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a new look into the erotic rainbow world of nobuyoshi araki

The prolific Japanese photographer's latest book, "Blue Period, Last Summer," showcases his color-washed performance work.

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Nov 22 2017, 4:51pm

Nobuyoshi Araki. Courtesy of Dashwood Books and Taka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo.

Japanese photographer Nobuyoshi Araki is famous for his striking black-and-white photos of naked women (often artfully tied up with rope). But his latest book, Blue Period, Last Summer, highlights his lesser-known performance work — featuring color-drenched photos of erotica as well as Tokyo city streets and dreamy skylines.

Nobuyoshi Araki. Courtesy of Dashwood Books and Taka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo.

“These series are one of many aspects of Araki’s work that have not been sufficiently explored,” explains curator and Japanese photography specialist Marc Feustel, who wrote the introduction for the book. Araki’s bondage photographs, he notes, which depict the practice of kinbaku (Japanese rope bondage), make up only a small portion of his five decades of work.

Nobuyoshi Araki. Nobuyoshi Araki. Courtesy of Dashwood Books and Taka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo.

Between the mid-80s and mid-00s, Araki staged a series of live presentations in Tokyo called Arakinema, in which he and his assistants used two projectors to layer sequences of photographs over one another. His new book showcases two of those sequences: Blue Period, mostly blue-colored photos that seek to imbue a hazy nostalgia and Last Summer, vibrantly hued images that nod to the future.

Nobuyoshi Araki. Courtesy of Dashwood Books and Taka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo.

“The two films should be seen as a set since Blue Period is about the past and Last Summer is about the future,” Araki explained to his publishers at their initial meeting. “By removing color using a chemical solution Blue Period is about an act of subtraction, whereas adding color to the images in Last Summer is about an act of addition. This project is just like life itself.”

Nobuyoshi Araki. Courtesy of Dashwood Books and Taka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo.

You’d think it’d be difficult for an artist as prolific as Araki, who’s published some 500 books, to still surprise his audience with unknown work. Yet, Feustel insists, there is still more to discover: “Araki has likely published more books than any other photographer and at 77 years old he is showing no signs of slowing down.”

Nobuyoshi Araki. Courtesy of Dashwood Books and Taka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo.
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Last year, a retrospective of Araki’s work at the Musée Guimet in Paris collected images from each of the photographer’s books. It was a testament to how completely Araki has devoted his life to photography, says Feustel. “While that may sound like an overblown, overused statement, in Araki’s case it is a simple fact,” he explains. “Whether it is his childhood, his honeymoon, his wife’s death, his beloved cat Chiro, his loss of vision, or his cancer, Araki has used every aspect of his own life as the material for his work. He is, in his own words, a ‘photo-maniac.’”

“Blue Period, Last Summer” by Nobuyoshi Araki is available now through Dashwood Books.

Nobuyoshi Araki. Courtesy of Dashwood Books and Taka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo.
Nobuyoshi Araki. Courtesy of Dashwood Books and Taka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo.
Nobuyoshi Araki. Courtesy of Dashwood Books and Taka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo.
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