Nobuyoshi Araki (荒木 経惟, Araki Nobuyoshi, May 25, 1940) is a Japanese photographer and contemporary artist professionally known by the mononym Arākī (アラーキー). Known primarily for photography that blends eroticism and bondage in a fine art context, he has published over 500 books.
Early life and education
Araki was born in Tokyo on May 25, 1940. He studied film and photography at Chiba University from 1959, receiving a degree in 1963. He worked at the advertising agency Dentsu, where, in 1968, he met his future wife, the essayist Yōko Aoki.
Araki is one of the most prolific Japanese artists. Many of his photographs are erotic, straddling a line between art and pornography. Among his photography books are Sentimental Journey (1971), and Tokyo Lucky Hole (1990). Sentimental Journey “1972–1992” is a diary of life with his wife Yōko, who died of ovarian cancer in 1990. The first part of Sentimental Journey shows the couple embarking on married life—their honeymoon and sexual relations. Pictures taken during Yoko’s last days were published in Winter Journey.
Parr and Badger include four of Araki’s books in the first volume of their photobook history: Zerokkusu Shashincho 24 (Xeroxed Photo Album), Senchimentaru na Tabi (Sentimental Journey), Tokyo Lucky Hole, and Shokuji (The Banquet).
Araki contributed photography to the Sunrise anime series Brain Powerd.
In 1981, Araki directed High School Girl Fake Diary (女高生偽日記, Jokōsei nise nikki), a roman porno film, for the studio Nikkatsu. The film was a disappointment to Araki’s fans and to fans of the pink film genre.
The Icelandic musician Björk is an admirer of Araki’s work, and served as one of his models. At her request, he photographed the cover and inner sleeve pages of her 1997 remix albumTelegram. More recently, he has photographed pop singer Lady Gaga.
In 2005, an American director, Travis Klose, recorded a documentary about Araki called Arakimentari, which discusses the artist’s lifestyle and work.
Araki was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2008; he underwent successful surgery to remove the tumor.
In 2010, Araki’s cat, Chiro, died of old age.
In October 2013, Araki lost vision in his right eye due to a retinal artery obstruction. The 74-year-old artist used the experience as an inspiration to exhibit Love on the left eye, held on 21 June 2014 at Taka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo.
Commissioned by Italian luxury label Bottega Veneta, Araki photographed Saskia de Brauw and Sung Jin Park in Tokyo for the brand’s spring/summer 2015 campaign.
Araki is known for his intimate access to models. When asked about this in 2011, he bragged that he gained access through sex.
In April 2018, Kaori, a model who posed for Araki from 2001 to 2016, wrote a blog post about her relationship with Araki in which she accused him of financial and artistic exploitation. Kaori stated that “she worked without a contract, was forced to take part in explicit shoots in front of strangers, was not regularly paid and that her nude images were often used without her consent.” In 2017, when she requested that he stop republishing or exhibiting some photographs of her, Araki wrote to Kaori, warning that she had no rights. She states that the experience led to psychological trauma and ill health. Kaori stated that the Me Too movement had encouraged her to speak out. The accusations have raised questions about the power dynamics between a photographer and his subject. In order to raise awareness of Kaori’s claims, the activist group Angry Asian Girls Association protested the opening of an exhibition of photographs by Araki at C/O Berlin December 2018.
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