January 17, 2019

When an Erotic Photographer’s Muse Becomes His Critic

When an Erotic Photographer’s Muse Becomes His Critic


For models working in Japan’s art world, it is difficult to make demands of a male artist.

“I can imagine that as a male photographer who is more than 70 years old, he unconsciously has the perspective towards women that he can do whatever he wants,” said Yukie Kamiya, head of the Japan Society Gallery in New York, speaking of Mr. Araki. “Male power is such a common understanding, and women don’t have much of a voice.”

Kaori, who trained in Paris as a dancer, began posing for Mr. Araki after meeting him at a party in 2001.

She said he paid her 100,000 yen (about $930) to pose in the studio wearing a kimono or performing dances that Mr. Araki would photograph. For nude projects, he took her to so-called “love hotels” and paid her about 50,000 yen for each assignment.

But she said he also called her for impromptu, unpaid sessions where he took photos while she walked in a park or sat in a bar at his command.

It was not enough to make a living. Asked how she supplemented her income, Kaori demurred. “I don’t want to say,” she said.

In public, Mr. Araki described her as his “muse,” but she said he did not tell her when or where the work would be published or exhibited, and she had no say in how the images were composed. “For him, a muse means someone who doesn’t speak or have any of her own opinions and just keeps obeying his orders,” she said.

Early on, the two did have a consensual sexual relationship, Kaori said.

During one photo session, she balked when he snapped Polaroid pictures of her and sold each individually without paying her any royalties. “That money that he earned is based on my contribution,” Kaori said.



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