Nobuyoshi Araki is a Japanese photographer renowned for his work dealing with flowers, street art and eroticism which became the hallmark of his career. His sexualized photographs either shocked or aroused admiration which brought him a lot of attention worldwide. Like many photographers and artists, Araki acknowledged his fascination for women as he perceives them as goddesses. Since the beginning of his career in the 1970’s, his controversial creations were deemed obscene and pervert and his work was depicted as that of a madman and genius.
Araki was born in 1940 in Tokyo. He attended Chiba University and began his career as a commercial photographer. He later met Yoko Aoki, a writer who would eventually become his wife in 1971. He narrated his honeymoon through nudes, naps and peaceful boat rides photos. Sadly, his wife passed away in 1990 in account of ovarian cancer.
Araki published several books such as “Tokyo Lucky Hole” or “Sentimental Journey” in 1971 and others, all dealing with aesthetic bondage entitled in Japanese Kinbaku-bi. The prolific work of Araki still prevails today as our perceptions of sex and body are challenged as well as the ideas of what is morally accepted and what is not. His photographs are made to shock bewilder and change our perceptions, enabling us to observe the female body as pure beauty.
However, many critics excoriate him for objectifying and overly sexualizing women in a very brutal way. One may say that Araki’s work is signifying that women are only objects of men pleasures. According to New York’s Museum of Sex artistic and creative director Serge Becker, “He ventures in his work and private life into areas that many of us are uncomfortable with (…) Some of the discomfort is not necessarily because we disagree with him, but because he touches us and shows us aspects of ourselves we tend to cover up. He’s brutally honest, but he gets to do it, because he shows us love and beauty too.”
However, since the rise of a new feminism and the “Me Too” movement emerging in the aftermath of the Weinstein’s scandal, a domino effect stormed both movie and fashion industries with the fall of famous photographers, namely Terry Richarson or Mario Testino. Therefore, we need to question ourselves regarding Araki’s legacy and the tremendous impact he had on Japanese contemporary art.
It is time to see whether male or female photographers tackling a new way of seeing female and male body while respecting their subjects. Yet, fashion and art must remain controversial, and shock onlookers or readers in order to shatter preconceived ideas.