Sentimental Journey, Winter Journey: A Summary

A great month in December looking at Nobuyoshi Araki’s ‘Sentimental Journey’ and a big thanks to all who contributed. This is a rather late roundup of the events from December, but for those on the mailing list, you may have noticed I also thought we were in 2010!

In February we will be looking at Stephen Shore’s ‘Uncommon Places’

Matt Johnston on ‘Sentimental Journey’, a personal reflection

From the moment you pick up Sentimental Journey, it feels like an occasion. Removing the bright red ‘diary’ from it’s slipcase creates an intimate viewing, I feel like I should ask permission before turning the first page.

If we are to follow Araki’s intended sequence, the first page is the last page (at least to a western [left to right] book reader), but it is testament to the book that so many read in the opposite direction and still find a fantastic and compelling narrative.

I have read this book front-to-back, back-to-front and on numerous occasions, dipped straight into the middle and explored outwards. On my first viewing, I read from right to left, in chronological order, and I’m glad I did, as I will never get that first viewing back. For me, more than any other photobook, ‘Sentimental Journey’ changes drastically after the first viewing, I cannot help but read the images differently knowing the events to come. And so I hope that those who have not yet seen the book, will take the time to view it in it’s entirety.

I think it is a shame to call ‘Sentimental Journey, Winter Journey’ a sad story, but it  also feels unfair not to touch upon the sadness and loss shown on these pages. Perhaps it would be more appropriate to call ‘Sentimental Journey’ a human story. Araki exposes us to the extremes of human emotion, of love and lust and death, but never allows us to stay too long, and always affords us time to contemplate. This is a book that flows gently, but at a pace that keeps the eye from lingering, and instead we have respite in the images of the everyday through Araki’s eye.

It is these in-between moments I have become more drawn to as I have read and re-read the book, just as we notice small details in films the second time around. As we near the end of the book these moments begin to form a routine and a pattern within the larger body of work. I feel I understand how Araki sees the world, how he relates to it, and how he enjoys the subtle changes occurring in his apartment, balcony and environment from day to day. Settling into this routine highlights Araki’s emotions when the sequencing becomes restless and perhaps more sporadic as we approach the end of the book, an of the narrative.

The toning and aesthetic of the images combined with the off-white paper gives an almost ethereal feel, but I always remember the book as a series of crisp, bold, black and white Images. I don’t know why, perhaps I cannot remember enough to replicate the immersive experience of sitting down with this book and reading from cover to cover.

– Matt

For Japanese photographer Nobuyoshi Araki, ‘All Women are Beautiful’

The following post by Wayne Ford can also be found on Wayne’s Posterous blog here.

67 Shooting Back. (©Nobuyoshi Araki/Courtesy of Galerie Steph/Ooi Botos)

 In the mid-1960s, Japanese photographer Nobuyoshi Araki began documenting his young wife through a highly personal and intimate series of photographs titled, My Wife Yoko (1967-1976), this expansive body of work is now considered one of the photographers most significant, and would lead to the self-publication of the now seminal volume, Sentimental Journey (1971), the first of over 350 books since published by the prolific and at times controversial artist.

Crucially this work also marked a critical juncture in the development of ‘personal photography’ in Japan, in which the photographer and subject are inextricably linked, leading Araki to remark, ‘If I didn’t have photography I’d have absolutely nothing. My life is all about photography, and so life is itself photography.’

Post-war Japan was a particularly fertile period for photography, where a generation of photographers responded to social upheaval by creating a new visual language dubbed ‘Are, Bure, Boke’ (rough, blurred, and out of focus), and it is against this backdrop that Araki grew up. Writing in the accompanying catalogue to All Women Are Beautiful — an exhibition of twenty-two photographs at Galerie Steph in Singapore — art historian Charles Merewether, suggests that in particular, both Takuma Nakahira and Daido Moriyama and the group around the magazine Provoke — which sought to break the rules of traditional photography  — were of critical importance in influencing the young Araki, ‘because of their visceral engagement with their subject matter, especially the subject of the street and the expressive character of individual lives.’

