on the Billboard Hot 100. Considering Madonna has charted so many songs she’s called “the Queen of Pop,” that’s saying something. Apparently, people don’t like fascism in their dance music.
More at Cheatsheet
“There was an old yellow Kodak box on the shelf of my darkroom. Inside was a set of black and white negatives, together with a series of contact sheets. It had sat there, out of the light for 35 years. But I am now able to share these pictures with you all through this photo-book ‘Adore’ – Kenji Wakasugi ❤️❤️ Published for the first time by www.njgstudio.com dropping next week!
The very first time Madonna covered the Dutch Nieuwe Revu magazine was on the March 27 – April 4 1985 edition. While the four page spread inside was a Dutch translation of the interview originally from Face magazine, the pictures were by Dutch photographer Kees Tabak.
Seldom seen and now here for you to view in full.
Check it out HERE (press section)
Stay tuned for A LOT more in the next few weeks!
Adore’ ❤️ the entire Tokyo session, shot by Kenji Wakasugi, 23rd January 1985. Published for the first time by NJG, the 200 page book is bound in a hardback aqua cover, made from recycled coffee cup waste. Available soon for a limited time only ❤️❤️.
More info at njgstudio.com