ASIAN VALUES DVD REVIEW
get a model to relax during a shoot, noted Japanese photographer
Nobuyoshi Araki tells her: "Could you hold this vase? Just think
of it as a penis." To which the plucky woman replies: "So small?"
While Japan's sex industry needs no introduction, not many people
get the chance to witness one of Japan's top erotic photographers
But it was
at the Akt-Tokyo exhibitions in Europe during the first half of
the '90s, featuring bondage and erotic pictures, that Araki (born
May 25, 1940 in Tokyo) became a controversial figure worldwide.
As Araki narrates, some female guards at the museum where his
exhibition was being held even went on strike, so turned off were
they by his pictures.
might be an unconscious need for ultimate control over women,
suggested photographer Richard Kern in Arakimentari, the 2004
documentary by Travis Klose. While Araki appears animated during
his shoots, he only had this to say: "Sexually and unconsciously
I find myself drawn to it. I guess I just loved it."
of the visual arts lie in the vagina," Araki continues. As Nan
Goldin wrote in Art Forum, Araki's work is coloured by love, and
meant as homage - to women and to beauty and to his own desires.
Araki's book on his honeymoon, Sentimental Journey, and Winter
Journey, which focuses on the death of his wife, Yoko (due to
cancer in 1990), are among his fans' favourites. Araki says: "Whether
physically or mentally, women are superior to men. We learn from
them somehow... There is always the element of mother. If you
ask me why, it's because we all came from women."
The police once came to an exhibition of mine, but by chance
I wasn't there, which was kind of lucky because I would
have been arrested on the spot. The gallery people were
taken away. This was the "Photomania Diary" show, in April
1992. We had set up a huge light box with about 1,500 35-mm.
slides, so they were really small; eight of them showed
sexual organs. The cops looked at every single one with
a magnifying glass."
Goldin: Are the "Obscenities" and "Bokuju-kitan"
series a reaction to that?
Yes. During the inquiry they gave me this simple rule that
no photograph could show a sexual organ. So I had the idea
of scratching the genitalia in the photographs to hide and
erase them. In part, I had to teach people that genitalia
are not obscene in themselves; it's the act of hiding them
- Nan Goldin interviews Araki in Art Forum.
for his bondage and erotic pictures, a good part of Klose's 85-minute
documentary features Araki with his nudes. In one of the shoots,
he saw the project as turning housewives into pornstars - helping
to give vent to some hidden desires of a middle-aged housewife
who decides to pose nude for the photographer (even her husband
was not aware of what his wife was up to at that moment). Then
there is another woman who wants to capture in pictures her nude,
sensuous beauty before everything fades away.
stereotypical image of a nude model being nothing but a bimbo,
model Komari, who has to endure not only being tied up but hung
upside down during a shoot, is articulate and philosophical about
Araki's art. She says: "Araki's photography embodies the classic
woodblock prints of Utamoto or Hokusai. It's like updated Shunga
or neo-Shunga, he is remaking this ancient artform. Japan is currently
rediscovering sexuality with 'wet' emotions. Araki expresses what
people fantasise about but can't actually do."
is enough nudity in this documentary to rival any softporn movie,
the act of watching the photographer at work in a way demystifies
the erotic elements. If the result is an alluring print, the process
is nothing but hard work. Viewers see Araki sweating away behind
one of his many cameras (he has at least five cameras, if not
more, at a shoot), he is helped by a team of staff who manages
the lights, and, of course, he has not only to put the model at
ease but to draw her out - no easy task given that the model might
be hung upside down with her genitalia on full display. And yes,
Araki smoothes down or ruffles up the pubic hair to achieve a
So does the
prolific photographer, who has more than 300 books, end up in
bed with his models? Araki laughs and says: "If I like her, we
can go to a love hotel."
The Arakimentari DVD (Geneon) is banned in $ingapore.