Depicting diverse subjects, ranging from the shockingly intimate details of everyday life to elaborately staged erotica, Nobuyoshi Araki has been called an artist, diarist and pornographer. However, there’s a lesser-seen element to his work that exudes softness. Photographs of his wife Yoko are among the most moving works the controversial photographer has ever created. His Sentimental Journey 1971-2017 was published on the occasion of the exhibition at the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum, which brings together a profoundly poignant collection of photographs of his wife Yoko, that explored this relationship he treasured so much.
As Araki himself has said, “It’s thanks to Yoko that I became a photographer.” From their meeting in 1968 until her death in 1990, Yoko was his most important subject and muse. The couple got married in 1971 and embarked on a honeymoon, which Araki extensively documented with his camera. With its narrative style, personal tone and vernacular aesthetic, the resulting volume, Sentimental Journey (1971), is regarded as one of the most important Japanese photobooks of the twentieth century. This seminal book was followed by Winter Journey, which dramatically recorded their final years together at the onset of Yoko’s terminal illness. After the death of his beloved wife in 1990, Araki’s work became thickly imprinted with Eros (life/sexual desire) and Thanatos (death), presenting these two poles as an inextricable unity.
The book begins with his record of their honeymoon and continues with numerous photos in which she is the subject, as well as many others from after her passing that gives a strong sense of her presence. Documenting both mundane and deeply intimate moments, the photographer revealed emotionally raw and intimate facets of the relationships with his late wife. He once described these photographs as “a symbol of my love, the resolve of a photographer.” Indeed, these works read as profoundly honest and personally involved.
The book Sentimental Journey 1971-2017 refers to Araki’s oeuvre, beginning with his self-publication of Sentimental Journey as a photobook in 1971, to his life-long journey as a photographer. Photographs are accompanied by texts from Gozo Yoshimasu, Juergen Teller, Seiichi Furuya, Miyako Ishiuchi, Daido Moriyama, Toshiharu Ito, Filippo Maggia, Michio Kasahara and Hiromi Kitazawa.
Sentimental Journey 1971-2017 can be purchased from Amazon from $65 in hardcover.