‘A photographer looks at everything, which is why he must look from beginning to end. Face the subject head-on, stare fixedly, turn the entire body into an eye and face the world,‘ comments Shomei Tomatsu, one of the most influential photographers of the Provoke era. We can see this sentiment reflected in the work of Araki, whose oeuvre is wide and varied, stretching from his celebrated street photography, through still-life, to his female nudes, portraits, and his ongoing series featuring women in Kinbaku — a traditional form of bondage, which utilises an intricate series of knots each leaving a distinct pattern on the skin — a body of work for which he is possibly best known.

Lewd Painting. (©Nobuyoshi Araki/Courtesy of Galerie Steph/Ooi Botos)

‘Women now queue around the block outside Araki’s home just to be photographed, but his personal preference remains with the average, everyday woman,’ says Stephanie Tham, director of Galerie Steph. ‘I think he feels a bit more empathy with housewives because they are more pedestrian and simple, and he manages to make them look beautiful.’

Within a minimal white interior, a young woman dressed in a vibrant red and blue kimono sits on the floor, her long dark hair tied with a small red ribbon, and her gaze firmly fixed on the photographer. To her side, three plastic dinosaurs stand on a small table— a motif frequently encountered in Araki’s work — and the only other colour in the composition, at her feet we encounter a tangle of suggestive rope, and in the foreground we see Araki’s Leica. What we are experiencing in this beautiful photograph, is what the art critic Adrian Searle refers to as a ‘complicit menage-a-trois of photographer, model and camera, a kind of ritualised theatre of objectification.’

From the initial photographs of his wife, women have formed a subject at the very core of Araki’s artistic output, he ‘has developed a continuous exploration of women in the privacy of their own home and in his city Tokyo,’ writes Merewether. ‘He has rarely made photographs outside of Tokyo. They are neither photographs of the street nor of bars or public places yet, nonetheless, they are what Araki often refers to as “my Tokyo.” The photographs are about individual woman, their bodies, their exposure to another, to the outside. Often they occur as a result of requests from the women themselves. These photographs are neither pornographic nor sexual. Rather, they are intimate portraits and one can feel a kind of intoxication that comes from this contact.’

67 Shooting Back. (©Nobuyoshi Araki/Courtesy of Galerie Steph/Ooi Botos)

In his series of Lewd Paintings, Araki marks the surface of the photographic images with bold swashes of opaque colour, and inscribes them with kanji. We encounter a woman leaning against a wall, her arms tightly bound behind her back, the black ropes criss-crossing her chest, once again her gaze is fixed firmly on the photographers lens, with her kimono falling away to reveal her naked form. Around this black-and-white portrait, are daubs and layers of yellow, red, and aqua, heightening the tension within the image. In another image from the series, a woman lies naked on a bed, strong leather straps restrain her torso, whilst ropes bind her ankles, one hand is raised creating a haunting shadow on the wall, above her, occupying half of the composition is a dense mass of calligraphy, whilst below a wave of blues and mauves wash over her body.

‘Women? Well, they are gods. They will always fascinate me,’ says Araki, who frequently appears in his own photographs. In one such image, we see a beautiful young woman bound to the trunk of a tree, her vibrant blue and red kimono the only real colour in a sea of monchrome hues. To the left of the photographic frame, Araki stands making direct eye contact with the viewer, in his right hand he holds a pole with which he lifts the woman’s kimono revealing a dark waft of pubic hair.

In Araki’s photographs we experience what Searle refers to as ‘an injunction to make more of the things in life that matter; love of life and its complexity most of all, in the knowledge that one day it will all end.’

– Wayne Ford

‘An Outsider’s View’ by Sean Davey on ‘Sentimental Journey’

This great piece on Araki’s ‘Sentimental Journey, Winter Journey’ has come from Sean Davey, a photographer, one eighth of the ‘brokenbench’ collective and a Photo Book Club Meet-up organizer.
– Thanks Sean!

