Nobuyoshi Araki – Art or Porn?

Nobuyoshi Araki
         

Nobuyoshi Araki is a quite polarizing figure. Not only in photography, but art in general. He’s worked almost exclusively in black and white film. Is he really the pornographic bondage photographer his detractors elude to? Well, not according to Bjork, Lady Gaga and a plethora of other celebrities and art critics. The thing about Nobuyoshi Araki is that, like his Japanese contemporary, Daido Moriyama, he is visually consistent and brings joy to an otherwise taboo subject.

 

Nobuyoshi Araki

Araki and Bjork

 

Nobuyoshi Araki – A Consistent Vision

His  contemporary work is known for both for his prolific output and his erotic imagery. While his photographs often focuses on activities and traditional practices in his native country, it is Araki’s sexual imagery that has elicited particular controversy and fascination.

 

Nobuyoshi Araki

Araki at work © Nobuyoshi Araki

 

While similar to Helmut Newton, Araki has often addressed subversive themes—such as bondage in the Japanese style kinbaku—in his provocative depictions of female nudes. A student of photography at Chiba University, he pursued a career as a commercial photographer upon graduating in 1963. He went to work at the advertising agency Dentsu, where he met his future wife, the essayist Yōko Araki. He began to publish numerous photography books. “Sentimental Journey” (1971) is a visual narrative of his honeymoon with wife Aoki Yoko, whom the artist credits for making him a photographer. Araki was born on May 25, 1940 in Tokyo, where he currently resides—the city that has served as a constant source of inspiration throughout his career.

 

Pentax 67

© Nobuyoshi Araki

 

Erotica in Art

A number of his works feature young women in erotic situations: “Kinbaku”, a series from 1979, features 101 photographs of women in rope bondage. He typically works in black-and-white photography, and his hallmark style is deliberately casual. “Rather than shooting something that looks like a professional photograph, I want my work to feel intimate, like someone in the subject’s inner circle shot them,” he says. More recently, Araki has been working on a series titled “Faces of Japan” (2009-) in which the artist photographs 500 to 1,000 people in each of Japan’s prefectures.

 

Pentax 67

© Nobuyoshi Araki Lady GaGa

 

Having published over 350 books by 2005, and still more every year, Araki is considered one of the most prolific artists alive or dead in Japan and around the world. Many of his photographs are erotic.  Among his photography books are “Sentimental Journey” (1971, but later reissued), and “Tokyo Lucky Hole” (1985). “Sentimental Journey”  was a diary of life with his wife Aoki Yoko until she died of ovarian cancer in 1990. His book, “Winter Journey”, (extremely rare), were his images taken during her last days. Later color volumes included the illustrious “Araki Gold“.

 

Fuji Klasse

© Nobuyoshi Araki

 

Icelandic musician Björk is an admirer of his work, and served as one of his models. At her request he photographed the cover and inner sleeve pages of her 1997 remix album, Telegram. And more recently, he has photographed pop singer Lady Gaga. Araki’s life and work were the subject of Travis Klose’s 2005 documentary film “Arakimentari“.

 

Pentax 67

© Nobuyoshi Araki

 

Commissions

Commissioned by Italian luxury label Bottega Veneta, Araki photographed Saskia de Brauw and Sung Jin Park in Tokyo for the brand’s spring/summer 2015 campaign. In 2014, the Italian philosopher Mario Perniola wrote the essay Araki’s Hell, included in the volume “Photography for the Afterlife“.

 

bottega veneta

© Nobuyoshi Araki

 

Fuji Klasse

© Nobuyoshi Araki

 

They diagnosed Nobuyoshi Araki with prostate cancer in 2008, and he has since undergone surgery which successfully removed the tumor. We hope he enjoys many years of continued health and success. In October 2013, Nobuyoshi Araki lost the vision in his right eye due to a retinal artery obstruction. Being 74 years old at that time, he utilized this as an inspiration. The Taka Ishii Gallery in Tokyo held the exhibit “Love on the Left Eye”. Now that’s dedication to ones’ art.

 

Pentax 67

Nobuyoshi Araki and his Pentax 67

 

Although he doesn’t seem married to any brand, I would guess the Pentax 67 is his most beloved camera. But I’ve seen him using everything from a  Yashica SLR to the Fuji Klasse. But, irrespective of what he uses, the image still looks like an Araki.

Works for Sale

 

Nobuyoshi Araki

© Nobuyoshi Araki

 

Nobuyoshi Araki

© Nobuyoshi Araki

 

 

 

 

   
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