At 17, Makoto Azuma moved to Tokyo from his home city of Fukuoka to fulfil his ambition of becoming a musician. In order to support himself, Azuma took a part-time job as a trader at a flower market – and his enthusiasm for blooms soon overtook his original passion.
"I was obsessed with the allure that flowers display at each moment, so I was slowly drawn into the field," he recalls.
Now 38, he has delighted the art world with his floral installations. Inspired by the Japanese tradition of ikebana – the art of flower arrangement – he brings together unusual and exotic blooms in sumptuous manner. "Facing plants all day gives me inspiration," he says. "I take a walk everyday near my workshop. I catch subtle changes and seasonal transitions in the air. Speed of life in flowers and plants is different from that of humans; it is much more transient."
The photographer Shunsuke Shiinoki, whom Azuma describes as his "right-hand man", has captured his creations since 2002. The flowers used generally come from Ota market in Tokyo, one of the biggest in the world. Their latest work can be found in a new book, Encyclopaedia of Flower II, which, rather than being a clinical tome, as its name suggests, is filled with breath-taking floral arrangements.
"I think it is my mission to let a flower fulfil its life, because it leaves its life to me," says Azuma. "I wanted to publish this book as evidence of each and every flower's existence, that they lived their short lives to the fullest."
'Encyclopedia of Flowers II' is published by Seigensha Art Publishing; it can be ordered from tandmprojects.com
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