Araki’s latest work born of his fight with cancer

Nobuyoshi Araki: Tokyo Zenritsusengan

I had heard earlier this year that Nobuyoshi Araki was not in good health, and the recent lack of Araki news and new photobooks from the man who has been so prolific up to now seemed to bear that out. Now, on the occasion of his new photobook, Tokyo Zenritsusengan, Araki has revealed to the public at large what only his close friends and associates knew — that he was fighting a battle with prostate cancer.

Diagnosed and successfully operated on in the summer of 2008 , Araki took his plight in typical Araki style, seeing it as a rare opportunity to bring his camera along with him to the hospital bed. It is well-known that Araki lost his wife Yoko to ovarian cancer in 1990, something he documented in the work Winter Journey. But this time it was Araki who was the patient. The result is the just-released photobook Tokyo Zenritsusengan (zenritsusen gan is Japanese for prostate cancer), published by Wides.

Araki used his chance to take photos of the nurses attending him, including the rookie nurse who had to shave his pubic hair, revealed Araki in a recent interview. (She posed while clutching the shaved hair in her hand.) There are also Araki self-portraits of himself wearing an oxygen mask after the surgery was done. While awaiting release from the hospital, Araki would take walks around Tokyo’s Ochanomizu area where the hospital was located, and these snapshots are included in the book as well.

And of course it wouldn’t be an Araki book without some nudes, and these are quite plentiful owing to the fact that he continues to be inundated with requests from women who want to model for him. Says Araki, “Not being able to get a hard-on anymore makes me more passionate. Just joking.”

Araki — who continues to undergo blood tests every two months to monitor his health condition — will also publish an “experimental” photobook at the end of the year with the ironic title “Posthumous Work: Empty 2”.

Tokyo Zenritsusengan is available in the Japan Exposures bookstore.