An Outsider’s View
– A Personal reaction to Araki Nobuyoshi’s Sentimental Journey/Winter Journey

I remember clearly the first time that I saw the book Sentimental Journey/
Winter Journey. I was sitting in the living room in a friend’s apartment, when
a mutual friend ours, and fellow photographer, had just returned from Japan.
Both my friend and I received a book as a present. I received a book by
Daido Moriyama, while my friend received something rather different, a slimmer,
seemingly more discreet book, which had a bright red cover and no title. The
book came in a cardboard slipcase with Japanese characters on it. I could not
read the title, nor even discern whose work it was. The book itself immediately
intrigued me.

After examining this red book for a few more clues, I resigned myself to simply
look at the photographs. I had no idea what I was looking at, and my initial
reaction was one of complete bewilderment. Opening the cover, the first picture
showed a cat bounding through deep snow, the date ’90 2 1 imprinted in the
lower right-hand corner. The picture was a snapshot and looked like it was shot
in someone’s backyard. Turning the page, two more pictures of the same cat, the
date identically printed on both photographs. This time the cat was inside; one
image showing the cat looking out onto the snow, in the second photograph it
was curled up on the covers on a single bed.

I went through the entire book from start to finish, clueless to the fact that I was
reading it the wrong way (Japanese books start from the opposite end, reading
from right to left rather than from left to right). I felt that something was askew
and while it did cross my mind that I was missing a cultural reference (as major
one as it was), I knew immediately that I was looking at one of the strongest
pieces of photographic literature that I had seen. I went over the book again and
again, front to back and back to front, oblivious to the meaning of the Japanese
characters presented on some of the book’s pages. All I had to go off was the
images and the sequence in which they had been placed. To me this book started
with a cat in the snow and ended with a couple on their wedding day. To my
senses at least, this work was some kind of sentimental diary.

For a number of years I have been less and less interested in what I see as being
trivial components of photography; composition, technical details, and even
subject matter to an extent. What is important to me in a photographer’s work is
not what the photographer actually photographs, but rather what that work says
about them and how honest he/she is about what they are photographing. To
this day I have not seen a book of photographs so honest and personally involved
as Araki’s Sentimental Journey/Winter Journey. The lack of ego so humbly and
beautifully presented in this book emphasises Araki’s understanding that he
himself is neither subject in, nor author of this body of work, but rather an equal
mixture of both.

How terribly sad it is to see a loved one become ill and in the case of Araki’s
wife Yoko, to die. The feelings of loss, anguish and emptiness permeate the
lives of those who remain and who often see, up-close, the pointy end of human
suffering and pain. But there is also, after mourning, celebration and eventually
some kind of personal acceptance and closure, the end of one journey will
always lead to the beginning of another. The power of this book lies in Araki’s
ability to simply present us with a personal diary, a record of events and
personal moments so expressive of so many different themes; love, loss, passion,
happiness, fear, sadness, longing, death, mourning, acceptance, celebration and
isolation, while sequencing the pictures into a cohesive and structured narrative.

Still to this day I have never seen a translation of the text in Sentimental
Journey/Winter Journey, and I’m not really sure that I want to. Perhaps not
knowing the entire story is part of the reason that I find this book so invigorating
and emotionally moving. More recently I have been pondering the landscapes
made by Araki that appear immediately after Yoko’s death (a photograph shows
the two holding hands followed by a gurney being pushed down a hospital
corridor, presumably carrying Yoko’s body). I come back to these landscapes
over and over again, visualising a man who has just lost his wife, driving away
from the hospital and photographing from the window of his car, questioning
everything, absolutely everything that surrounds him, and doing it though
photography. The photographs say nothing but they reveal everything.

Metaphors abound in Araki’s inclusion of his cat Chiro towards the end of the
book, and through these pictures, I sense that Araki is starting to accept the loss
of his wife and is saying his final goodbye to Yoko. If you read it like I first did,
starting from the end (and as I still prefer to do) and work back to the picture of
Araki and Yoko on their wedding day, the photographs of Chiro indeed mark the
start of a very personal and sentimental winter journey, one that stands out as
my favourite photography book to date.

– Sean Davey

Nobuyoshi Araki, Video Documentary and Interview

Below is a video exploring Araki’s contemporary practice as part of the video series ‘Contacts’ by Studio ARTE.
And as a bonus – below that is an interview between last month’s featured artist Nan Goldin and Nobuyoshi Araki!

