Having the Time of Her Life: Hajime Sawatari

It may seem a superficial thing to say, but modeling is hard work and photographing models is as well, especially if they are children. On the other hand, many little girls do enjoy getting their hair done, dressing up, playing make believe and generally showing off. Hajime Sawatari’s Alice is an excellent case in point and it happens to be the best example of the tableau I can think of.

Sawatari (沢渡朔) was born in Japan in 1940 and, pursuing his interests, graduated with a degree in photography in 1963. By 1966 he was a freelance photographer working mostly in the fashion industry. Over time, he became more and more entranced by the female form and began documenting his romance with an Italian woman named Nadia. The results of this work garnered Sawatari some critical acclaim. In 1973, he produced Alice which despite its exceptional production quality was not recognized publicly as a masterpiece, most likely because of the nudes of the 6 or 7-year-old girl contained within. Ironically, Sawatari produced a sequel to this work in 1979 called Alice from the Sea using the same model and that did win awards. The little girl, Samantha Gates, would later do other modeling and acting work: most notably (with her brother Stefan) Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy album cover and the film The Water Babies.

It is hard to be sure, but it seems clear the artist was creating an homage to Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll), not only because of the Alice motifs, but because he felt it important to show off this beautiful girl in her natural glory. There is also ample evidence that these photos were shot on various estates and other locations in England.  Whatever work difficulties there may have been, I think it fair to say that this little girl had the time of her life. This piece is a kind of swan song for Sawatari as he never did anything quite like it again. Over time he worked with nudes more and more, but they tended to be Japanese and older.

It was hard for me to choose only eight images and I have something to say about all of them. I expect to share some of the others in upcoming thematic posts. Every few pages of the book has an insert of Japanese text taken from the Alice stories to give context and mood to the images.

The artist played with scale by using miniatures as in this shot or over-sized props to create the opposite effect.


Hajime Sawatari – Alice (1973) (1)

Sawatari plays around with twin imagery in a few shots using this Alice mannequin.

Hajime Sawatari – Alice (1973) (2)

Hajime Sawatari – Alice (1973) (2)

This image of embarking evokes the idea of a magical journey. The girl’s costume and the beautiful train remind me a lot of scenes involving The Hogwarts Express.

Hajime Sawatari – Alice (1973) (3)

Hajime Sawatari – Alice (1973) (3)

This is the only image in the book that is a two-page spread. Pip did a nice job cleaning it up so you could appreciate its full impact.

Hajime Sawatari – Alice (1973) (4)

Hajime Sawatari – Alice (1973) (4)

This is a wonderful juxtaposition of scale, perfectly suited for this fantasy.

Hajime Sawatari – Alice (1973) (5)

Hajime Sawatari – Alice (1973) (5)

Here, she is frolicking with Tweedledee and Tweedledum. There is another image like it in a wooded setting involving the King and Queen of Hearts.

Hajime Sawatari – Alice (1973) (6)

Hajime Sawatari – Alice (1973) (6)

This is one of several scenes involving the Tea Party and this is a good one showing the entire table setting and cast of characters.

Hajime Sawatari – Alice (1973) (7)

Hajime Sawatari – Alice (1973) (7)

Hajime Sawatari – Alice (1973) (8)

Hajime Sawatari – Alice (1973) (8)

[160227] Sawatari’s journal entries from this shoot have been transcribed and translated and will be used for a future post focusing on Gates.  -Ron

Wikipedia: Hajime Sawatari

Led Zeppelin’s ‘Houses of the Holy’

I’ve kind of been holding off on this one because it is one of my favorite albums ever and has one of my favorite covers as well.  The cover was designed by Aubrey Powell of the famous Hipnosis graphic design firm, which created many now iconic album covers of the ’60s and ’70s. The image features what appears to be a multitude of nude children climbing toward the peak of a rocky hill but in fact there were only two models for the children, brother and sister Stefan and Samantha Gates, who were photographed multiple times over the course of ten days on site at Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.  The design was inspired by the finale of Arthur C. Clarke’s seminal sci-fi novel Childhood’s End, in which millions of naked children are taken en masse from earth by aliens. (Little known fact: Stanley Kubrick wanted to make a film of this book but couldn’t because the film rights were owned by someone else, so he opted to film another of Clarke’s novels instead, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Too bad–I would rather have seen Childhood’s End made into a movie, but alas it wasn’t to be.)

