Nobuyoshi Araki produced the “Shi Nikki (Private Diary) for Robert Frank” series in 1993, three years after the death of his wife Yoko Aoki. It brings together 101 black-and-white photographs taken either in the austerity of the studio or the intimacy of the bedroom, where ever the photographer captures his female models they are found in fully frontal poses, explicit and uncompromising, as well as in erotic scenarios. These images are punctuated by photographs of Araki’s new daily life as a widower: still lifes, the streets and skies of Tokyo, the cat, Chiro, he adopted with his wife… Among them, the street photographs echo the work of Robert Frank (1924–2019), a pioneer of American photography, to whom Araki dedicated this series on the occasion of his exhibition at the Yokohama Museum. In this juxtaposition, Araki explores his intimate surroundings and questions both desire and loss.
Araki’s work is known for its direct relationship with reality, which he experiences, lives, and transforms into fiction, so to speak. This approach is very different from that of a reporter, whose supposedly “objective”. This photographic mosaic points to the artist’s complex thinking, to the very core of his feelings, impulses, and reflections. Each image, whatever its subject, from the most banal to the most torrid, finds its place in the narrative of his experience of time.
The strength of the series lies in the fact that the narrative is limited to a non-prescriptive suggestion, more emotional than logical, where one figure replaces another, where the bedroom gives way to public spaces, where there is the before and after, life and death.