A young woman with her legs spread wide; buttoned-up dressed workers on a city street. Photographs like these of intimate, private scenes juxtaposed against snapshots of nameless passers-by were an early commentary on the heterogeneity and hybridity of Japanese society. In 1973, Japanese photographer Nobuyoshi Araki published a series of image pairs showing life in Tokyo between 1969 and 1973 as a photographic book. In their authenticity, these early works by Araki reveal the effects of a dysfunctional society, calling the social responsibility and moral sense of its members into question.
Nobuyoshi Araki is one of the most influential and widely discussed artists in the world whose work deals with nakedness, sexuality, and the body in a radical and realistic way. In these works, what is most surprising to the viewer is the photographer’s lack of distance and the familiarity of his gaze. Araki’s extreme closeness and intimacy with the subjects and the situations depicted are unique and revolutionary to this day. In contrast to classic photojournalism, which looks into an unfamiliar world from the outside, Araki not only is part of his subjects’ lives but also plays a central role in his own photographs, thus transcending voyeurism. He navigates the tense relationship between classical visual composition and his chosen visual themes with a direct, intense visual language, creating works that are in equal parts moving and unsettling and that set him apart from virtually all of his peers. His work concentrates on a sexuality that is lived out in complete openness. In depicting this, the artist never denounces or accuses, but instead leaves all interpretation up to the viewer. Together with US photographers Nan Goldin and Larry Clark and Ukrainian photographer Boris Mikhailow, Araki is considered one of the pioneers of intimate, subjective photography.