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  • peterhernandeztatt

Nobuyoshi Araki

Updated: Feb 12



Hello Speakeasy Readers,


The days are getting colder, but don’t let that stop you from getting out. Grab a sweater and enjoy your weekend!


Today, I want to share with you the captivating life and work of the renowned Japanese photographer Nobuyoshi Araki.


Nobuyoshi Araki
Nobuyoshi Araki

Nobuyoshi Araki, born in Tokyo in 1940, is a true visionary in the photography world. His unique artistic style combines explicit eroticism, documentary, and intimate portrait photography, pushing the boundaries of human emotion and societal norms.

Araki's bold and controversial approach has made him both a celebrated and criticized figure. Throughout his extensive career, he has published over 500 books, showcasing his stunning visual storytelling and exploring themes of love, sex, life, and death.



Join me in exploring Araki’s world, where his mesmerizing imagery captures moments of profound beauty and fragility. Through his lens, we are invited to reflect on the complexity and vulnerability of human existence.



Nobuyoshi Araki, has been widely recognized for his prolific body of work that explores themes of sexuality, desire, life, and death. Several major influences have shaped his unique perspective and artistic style:


1. Japanese Photography Tradition: Araki was greatly influenced by the Japanese photography tradition, particularly the works of Shomei Tomatsu and Eikoh Hosoe. These photographers explored contemporary social issues and challenged societal norms, which made a significant impact on Araki's approach to his subject matter.


2. Surrealism and Erotica: Araki was influenced by surrealism, especially the works of Salvador Dali and Man Ray. This influence is evident in his dreamlike compositions, use of symbolism, and exploration of the subconscious. Araki merges elements of erotica into his images, blurring the boundaries between art and pornography.


3. Personal Experiences and Loss: The tragic loss of his wife, Yoko, to ovarian cancer in 1990 had a profound impact on Araki's work. He documented their relationship extensively, as well as her illness, and the mourning process after her death. These experiences of love, loss, and grief have shaped the emotive and introspective nature of Araki's photography.


4. Tokyo Culture and Society: Araki has always been deeply rooted in the city of Tokyo. The bustling metropolis, its landscapes, and the people inhabiting it have been recurring subjects in his work. Araki reflects the complexities of Tokyo's urban culture, exploring themes such as isolation, loneliness, and the fleeting nature of human connections.


5. Shunga and Japanese Bondage: Araki drew inspiration from traditional Japanese erotic art known as shunga, which flourished during the Edo period. The explicit and playful nature of shunga imagery deeply influenced Araki, reflecting in his exploration of sexuality and the human body. He is also known for incorporating kinbaku, a form of Japanese bondage, in his photographs, highlighting themes of power dynamics and control.


6. Literature and Poetry: Araki is an avid reader and draws inspiration from various literary works, especially the works of Yukio Mishima and Osamu Dazai. He often incorporates poetic titles and captions into his photographs, further enhancing the narrative and emotional depth of his work.




These influences have collectively shaped Nobuyoshi Araki's unique perspective, allowing him to create a distinctive visual language that pushes boundaries, challenges societal norms, and explores the complex and often taboo aspects of human existence.

Personal and societal experiences, such as the loss of his wife during their honeymoon, have played a significant role in shaping Nobuyoshi Araki's artistic style and themes. These experiences have had a profound impact on his work, and their influence can be seen in several aspects of his photography.


1. Intimacy and Relationships: Araki's personal loss deeply affected his perception of intimacy and relationships. His work often explores themes of love, desire, and the fragile nature of human connections. Araki portrays intimate moments, often in a raw and provocative manner, capturing both the beauty and vulnerability of human relationships.


2. Eroticism and Taboos: Araki's experience of losing his wife led him to explore themes of sexuality and eroticism in his work. He often includes explicit and controversial content in his photographs, challenging societal taboos and pushing the boundaries of acceptability. These

explorations can be seen as a reflection of his personal experiences and a way for him to cope with his own desires and emotions.


3. Life and Death: The loss of his wife has also led Araki to contemplate the transience of life and the inevitability of death. His work frequently juxtaposes images of life and death, capturing both beauty and decay. Araki's photography often features flowers, which symbolize life and death, as well as references to traditional Japanese concepts of mortality and impermanence.


4. Freedom and Catharsis: Araki's artistic style reflects a sense of freedom and catharsis. His work is known for its raw, spontaneous, and sometimes chaotic nature. Araki embraces the imperfections and accidents that occur during the photographic process, viewing them as moments of authenticity. This approach can be seen as a response to the unpredictability and fragility of life, allowing him to find solace and express his emotions through his art.






Overall, personal and societal experiences, such as the loss of his wife during their honeymoon, have greatly shaped Nobuyoshi Araki's artistic style and themes. His works touch upon intimacy, relationships, sexuality, life, death, and freedom, reflecting his own emotions and coping mechanisms in the face of personal tragedy.

In conclusion, let's commemorate the extraordinary life and artistic influence of Nobuyoshi Araki. Dive into his world, marvel at his genius, and challenge your perception of art.


Until next time my fellow apes,

Peter Hernandez


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