Nobuyoshi Araki, born in Tokyo in 1940, is one of Japan’s most renowned photographers, and perhaps the most controversial. Araki is recognised internationally for his prolific output and the erotic content of his photographs, which blur the line between art and pornography. Araki is most well known for photographs of women bound according to the ancestral rules of Kinbaku – the Japanese art of bondage – a practice dating back to the 15th century. Not all of Araki’s images are sexually charged, his monumental oeuvre also depicts the photographer’s own life and the day-to-day intricacies of existence. Araki has divided opinion but his artistic genius is undeniable; every image reveals extreme technical mastery which influences many creative fields, including photography, film and fashion.
Araki belongs to a generation of artists who emerged in the 1960s whilst Japan was experiencing radical economic growth and urbanisation as a result of post-war recovery. Photography was evolving rapidly both in its traditional guises such as photojournalism and advertising as an art. The societal transformations, cultural shifts and overt commercialism influenced him, and can be seen throughout his work; for example, karaoke bars, Japanese toys and Tokyo street scenes often feature. He likewise often reflects Japanese traditions, in both historical and stylised references, e.g. Kinbaku. The women in his pictures, although not in traditional scenes, are usually Japanese, wearing traditional dress.
‘For me, woman is photography... A photographer who doesn’t take photos of women is no photographer, or only a third-rate one... women teach you how the world goes around.’ – Nobuyoshi Araki
Araki studied photography at Chiba University, later working at Dentsu advertising agency where he met his late wife Yōko. Araki has published over 450 books to date, including some of the most important photobooks of the 20th century; Sentimental Journey, Tokyo Lucky Hole, Winter Journey and Shino. Likewise, he has created films and in more recent years photographed superstars Lady Gaga and Björk. Araki’s photography has been exhibited internationally in both solo and group exhibitions, including the Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain, Paris and Centre National de la Photographie, Paris, with works residing in many significant public and private collections including the Tate Modern, London and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.