Nobuyoshi Araki: Self, Life, Death
Born in 1940, Nobuyoshi Araki is arguably Japan’s greatest living photographer, and certainly its most controversial. His inexhaustible creative energy is attested to by the more than 300 books he has published in the last four decades, while his work, which often challenges social taboos surrounding sex and death, has drawn critical attention both at home and abroad. In 1971 Araki privately published Sentimental Journey, an intimate account of his honeymoon with his wife Yoko. In the Preface to this book, Araki declared that his ‘point of departure as a photographer was love ... and the idea of an I-novel [a form of Japanese fiction written autobiographically and in the first person]’. With this statement, Araki established the genre of ‘I-photography’, in which his own life and feelings became the central subject of his work. The idea was to have a great impact on a new generation of Japanese photographers, especially in the 1990s. By 1990, the year of Yoko’s death, Araki had produced an immense body of work. Through his photographs he has created his own universe, where the themes of sex, life and death are closely intertwined. Tokyo, Araki’s home city, often plays a leitmotif in his work, while his rich visual vocabulary is drawn from the erotic Shunga of the Eda period (1600–1867) as well as the glossy imagery of the new commercial culture.
Through his innovative approach to his medium – sometimes combining painting, drawing and film – Araki has become an influential figure in contemporary art, beyond the field of photography. This major publication provides the most comprehensive overview yet of Araki’s prolific 40-year career. Araki’s key series of works are included alongside many rare and previously unpublished photographs. Featuring an interview and essays by writers from Japan and Europe, this book examines Araki from a broad range of perspectives and gives a cultural context to his work. Also included are a large selection of Araki’s writings, translated into English for the first time, as well as complete illustrated and annotated bibliography of his own books. Reflecting Araki’s principle of ‘I-photography’, the book is divided into three sections that follow the main recurring themes in his work: Self, Life and Death.