Born in 1940 in Tokyo, where he lives and works today, Nobuyoshi Araki is arguably the most famous, and often controversial, contemporary Japanese photographer. Araki has achieved celebrity status in Japan via his prolific - and provocative - output of photography, film, publications, exhibitions and pedagogical work.
A 1963 graduate of Chiba University near Tokyo, Araki began his career as an advertising photographer. Fame came rapidly with the Taiyo Prize (1964) for a series of photographs entitled Satchin, which was followed by more than a hundred publications of both black-and-white and colour photography.
Araki’s Senchimentaru na tabi (Sentimental Journey), privately published in two parts in 1971, is an intimate account of his wedding trip with his wife, Yoko, and an early example of his intensely personal, subjective approach to photography. Araki referred to this type of work as “I-photography”, an allusion to the realistic, confessional style of literature popular in Japan in the early twentieth century. In 1991 Araki extended his revelatory photography with Senchimentaru na tabi: Fuyo no tabi (Sentimental Journey/Winter Journey), a photo-essay documenting his beloved wife’s death in 1990 and his period of intense grief thereafter. Although this publication was widely criticised as intrusive and indelicate, Araki was inured to the controversy and scandal surrounding his work. The ‘Sentimental Journey-series’ was concluded in 2010 with ‘Spring Journey’ in which Araki’s beloved cat, Chiro, originally given to Yoko, was photographed in the last fase of her life.
Among his prolific output are also graphic and eroticised nudes, which violated Japanese prohibitions against the depiction of pubic hair. On several occasions, police raided and closed Araki’s exhibitions, confiscated works and arrested the artist for violations of obscenity laws. And yet Araki’s portrayal censored subject matter has contributed to a loosening of the strictures imposed on photographers.
The indefatigable Araki, now in his eighties, has suffered from reduced sight in his right eye, which impairment was immediately deployed for a new series entitled Love on the left eye consisting of prints of which the right half is completely obscured with black marker pen. Araki’s consciousness of the merciless effects of time and the inevitability of the approaching end, was exhibited at FOAM Amsterdam in December 2014 until March 2015, under the title 'Ojo Shashu - Photography for the Afterlife: Alluring Hell'
From 2017 to 2018, Pinakothek der Moderne Sammlung Moderne Kunst in Munich, Germany showed his very early works in the exhibition 'ARAKI. TOKYO'
Other European galleries that have hosted solo exhibitions of Nobuyoshi Araki include C/O Berlin, Phillips, Carla Sozzani and Reflex Modern Art Gallery. His work has been embraced by galleries and museums worldwide. Consequently his photographs are held in numerous museum and private collections.
Araki is a recipient of the Austrian Decoration of Honor for Science and Arts (2008) and the 54th Mainichi Art Award (2012).