Review of Araki by Araki, Taschen

Review of Araki by Araki, Taschen

Japanese photographer Nobuyoshi Araki (b. 1940) has spent the entirety of his life capturing the female form. With his wife as his central muse, the artist has shot over 250 books of women, flowers and city landscapes. Unconcerned with taking photographs for a commercial purpose, Araki is content to just show his final works to friends and he prefers to aim his lens at the things he loves and the places he is familiar with. However, his art is due to be appreciated by many more people as an overview of his provocative practice is now documented in Taschen’s Araki by Araki.

The photographer is best known for his sensitive images of nude women bound up in kinbaku (Japanese rope-tying art). Both shocking and intimately tender, the images reflect his appreciation of the sex and his belief that they hold all the “essential attributes” of life. His bound female subjects are both vulnerable and defiant, actively interacting with the camera rather than appearing as a passive object. Araki fittingly describes these works as a “collaboration between the subject and the photographer”.

Curated by Araki and Jérôme Sans, Araki by Araki was first published as a limited edition and is now available as a standard Taschen edition. The 568 pages of photographs celebrate his best-known imagery: Tokyo street scenes; faces and foods; colorful, sensual flowers; female genitalia; and the Japanese art of kinbaku, or bondage. The photographer constantly plays with patterns of subjugation and emancipation, death and desire and with the slippage between serene image and shock.

Allowing the photographs to speak for themselves, the book is free from excessive amounts of text and instead features page after page of the artist’s striking work. The only real section of text is an interview with the artist himself, placing the emphasis on the individual and his art instead of giving voice to unnecessary analysis. Uniting his oeuvre in such a way reveals the full power of his long-lasting practice.

Araki by Araki, Araki and Jérôme Sans, Taschen, find out more at

Hannah Clugston

Images courtesy of Taschen and Nobuyoshi Araki.