Big in San Francisco: Araki

Last Thursday, Little Big Man gallery in San Francisco opened its doors for the first time, presenting “Past Tense—Future,” a solo show from one of Japan’s most infamous art photographers, Nobuyoshi Araki. Though in the West he is known mainly for his visions of erotica—nubile beauties in bondage, provocative nudes—Araki is one of the most prolific photographers of all time, as this show reminds us, with works spanning more than three decades.

Little Big Man is a new art space and publishing imprint from UK-born art photographer Nick Haymes. Haymes is a man inspired by his muses, well known for following his subjects, often skaters and teenage misfits, for years at a time, building a catalogue of photographs that are at once intimate and voyeuristic. His most recent book, Gabe, involved a five-year documentation of the life of Gabe Nevins, the young star of Gus Van Sant’s film Paranoid Park.

To accompany the opening of “Past Tense—Future,” Little Big Man is releasing To the Past, a limited edition book of Nobuyoshi’s photographs. The book is entirely black and white photography, and is printed chronologically as a photo diary, spanning more than 30 years of Araki’s life and work. The book is a testament to the immense range of his art, from his photos of S&M, to tender images of everyday life, to vivid still lifes, to the documentation of his wife’s death from cancer, and ending in photographs of the great Japanese earthquake in March, 2011.

To the Past is a very honest book,” says Haymes. “Araki, now in his 70s, is reflecting on his life, documenting emotional times and times of exuberance. Yet throughout the book there is a constant uncertainty of what the future may hold—images of Hiroshima, Araki battling with an illness, and finally the earthquake. It’s a book that teeters and treads nervously into an uncertain future.”

“Past Tense—Future” will run through Sept. 8. Upcoming releases from Little Big Man publishing include photo books by Rona Yefman and Keizo Kitajima.