Probably one of the best internationally known Japanese photographers is Nobuyoshi Araki. This peculiar contemporary figure formed a highly controversial aesthetic by combining eroticism and fine art. Although often censored by the authorities, through the years Araki became adorned by the different subculture circles, in particular the fetish community, but also the mainstream one. The curiosity is that the Icelandic musician Björk is a huge admirer of his work, and Araki photographed her in 1997 for the cover art of her remix album, Telegram. Also fascinated by his work is American director Travis Klose, who produced a documentary about the artist called Arakimentari in 2005.
Since his beginnings until the present day, Araki published over five hundred books. From Sentimental Journey published in 1971 and Tokyo Lucky Hole from 1990, to Photography for the Afterlife published in 2014, the renowned photographer explored various forms of human (psychical) desire. Once Araki even stated:
If I didn't have photography I'd have absolutely nothing. My life is all about photography, and so life is itself photography.
Aside from a lifelong interest in photography, in 1981 Araki directed High School Girl Fake Diary a Roman Porno film for the Nikkatsu studio, which was a pure disappointment to Araki's fans, as well as the lovers of the pink film genre. The interest in his work increases and the recent exhibition held the Museum of Sex proves that.
Featured image: Nobuyoshi Araki - Silent wishes. Image via artphotobook.wordpress.com
The first on a list is a book Self Life Death which provides a great insight in Nobuyoshi Araki's prolific career. It consists of his most iconic images in a new, expanded format by exploring Araki's work from different viewpoints such as Japanese and European or female and male.
All of his major works like Sentimental Journey (1971), or Erotos (1993) are included in this edition, along with the writings of Araki which were translated into English for the first time. The book was published by Phaidon in 2011 in an accessible format and is valuable and rather useful for photography students and enthusiasts.
Featured image: Nobuyoshi Araki – Self Life Death. Image via nationalbookstore.com
In 1978, an ordinary coffee shop near Kyoto had waitresses who wore no panties under their miniskirts. It quickly became a phenomenon, so men stood in lines outside the cafe waiting to pay a three times higher price for coffee in order to see these women.
This provoked the following craze - the no-panties "massage" parlors, places which offered a variety of bizarre services such as interiors catering to commuter-train fetishists or fondling clients through holes in coffins whilst they lie naked inside playing dead.
Lucky Hole was one of the best-known places, and Nobuyoshi Araki was a frequent visitor of that venue, as well as other sex clubs of Tokyo’s Shinjuku neighborhood, so he photographed them until the golden age of Japan’s sex industry came to and in 1985.
Featured image: Nobuyoshi Araki – Tokyo Lucky Hole. Image via zuckerartbooks.com
Nobuyoshi Araki is best known for his erotic photographs of women in bondage. Japanese bondage is different than Western bondage in its knotting and aimed to arouse specific points upon the body.
Araki was fascinated by the tension between Eros and Thanatos, so it can be said that the very essence of his practice is a state of human being from the perspective of sexuality and desire.
The book Love and Death covers a number of over three hundred photographs, so this monumental survey provides a thorough selection of his most important photographic series.
Featured image: Nobuyoshi Araki – Love and Death. Image via amazon.com
The book titled Shijy, which is freely translated as Marketplace of Emotions, presents two hundred photographs arranged in form of contrasting pairs. Similar to his previous books, Araki juxtaposed photos to differing themes.
The publication includes images which are the remains of a movie footage Araki made in the 1970s. Since the movie was not stored properly, the photos show severe damages, as well as traces of smoke or soot. These purpose violent treatments reflect the best Araki's comprehension of mortality.
Featured image: Nobuyoshi Araki – Marketplace of Emotions. Image via auction.catawiki.com
This particular retrospective publication titled simply Araki by Araki shows the domains of the artist on five hundred sixty-eight pages. It was fully edited by Araki himself and was initially published as a limited edition. It underlines a variety of his occupations from Tokyo street scenes, faces, and foods, over colorful and sensual flowers to female genitalia and the Japanese art of kinbaku, or bondage.
Araki once described his bondage photographs as "a collaboration between the subject and the photographer"; the artist constantly explored his subjects through the lens by emphasizing the role of spoken conversation between himself and the model.‚
Featured image: Nobuyoshi Araki – Araki by Araki. Image via taschen.com
Araki's book Chiro, My Love was initially published in 1990 and was entirely devoted to his beloved cat Chiro. As a matter of fact, the book is a visual and highly sentimental document which follows the final days of the animal. It also features photographs of Araki's wife Yoko who sadly passed away before the book was released, as well as a color postcard of a polaroid of Chiro.
The artist captured the deteriorating life of the cat and set those images against his nude portraits. These staggering personal documents reflect the wonders of life and death and are really good examples of how Araki perceived the world around him.
Featured image: Nobuyoshi Araki – Chiro My Love. Image via amazon.com
Finally, Shokuji or The Banquet in English is a tribute to his late wife Yoko. The book shows Araki's photo-diary of the food they shared together in the last months of her life.
The photographer once again made a contrast by juxtaposing bright color images of food with a ring flash and a macro lens along with black-and-white images taken at home after doctors told Araki that his wife had only a month left to live. The book is an homage to loss, and the photographs are followed by an essay by Ivan Vartanian.
Featured image: Nobuyoshi Araki – The Banquet. Image via essentaste.com