Thanks to those who have submitted personal reflections, we will post these soon, and if you would like to comment, do so in comments section.

INTERVIEW: “Naked City: An Interview with Nobuyoshi Araki by Nan Goldin” (1995)

By Nan Goldin, ArtForum, January, 1995

In 1992, the editors of the Japanese Magazine Deja-Vu invited me to Tokyo to meet Nobuyoshi Araki. I’d already heard about this wild man of Japanese photography and of his diaristic, intensely sexual work. Araki had procured a copy of my Ballad of Sexual Dependency, though it’s unavailable in Japan due to stringent censorship laws. I was astounded to find a man on the other side of the planet who was working the same obsessions I was.

We met for the first time at Dug, his regular jazz bar in Shinjuku, where he presented me with a bottle of I.W. Harper Bourbon (his favorite drink) with my name on it. Now it’s stored there next to Robert Frank’s. He showed me his Tokyo that night; we went to the back-alley bars on the Golden Gai, bars that used to be brothels, and that seat about six people each. It’s said that no one can really translate Araki because he speaks in puns and jokes.

Most Japanese women are too shy to translate his endless sexual allusions, so when the women in his entourage blushed furiously, I’d say “Is he talking about his penis again?”

Araki is a superstar in Japan. You realize this if you chart his wake through the streets of Shinjuku–young girls screeching, yakuza gangsters pointing, salary men stopping dead in their tracks. No photographer in the West has this kind of public visibility. The people of Tokyo love Araki–he’s one of their own, a homeboy, and he loves them back: his work has been one long poem to his city of birth and of choice.

Araki has published almost a hundred books. He once told me he’d spent years as a commercial photographer making other people famous, and now he’s an artist making himself famous. Though he’s long been celebrated in Japan, his work has only recently been exported to the West, through the word of mouth of Western artists like Robert Frank, Jim Jarmusch, and myself. In the past few years he’s had retrospectives in Graz, Austria, and in Frankfurt, and gallery shows in London, Cologne, and New York.

As Araki’s work starts to spread, I’m sure some will find it misogynist. I don’t, but perhaps that’s because I know the man: I’ve seen and known his generosity and curiosity about people and about life, his love for and appreciation of women, his naughty-boy attitude toward what is taboo or revered or overserious. Much of his recurring imagery–girls in school uniforms, girls in complicated rope tricks, girls in love hotels–is popular in Japanese pornography; but Araki crosses the line between pornography and art. His work is colored by love, and meant as homage–to women and to beauty and to his own desires. In Japan, where women’s roles are in a period of flux and the idea of female identity in the Western sense is a new one, many young women find Araki’s images liberating. To show their bodies, to flaunt their sexuality, feels to them like freedom; teenagers flock to Araki to be photographed by him.

Since I first met Araki we’ve collaborated occasionally, and recently we published a book together, Tokyo Love. I believe he has attained greatness a number of times–in Araki’s Tokyo Erotomania Diary, and in Sentimental na Tabi/Fuyu no Tabi (Sentimental journey/winter journey, 1991), which he calls his “purest” book, a deeply moving record of his honeymoon with his wife, Yoko, in 1971, and then of her death from cancer in 1990. Araki is a driven man. On the day of our interview he’d done a long shoot at a rented studio in the afternoon. As usual, he had an entourage in tow, and we all headed for a Spanish restaurant to talk over squid-ink pasta eaten with chopsticks. Then we returned to the studio, where Araki held a workshop on photographing the female nude. Some of Tokyo’s leading directors, designers, editors, and actors were in attendance, and he kept them going till midnight.

NAN GOLDIN: One of the things Westerners feel about Japan is that it’s a very conformist society–as in that Japanese proverb, “The nail that sticks out must get hammered down.” Are you a nail sticking out?

NOBUYOSHI ARAKI: No, I’m not the nail that sticks out, probably because of my in-born vitue. I’m more like a naughty boy.

NG: In the text you wrote for our book together, Tokyo Love, you say you now only want to photograph happiness.

