To The PastNobuyoshi Araki

(Little Big Man, 2012)

Nobuyoshi Araki’s first book, A Sentimental Journey (self-published in 1971), was a candid and affectionate journal of Araki’s honeymoon, which reveals the private, erotic and mundane in the inaugural moments of married life. In many ways, this title set the tone for Araki’s subsequent prolific and inventive years of photobook production: a repertoire littered with works that are exploitative but intimate and constantly blur the boundaries between the man, the persona and the photographer, known as Araki’s “I-Photography.”

Loss and lust (and the dialogue between the two) lie at the core of Araki’s life and work, and they are explored with a boundless and euphoric energy. Few photographers’ reputations are as notoriously divisive or as provocatively controversial as that of Nobuyoshi Araki’s; with work ranging from the misogynistically pornographic to the naively sentimental, this comes as no surprise.

To The Past is a collection of work created between 1979-2011, images that are date stamped to form a ‘chronological’ album. But this is in fact a constructed compilation – Araki manipulating some dates, to present an altered montage of memory and amnesia, a scrabbled narrative of experience that reinterprets the past.

Araki’s engineered retrospective has the picturesque colliding with the mundane and the erotic with the nostalgic, and in this dialogue, playful and poignant juxtapositions emerge. To The Past is a wonderful autobiographical fiction, a beautifully bound and exquisitely presented title, which reflects the contradictions, pleasures and pains of life– and is an ode to an overwhelmingly creative documentarian.

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