Nobuyoshi Araki is one of Japan’s most popular living photographers and his prolific oeuvre is monumental, ranging from his world famous, graphic and highly sexualised “Kinbaku Series” to the day-to-day intricate detail of existence. His repertoire knows no boundaries: from erotic images of women trussed in the traditional Japanese style through to pictures of his cat, and ordinary Tokyo street scenes – he captures anything and everything.
Araki has undoubtedly had a taboo-breaking career. His graphic images question the hidden eroticism that lies beneath the surface of polite Japanese society; sex, prostitution, BDSM and the role of the Geisha are all subjects the daring photographer addresses. By pointing his camera lens at the hidden sexual underbelly of Japanese society, he tackles off-limit issues and challenges the hypocrisy of the country’s censorship laws. The nature of some of his pictures has been so outrageous, in fact, that the he’s been arrested for obscenity under Japanese law. While Araki has a strong interest in the erotic, notions of sentiment are also central themes to his work. Deeply personal and referred to as Shi Shashin, or personal photography, his pictures act as visual diaries, recording memories and exposing the private moments of his life. Starting in 1971 with his seminal Sentimental Journey (1971), a record of the artist’s honeymoon, Araki went on to publish numerous photo books with the word ‘sentimental’ in their titles. Perhaps most famous of all is his Sentimental Journey 1972-1992, a two-decade documentation of the life he shared with his wife until her death in 1990.
Araki’s erotic work has been featured in magazines like Playboy and New Self (a Tokyo publication) but he’s also revered for his technical skill as a photographer. He’s sought after by a broad spectrum of magazines because of the amazing quality of his work and his ability to capture the essential nature of women on film. From Vogue to the New York Times Magazine, he has been invited to work with numerous magazines, and images of one of his own favourite models, Rila Fukushima, were shot by Araki for the Winter 2015 issue of Dazed.