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Living Things

about Nobuyoshi Araki

“Amazing things are always around us,
whether they are real or not
I always photograph ordinary things,
because photographs are the record of living things”

As one of the most celebrated and controversial Japanese photographers, Nobuyoshi Araki has been involved in both scandals of attempted censorship and the subject of attention from critics and the press. His notoriously provocative work often revolves around female eroticism and his fascination with his birthplace of Tokyo, Japan. Other important themes that motivate him include the endless cycle of life and death, and the exploration of this precarious relationship.

Born in 1940 in Tokyo, since the inception of his practice in the 1960s, Nobuyoshi has become one of his country’s most eminent and prolific photographers, having published over 450 photobooks of his works. His works demonstrate a passion for vibrant colours and intense black and white photography.

Inspired by Japanese traditions, both ancient and more modern, Nobuyoshi’s influences include the Japanese art of Shunga, which reached its apex in the Edo period with infamous artists such as Katsushika Hokusai, as well as more unconventional signifiers of Japanese culture such as Godzilla-esque monsters, and modern Tokyo culture. The models also often wear the traditional Japanese kimono, intriguingly juxtaposed against the erotic posing of the models who wear them.

These photographs are intimate depictions of sensuous subjects, as well as a documentation of everyday life in modern Japan. They are part of numerous significant public collections including that of the Tate Modern, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Fotomuseum Winterthur in Switzerland. As an admirer, Björk served as model also for the cover and inner sleeve pages of her 1997 remix album, Telegram. More recently, Nobuyoshi has photographed pop singer Lady Gaga too.

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