Every year, Tokyo-based photographer Irwin Wong sends out a nengajo—a New Years greeting card based on the animals of the Chinese and Japanese zodiac. This year, it’s The Year of the Horse.
For these nengajos, Irwin incorporates all of his team members into a fun, movie-inspired poster featuring the zodiac animal of the coming year. Last year, the crew made one of their team members up to be a “snake man” complete with a forked tongue for the year of the snake. So, in order to top that, the team headed down to a farm in Chiba for a WWII-themed shoot where Irwin employed a real live horse.
Considering this was Irwin’s first time ever riding a horse, it turned out to be a bit of a challenge. Luckily, the handler was able to keep the horse under control long enough to get the shots he wanted.
This project involved a lot of planning, as Irwin sourced all of the military props, uniforms and antique rifles for the WWII theme. He scouted a suitable location for the horse and arranged all costumes, people and props in line with a strict budget, saying that Tokyo was the perfect place for this:
Luckily Tokyo has almost everything for anyone, and I found a very well stocked military gear shop in the nerd district of Akihabara, where I picked up most of the costumes. Finding the antique rifles was serendipitous, to say the least. After a bit of asking around, I found a small store called Chicago Regimentals, packed to the gills with old weaponry for collectors. After a bit of negotiating back and forth with them they agreed to rent me two classic WWII era rifles for a modest fee. After that it was a matter of finding a suitable farm, not to mention a horse. Once again, we got lucky and we found a small farm in Chiba which, after a bit of negotiation, let us have the run of place.
Along with the cover, Irwin took portraits of each of his team members (himself included):
Not only has the nengajo received a lot of attention from Japanese clients, but Irwin is also pretty pleased with it as well:
If I can pull something complicated like this together by myself, then the sky’s the limit as far as trying to make my ideas become reality. I definitely enjoyed my first experience ever riding a horse, but I have to say seeing the finished product come together after weeks of headaches trying to organize it is kind of special. Not to mention involving your friends in your crazy projects!
View a complete BTS video below: