Blue Period / Last Summer: Arakinema . Nobuyoshi Araki


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One of the most influential photographers of our time, Nobuyoshi Araki is known for his diaristic style or ‘shi-shashin’ (I-photographs) through the publication of over 500 books throughout his career. His work has become practically synonymous with Japanese photography; closely associated with his work on bondage, his late wife, Yoko, as well as still lifes and nudes.

It is, however, less known that Araki had explored experimental film projects since the mid 80s. In 1986 at Cinema Rise in Tokyo, Araki staged a live performance entitled “Tokyo Monogatari” (Tokyo Story). Using two projectors, Araki and his assistants, Nobuhiko Ansai and Shiro Tamiya, selected and sequenced slides to create a succession of overlapping images fading into one another, accompanied by a musical soundtrack. “Tokyo Monogatari” became the first in a series of live performances entitled Arakinema, which he staged until the mid-2000s in museums and art institutions around the world. “Blue Period” and “Last Summer” are made up primarily of nudes and portraits alternating with street scenes and images of flowers. The majority of the work is derived from “Shashin Jidai”, the important underground subculture magazine of the 1980s in Japan.

We especially feel excited about our publication since these two projects are essential among his film work. As Araki also explained at our initial meeting in Shinjuku last year, “The two films should be seen as a set, since “Blue Period” is about the past and “Last Summer” is about the future. By removing color using a chemical solution, “Blue Period” is about an act of subtraction (past), whereas adding color to the images in “Last Summer” is about an act of addition (future). This project is just like life itself.”

Working directly from the 140 original slides used for both projections, the book successfully offers a fresh review of the photographer’s hidden oeuvre and regains the true spirit and atmosphere of the original Arakinema performances

Artist Statement

—The two (blue period/last summer) works look very different.

They do! I’d say Last Summer is the future; it has a certain sense of resignation about it.

Blue Period is the past, because it’s about how memory inhabits us. But we don’t yet have a memory of the future. You had better get both of them [laughter]. That’s right! Seriously. They are awesome. They knock me out. The red you see in Last Summer is red of blood. And the blood must be shed. Blue just won’t cut it. It would just seem off. I’d say [Last Summer] surpasses Mizoguchi’s Ugetsu Monogatari.

—It reminds me of the faded tones of old movies on VHS.

True. When we watch those movies, we watch them with the already lost tones. The original is forever gone. The same can be said of ancient temples like Horyu-ji. Restoration kind of kills its beauty, as I’m convinced old shrines and temples were designed with the weathering away of colors over time in mind. It makes them more interesting. Blue Period, too, goes all the way back to the beginning. In a way, my path as a photographer was laid out for me thanks to everything that happened before that. You know, when we look at Atget’s photobooks, what we are looking at are the faded tones of countless reproductions. We can’t see as Atget actually saw back then. But we still look at the pictures seriously and as real things.

Blue Period / Last Summer . Nobuyoshi Araki

These two works are my tour de force, really. They’re great.

Interview with Nobuyoshi Araki
At Rouge in Shinjyuku, July 2005
(Translation: Tomo Morisawa)

Araki Nobuyoshi, “Blue Period” (Tokyo: Artone, 2005), pp. 163–165.


—Photography: Nobuyoshi Araki
—Design: Geoff Han, NYC
—Text: Marc Feustel
—Editor: Keenan McCracken
—Japanese translation: Akiko Ichikawa
—English translation: Tomo Morisawa
—Production Assistant: Wanki Min, Yoshiaki Miura, & Mitsuyo Okada
—Lithography: Sebastiaan Hanekroot, Colour & Books
—Image Scanning: Shashin Kosha Inc., Tokyo
—Production: Jos Morree, Fine Books
—Printer: Gra Plaza, Amsterdam


—10.23" x 7"
—Softcover in slipcase
—Edition of 1750

—Office Magazine
—Dazed Digital
—Ravelin Magazine
—Purple Magazine
—i-d vice Magazine
—Voices of Photography

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