Nobuyoshi Araki – scan from “To the Past” (2012), a limited edition book of Nobuyoshi’s photographs. The book is entirely black and white photography, printed chronologically as a photo diary, and spans more than 30 years of Araki’s life and work.
Nobuyoshi Araki is perhaps the most prolific photographer of all time, yet all the while, he remains best known in the West for much of his highly charged and provocative nude works. From high art, through to commercial commissions, fashion shoots, and vivid still lifes, the scale of Araki’s range of work is unsurpassed. In addition to his chameleonic capacity for stylistic variances, Araki’s emotional approach also runs the gamut. Often displaying a wicked sense of humour, Araki is also notable for a distinct humanistic vein of sentimentality that has spanned his career. A profound example is the documentation of his relationship with his wife, capturing the euphoria and lust of their honeymoon through to the sadness and longing resulting from her decline and untimely death from cancer. Always present is entire spectrum of emotions—urge, love, elation, loss, and grief—essentially the spectrum of life captured on the page.
The book is 13.5″x9.5″ and is strictly limited to 350 copies. Each book is linen bound, debossed and foil stamped, then housed within a printed and silkscreened foil casing and wrapped in a removable obi-band.
Araki remains a master of constructing narrative in his books by playing with sequence and time—often altering the digital auto-date settings to draw a determined emotional response from his viewer.
TO THE PAST focuses on his auto-dated photo diary black and white photographs, spanning monumentally from Araki’s adoption of the process in 1979, up until the day of the great Japanese earthquake in March, 2011. Ordered ‘chronologically,’ Araki’s masterful editing defines a clear narrative of passing time and life over 32 years. The edit, often with the sublime sitting next to the seemingly mundane gives further charge to all images both individually and as a whole, and each can be viewed as a link between moments previous and following. TO THE PAST, viewed alongside Araki’s many other books can be seen, paradoxically in light of its chronological fraudulence, as an exceedingly open and frank dialogue about universal truths—joy, and sadness, life and, ultimately, death. While an inherent honesty and nostalgia are hallmarks of much of Araki’s previous work, the level of reflection and openness on display in TO THE PAST can clearly be read as the tenderising influence of age, illness, and experience.