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The Art of Nobuyoshi Araki

Araki, photo by Nan Goldin, Tokyo Love 1995

Nobuyoshi Araki 荒木 経惟 (1940- )
Brief Biography
Nobuyoshi Araki’s works demonstrate features of
post-modern Japan such as:
• Richness of figurality
• Evanescence and lyricism of life
• Variety of shifting values

Main topics in Araki’s works:

• Self and Life 私 生
• Sex (Eros)
• Death (Thanatos) 死
• Modern Tokyo scene
Araki’s favorite ten photographers,
and major influences
1. Jacques-Henri Lartigue
2. Diane Arbus
3. Eugène Atget
4. Félix Nadar
5. Man Ray
6. Brassaï
7. Henri Cartier-Bresson
8. Ihei Kimura 木村伊兵衛
9. Kishin Shinoyama 篠山 紀信
10. Nobuyoshi Araki
The influence of Man Ray & Kishin Shinoyama
Kishin Shinoyama

Man Ray

Kishin Shinoyama

Man Ray
The influence of Henri Cartier-Bresson &
Eugène Atget
Henri Cartier-Bresson

Henri Cartier-Bresson

Eugène Atget
The Sentimental Journey
Documentation of

The Intimate Photography 私寫真

Photography as private diary
Yōko Araki (荒木陽子) is Araki’s most beloved woman
and best model.
Turning point of Araki’s
styles - death of wife in
1990. Î more
exaggerated and daring
“The death of someone dear
to you makes turn towards
life.” – Araki

•Reflecting on the
evanescence of life
•Also, death (Thanatos) is
implied in love and sex.
Billowing vitality in the
face of death

Sexual content reveals

the passage from life
to death.
Something to hold on to
in this ever-changing world

“Kinbaku (knots with ropes) are different from bondage. I

only tie up a woman's body because I know I cannot tie up
her heart. Only her physical parts can be tied up. Tying up
a woman becomes an embrace.” - Araki
Opposition to conventional morality

“Art is all about doing what

you shouldn’t.” –
Nobuyoshi “Arachy”
A post-modern
view of time
Random timecodes
“A photograph takes
place only at a certain
instant. And this instant is
unidentifiable. The instant
is the eternal and the
eternal is the instant. When
the camera shutter is
released, that's the eternal.
Eternity is achieved by
releasing the camera
shutter and letting it
descend.” – Araki
•Another influence of
Tokyo is Araki’s city
•Portraits of people from all
walks of life
•Post-industrial age

“Photographing a city
that is not my own is
bothersome. To be
honest, I don't have any
interest in any city
besides Tokyo.” - Araki
Tokyo’s Contemporary Sexual Underworld I

Ensuring that the truth remains unseen!

Tokyo’s Contemporary Sexual Underworld II

Tokyo Love
A documentary project
with Nan Goldin in 1994

from Tokyo Love 1995

Photojournalism on the
subcultures of Tokyo
•Portraits of adolescence
•gender bending performers in
•High visuality in costumes and
space decorations from Tokyo Love 1995
Monsters (as altered Egos)
•Reviving the tradition of
animism as seem in old
prints (for example,
•Monsters/Kaiju, such as
Godzilla, represents the
desires of humanity

Sexual drive behind
the monstrosity

© Nobuyoshi Araki
Here, the artificial and the natural seem to occupy the
same world; real life (the cat, the vegetation) are
juxtaposed with representations of both real (actual
dinosaurs) and imaginary (Godzilla etc.) animals.
Japan beneath the Kimono
The influences of Edo Periods Ukiyo-e
prints and erotic art, ie. Shunga (春画)

•Influenced by
Shunga, but the
male is invisible
•The male is Araki
himself, taking
photos as an
participant and
“I'd like to take photos similar to
Shunga, but I haven't reached
that level yet. There is bashfulness
in Shunga. The genitals are visible,
but the rest is hidden by the
kimono. In other words, they don't
show everything. They are hiding a
secret.” - Araki
A photographer of post-modern thoughts and
lyrical intent
•Every photo is a
microcosm of evanescent
•The artist himself is an
observer and participant
in the scene he has

“In my photographs I often appear

in scenes containing bondage or
sexual activity. I play the role of a
midget in a Shunga painting. A
secondary role as a spectator. After
all, I prefer photographs to sex. “ -
References and Extended Readings

• Nobuyoshi Araki: Self, Life,

Death. Phaidon Press, New
York 2005
• Nan Goldin and Nobuyoshi
Araki: Tokyo Love. D.A.P. New
York 1995
• Araki’s official website
• Araki interviewed by Jérôme
• Intimate photography: Tokyo,
nostalgia and sex – Interviews
of Araki
Photo Credits

• All Araki works are from Nobuyoshi Araki:

Self, Life, Death. Phaidon Press, New
York 2005.
• Except the three noted are from Nan
Goldin and Nobuyoshi Araki: Tokyo Love.
D.A.P. New York 1995
• The Rest are from

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