Both siblings look back on this experience with understandably mixed emotions, since the days were cold and rainy and the children were required to spend much of the time nude. Nevertheless, Stefan loved being naked anyway, as he points out in this article, and Samantha remarks in the same article on how nobody thought much of the children’s nudity back then, which underscores perfectly how attitudes have changed drastically in the last forty years.  However, because of the nudity the album was banned from parts of the US South for many years.  Stefan had later come to see the album cover art as a bit malign (Samantha disagreed) and had never listened to the album up until 2010, when he traveled back to the Giant’s Causeway to experience the album there and came away with a new appreciation for it and a changed perspective on the cover image.  Both children went on to careers in the media, Stefan as an actor and presenter on assorted cooking shows and Samantha as an actress.


Aubrey Powell – Led Zeppelin – Houses of the Holy (full image)

Aubrey Powell - Led Zeppelin - Houses of the Holy (front cover)

Aubrey Powell – Led Zeppelin – Houses of the Holy (front cover)

Aubrey Powell - Led Zeppelin - Houses of the Holy (back cover)

Aubrey Powell – Led Zeppelin – Houses of the Holy (back cover)

The inner sleeve image depicts a nude man holding one of the children (probably Stefan, judging by the hair length) over his head, though the figures are seen at a distance against the backdrop of a castle.  This was in fact Dunluce Castle, which is very near the Giant’s Causeway.

Aubrey Powell - Led Zeppelin - Houses of the Holy (interior)

Aubrey Powell – Led Zeppelin – Houses of the Holy (interior)

Samantha Gates in 'The Water Babies'

Samantha Gates in ‘The Water Babies’

Aubrey Powell (Official Site)

Wikipedia: Aubrey Powell (designer)

Led-Zeppelin (Official Site)

Wikipedia: Led Zeppelin


From Hugh Ziegler on April 13, 2012
Here we go — Houses of The Holy — at last!
This is what I get for being too busy to visit here in time.
I visited Aubrey Powell’s website — prints of his art work are available — but for $ 1,000 and up.
Okay — I love Samantha and Stefan, but that is a bit steep even for me.
Samantha got busy — I’ve read about Hajime Sawatari’s photographic adaption of “Alice In Wonderland” and an apparent sequel called “Alice from the Sea”. Worth a look?

From pipstarr72 on April 13, 2012
Yes, I finally put it up. From what I’ve seen of Sawatari’s book (on the web), it may well be worth the money. I suppose it depends on how serious a collector you are and how much money you have to play around with. I didn’t realize that was Samantha Gates portraying Alice; if it is (and it certainly does look like her), she was younger than she appears to be in film stills I’ve seen. I think the book was first published in 1973, the same year Houses of the Holy came out, which would mean she is fairly close to the same age on the album cover and in the book. That seems about right.

Chadwick Hall

Okay, another image scanned from the book 20th Century Photography.  Hopefully we’ll not have any issues with this one, since I had no problem finding it elsewhere on the Internet.  This is quite a peculiar image, even for the 1970s.  It seems Hall is trying to say something here, only I’m not quite sure what.

Edit: one of our readers pointed out that the girl in this image looks a great deal like Samantha Gates, who has appeared nude in other media, most notably on the cover of Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy album and in Hajime Sawatari’s Alice book.  I didn’t notice before, but on closer inspection, I have to agree that this is probably Miss Gates.  The time period is right, and that face is pretty distinct.  Excellent eye!

Chadwick Hall – Untitled (1976)


From Rev. Benjamin M. Root IV on Septmeber 8, 2011
I think it’s all about the shoes.
Really, if it were about her contrasting innocence, she’d be barefoot. But the clodhoppers ground her firmly into the society of the men in the photo. In fact, with the boots on, from their viewpoint they’d never “know” she was nude (only the viewer would know).
If I were shooting it, she’d be barefoot, light, feminine, ephemeral youth.
So, since they’re there…it must be about the shoes…perhaps is was an ad for a 19th century shoemaker, who was playing on the fact that ankles were obscene.

From pipstarr72 on September 9, 2011
Ha ha! Yeah, I don’t think it’s a shoe ad. I do like your observation that from the p.o.v. of the men she could be fully clothed. What I was thinking was that the girl represented a reality that is completely removed from the world of these clearly very important men. The men see what they want to see; meanwhile, those of us facing the “issue” head on see it for what it is. In other words, it’s a comment about the nature of politicians and/or wealthy businessmen vs. average Joes. Or something.