NA: Yes, but happiness always contains a mixture of something like unhappiness. When I photograph unhappiness I only capture unhappiness, but when I photograph happiness, life, death, and everything else comes through. Unhappiness seems grave and heavy; happiness is light, but happiness has its own heaviness, a looming sense of death.

NG: Why do you always say that photography itself has a smell of death?

NA: To make what is dynamic static is a kind of death. The camera itself, the photograph itself, calls up death. Also, I think about death when I photograph, which comes out in the print. Perhaps that’s an Oriental, Buddhist perception. To me, photography is an act in which my “self” is pulled out via the subject. Photography was destined to be involved with death. Reality is in color, but at its beginnings photography always discolored reality and turned it into black and white. Color is life, black and white is death. A ghost was hiding in the invention of photography.

NG: A lot of master photographers who have been working for a long time, like Robert Frank, Larry Clark, and William Klein, have become frustrated by still photography and have started making films.

NA: I resolve that feeling by working on the Arakinema show. It’s not the artistic process of shifting to another kind of expression that attracts me, it’s something more emotional–the biological impulse to bring the dead to life. I want to revive what photography has killed. Every photograph kills sound and words, reducing them to a flat print. I want to add sound and words. Films come close, but films by a photographer are usually another way of showing photographs. The photographer is just using movies to enhance the photo’s liveliness. Even if Frank, Clark, and Klein try filmmaking, I would doubt they become cineasts. They’d always remain photographers–just photographers presenting their photographs as films.

NG: What is the Arakinema–a movie? Stills shot on video?

NA: Arakinema is slides shown simultaneously on two slide projectors, so that the photographs overlap. What makes Arakinema compelling is that there’s a sort of sensuality of vision when photographs intertwine. My relationship with my subject is extremely important to me–I value that time and space of communication between myself and the subject when I’m working–so the more sensual the photograph is, the better. And if I mix old photographs with new ones in Arakinema, something I hadn’t noticed may come out. When I take photographs I collaborate with the subject; when I show photographs they collaborate with each other. And the relationship with the audience comes on top of that.

ara 746 08 INTERVIEW: Naked City: An Interview with Nobuyoshi Araki by Nan Goldin (1995)

NG: Have you ever made films?

NA: Around 1963, I made a 16-mm. film with a Bolex. It was like John Cassavetes. Back then, I was looking at Italian Neorealist films by Roberto Rossellini and Vittorio de Sica; I liked their documentary touch with boys and girls on the street, and their use of ordinary people as actors. I found an old prewar apartment in my neighborhood, and I followed the life of the boy who lived there, as if I was seeing myself in him. I was shooting 16-mm. film and at the same time taking still photographs of the same subjects. I collected the photographs in the book Satchin [the name of the boy Araki photographed], which was just published. So really l started with movies–I made three altogether.

NG: You were young then–20 or something.

NA: In 1964 I was 24. Perhaps my desire to show photos in series comes from my experience making 16-mm. films. Banmei Takahashi’s recent film The New World of Love contains a number of my photographs. That link with cinema has always been there.

NG: When did you start taking photographs?

NA: I was taking photographs before I made any films, but it was around the time I was making films that I got serious about taking photographs. I took my first photo at elementary school, on a school trip in the early ’50s. My father, who was an amateur photographer, had given me a camera called a Baby Pearl, and I brought it with me on the trip. I began by taking pictures of a classmate I liked, and of the Ise Shrine.

NG: A “Baby Pearl”?

NA: The Baby Pearl was a camera with a bellows, made in Germany or Japan, I’m not sure which. I began by taking pictures not only of girls but of scenery. More recently Tokyo Nude, for instance, has both nudes and scenery. So I’ve always been doing the same thing! I’ve made no progress.

NG: Your father was a shoemaker?

NA: My father owned a geta [wooden clog] shop in Tokyo. He took photos when he wasn’t working, and he was good at it–ordinary scenic photos. Typical, stereotype-Japanese photos with a field in the front and Mount Fuji in the back.

NG: Was he still living when you got famous?

