Nobuyoshi Araki was born on 25 May 1940 in Tokyo. In 1959, he went to Chiba University where he studied film and photography, receiving his degree in 1963. In 1964, he won a photography contest organised by The Sun with Satchin and would show these photographs of neighbourhood elementary school boys in his first solo exhibition the following year in Tokyo. After graduating, he started working as a commercial photographer at Dentsu, an advertising agency where, in 1968, he met his future wife, the essayist Yoko Aoki. In 1971, Araki married Yoko and documented their honeymoon in one of his earliest photobooks, Sentimental Journey. The following year, he left Dentsu.
In 1974, Araki formed the Photo Workshop School alongside fellow Japanese photographers Shomei Tomatsu, Daido Moriyama, Eiko Hosoe, Masahisa Fukase and Noriaki Yokosuka. Over the following decades, Araki would release new series of his work in magazines, editorials, exhibitions, and photojournals. One of these magazines, Shashin Jidai, was closed down by the police in 1988 on the grounds of obscenity in Araki’s photography. In 1992, Araki had his first one-man show in Europe, opening in Graz, Austria, which would travel around ten European cities over the next four years. Araki’s first solo American show opened in 1994, the same year he turned down an offer to exhibit at the Venice Biennale. In 1997, his first retrospective, ‘Araki Retrographs’, was held at the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo.
Araki is best known for his dramatically eroticised nude photography. Depicting bound women in the manner of kinbaku rope bondage, Araki challenges concepts of art and pornography within the bounds of Japan’s prohibitive attitudes towards obscenity. Yet his oeuvre also encompasses skyscapes, still-lifes, and everyday urban life, with a particular focus on his native Tokyo, flowers, and his beloved cat, Chiro. Many of these subjects emerge within an autobiographical mode of photography that Araki pioneered and refers to as ‘I-photography’ – a visual reimagining of the 20th century Japanese literary format of the ‘I-novel’ (shi-shōsetsu). In 2005, Araki was the subject of a documentary titled Arakimentari. More recently, major exhibitions of his work were held at the Musée Guimet, Paris, in 2016, and the Museum of Sex, New York, in 2018. He continues to live and work in Tokyo.
Araki’s work can be found in the following selected international collections: the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York; Art Institute of Chicago; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA); the Fotomuseum Winterthur, Switzerland; the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; the Tate Collection, London. Araki's photographs have won many important awards, including the aforementioned 1964 prize for Satchin, the 1990 Shashin-no-kai prize from the Photographic Society of Japan, the 1991 7th Higashikawa Prize, the 1994 Japan Inter-Design Forum Grand Prix, and more recently the 2008 Austrian Decoration of Honour for Science and Arts.