Araki Nobuyoshi (b. 1940)
Japan, 1995
Photograph; RC gloss print
Copyright: Nobuyoshi Araki
Courtesy of the artist and Yoshiko Isshiki Office, Tokyo

’To take a photograph is to participate in another person's (or thing's) mortality, vulnerability, mutability.’

-Susan Sontag (1933–2004), On Photography (1977)

Araki’s female models, in their prone and at least partially naked state, are clearly disempowered and objectified. One of the profound ironies of bondage, however, is that, as the focus of attention, the restrained partner (the ‘bottom’) retains a surprising degree of control. Some may even argue that, though physically free, the dominant partner (the ‘top’) is in fact at her command. Furthermore, while, as the subject of an erotic artwork, the model is undeniably objectified, her state of physical discomfort and vulnerability emphasize her humanity rather than mask it. When considered in this way, the popularity of Araki’s photographs among some women, including the artist Tsubaki Anna (b. 1970), whose work is displayed nearby, becomes easier to appreciate.