NA: He was still alive when I won the Taiyo Award, in 1964, and the Taiyo Award was a prize for young photographers then. But my father came from the Shitamachi, which is a traditional working-class neighborhood, and he was also very shy, so he didn’t show he was happy. After he died, though, people told me he’d boasted about me and the prize to everyone. If he were still alive, and saw me with this foreign photographer called Nan Goldin, he would have been thrilled. I wish I could have shown him myself the way I am now.

NG: In Japan, people recognize you in the street. You’re a superstar. Are any other Japanese photographers as famous?

NA: I don’t think so. But most of the famous people in Japan travel in their cars, and I still ride the subway. I like to be out on the streets among the people.

NG: Given the sexual obsession in your work, and the strict obscenity laws in Japan, have you had trouble with the authorities?

NA: Yes, but with the police only, not with the people. 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.

NG: Are the “Obscenities” and “Bokuju-kitan” series a reaction to that?

NA: 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 that’s obscene.

During the war, whatever didn’t pass the censors in Japan was painted over with bokuju, or Chinese ink. So in my new book, Bokuju-kitan, I hid the genitals with Chinese ink, just to show the police that was more obscene. [Bkuju, Chinese ink, kitan, strange stories; Araki in punning on the title Bokuto-kitan, “Strange stories from east of the river,” a famous novel by Kafu Nagai.] But I wasn’t doing it just as resistance to censorship, or as a joke: I was creating another form of art. If obscenity laws can be used to create new art, maybe it’s ok to have a certain number of restrictions.

Since I began photographing genitalia, there’s been a trend toward allowing pubic hair to be shown in photos. When I was told I couldn’t show genitalia, I thought it might be acceptable to hide them by inserting what’s called an “adult’s toy” [a vibrator] in them, or some other foreign object. They said no. Maybe they realized that there’s essentially no eroticism in nudes; the body only becomes erotic when there’s some action or relationship. What I do with obscenity is in the tradition of the Edo period’s “spring pictures” [pornographic woodblock prints], which expose only the genitalia and the face and leave the rest of the body clothed. Maybe the future trend is not for “spring pictures” but for “spring photos”–that’s it!

ara 747 08 INTERVIEW: Naked City: An Interview with Nobuyoshi Araki by Nan Goldin (1995)

NG: What about women in Japan–some people in the U.S. will want to know whether you’ve had any complaints from them.

NA: Never at all. As far as I know, all women love me.

NG: What photographers have influenced you?

NA: I like photography so I like all the photographers before me, even if they’re lousy or not my style. But among foreign photographers, Frank, Klein, Eugene Atget, Walker Evans, Ed van der Elsken, and Brassai were the ones who stood out when I was young. I was working in advertising, at Dentsu, so I had access to foreign magazines and plenty of information. I remember seeing work by Richard Avedon and Irving Penn.

NG: I’ve always had the impression you particularly admire Frank. How did you meet him?

NA: Someone from Japan gave him my book Araki’s Tokyo Erotomania Diary. Later, when he was asked what Japanese photographers interested him, he said “Araki.” We met when he came to Tokyo. I think of him as an older brother. But he’s more serious than I am.

NG: Are you interested in American artists using photography, like Cindy Sherman?

NA: I like Cindy Sherman’s work, which isn’t that far from photography.

NG: What about Japanese photographers?

NA: When I started photographing, Ihei Kimura and Ken Domon were active, but they were completely different from me. The photographers I associated with and liked included Shomei Tohmatsu, Daido Moriyama, and, among the less-known ones, Takuma Nakahira. But Japanese photography was itself influenced by Europe in the ’20s and ’30s and then by America. In the ’60s and ’70s we all looked at Frank and Klein, and at the catalogue of the U.S. exhibition “Contemporary Photographers–Towards a Social Landscape” [at the George Eastman House, Rochester, in 1966]. I might have been influenced by those photos. I don’t want to see it as “influence,” though: I am more influenced by my subjects, women and the streets, than by other photographers. People abroad are interested in my photographs now because I’ve always worked in Tokyo. My work has nothing to do with influence from the West; it’s based on my relationship with my subject.

NG: Does success in Europe or America interest you?

NA: Not much. I don’t travel abroad. I don’t have much of a desire to have everyone around the world see my stuff. My new book, Bokuju-kitan, has only a thousand copies, but that’s all right.

NG: You wouldn’t just travel for pleasure, or to visit me?

NA: If it’s going to be just the two of us, Nan, I’ll start English classes tomorrow.

NG: But you wouldn’t travel to take photographs?

NA: I did photograph in New York once, in 1979, and it was really exciting. But I use words in the process of photographing, so its difficult taking pictures overseas. I usually talk to the model as I’m shooting–it’s a “word event.” Words wouldn’t be necessary if I were looking at the subject as a “thing,” an object, but I want to capture my relationship with the subject, the action between us, the flow of time and mood. If I were photographing foreigners I’d really have to study the language.

NG: What about the lexicon [Arakeywords: The Araki Lexicon]?

NA: The book is in progress, with a Japanese writer. It will be like a dictionary of me. The writer has already put together nearly 500 words I invented–my keywords.

NG: How many books have you published?

NA: About a hundred.

NG: In Europe and America, if you have more than five or six books, they start to think you’re getting too popular–that you’re overexposed. Do other Japanese photographers publish so much?

NA: No, but I’m a kind of photo-play-aholic. People say I’ve published a lot, but essentially I think photographs should be taken and published fast. The nature of the medium doesn’t require you to consider everything and work it out thoroughly.

NG: How long does it take you to plan a book?

NA: There’s no specific rule–sometimes a month, sometimes a year. It depends on how I feel.

NG: Have you ever collaborated with any other photographer on a book, as you did with me?

NA: Collaboration is a kind of love affair. No, I’ve never collaborated with any other photographer.

NG: Do you have any favorite among your books?

NA: Sentimental na Tabi/Fuyu no Tabi (Sentimental journey/winter journey). I have to pick that book, because it marked the start of a new phase of my work. What I said earlier about my desire to shoot happiness and the joy of living has to do with the fact that I showed death in that book. I’ve taken a variety of photographs since then, but eventually they boil down to the idea of photography being simply a diary, a record of what happens day to day.

NG: What’s your latest obsession, your latest body of work?

NA: I have an obsessional subject: “From death toward life.” And I’m working on a diaristic work–a book of photos all taken with a compact camera, to be published in the spring.

NG: For me, the fact you’ve done so many books is one of the things that’s inspiring about your work. Another is that you’re the only photographer I know who uses whatever format you want.

NA: Photography is a collaboration with the camera, and every camera is unique; our time can’t be captured by a single camera. Using one camera is like being confined to a fixed idea. If I photograph a woman with a six-by-seven, medium-sized camera and then fast with a compact camera, the photo will be different. If you take the camera as “man,” it’s as if I throw four or five men at a woman. Obviously her response differs depending on who he is. There’s also a difference depending on whether it’s a camera I have a lot of experience with, one I’m using for the first time, or one that’s hard to use.

NG: An old lover and a new lover.

NA: Love too depends on the kind of person you’re dealing with.

NG: Do you ever photograph men or boys?

NA: Only a few, but I’d like to photograph more. I photograph because of my relationship with the subject. I’m a late bloomer, and am immature when it comes to relationships with men. Perhaps I should start.

NG: Aren’t you going to Osaka to photograph a boxer?

NA: Yes, his name is Tatsuyoshi Joichiro. Someone asked me to a fight; I’m very interested to go. What I want to photograph, though, is not the match itself but the training, in the small space that is his world. He’s on the brink of his career, he’s insecure, he’s not sure he’ll win. I’m interested in men’s weakness.

NG: Do you ever have sex with your models?

NA: Almost always. A photo shoot is very erotic; it’s part of the atmosphere.

VIDEO – Nobuyoshi Araki’s ‘A Sentimntal Journey, Winter Journey’

Here, from cover to cover is Nobuyoshi Araki’s ‘A Sentimental Journey, Winter Journey’ for those who have not been able to see a copy.
(My thanks to Coventry University Library for the loan of this copy)

A beautiful object in its own right, I would still urge those who can to see this in the flesh.

If this is your first time viewing the book, we would love to hear your thoughts, drop them in the comments section below or in an email to

– Matt