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Was s Tokyo so crowded, its apartments so small, that they were forced to seek privacy in public parks at night? And what about those peeping toms? Are the couples as oblivious as they seem to the gawkers trespassing on their nocturnal intimacy? If the social phenomena captured in these photographs seem distinctly linked to Japanese culture, Mr. Viewing his pictures means that you too are looking at activities not meant to be seen. We line up right behind the photographer, surreptitiously watching the peeping toms who are secretly watching the couples. Voyeurism is us.
For that show the pictures were blown up to life size, the gallery lights were turned off, and each visitor was given a flashlight. Yoshiyuki wanted to reconstruct the darkness of the park. The oversize prints were destroyed after the show, and the series was published in as a book, one now difficult to find.
Last year Mr. Yoshiyuki made new editions of the prints in several sizes, which have brought renewed interest in his work. Yoshiyuki was a young commercial photographer in Tokyo in the early s when he and a colleague walked through Chuo Park in Shinjuku one night. He noticed a couple on the ground, and then one man creeping toward them, followed by another.
Researching the technology in the era before infrared flash units, he found that Kodak made infrared flashbulbs. He photographed heterosexual and homosexual couples engaged in sexual activity and the peeping toms who stalked them. Yoshiyuki wrote recently by e-mail, through an interpreter. To photograph the voyeurs, I needed to be considered one of them. I behaved like I had the same interest as the voyeurs, but I was equipped with a small camera. But I think, in a way, the act of taking photographs itself is voyeuristic somehow.
So I may be a voyeur, because I am a photographer. But sometimes there are the voyeurs who try to touch the woman, and gradually escalating — then trouble would happen. The peeping toms are caught in the process of gawking, focused on their visual prey. Alexandra Munroe, senior curator of Asian art at the Guggenheim Museum, suggested in a telephone interview that this phenomenon was not uncommon in Japan.
She cited the voyeurism depicted in Ukiyo-e woodblock erotic prints from 18th- and 19th-century Japan, in which a viewer watches a couple engage in sexual activity. Weegee, for example, rigged his camera to capture couples kissing in darkened New York movie theaters.
Walker Evans covertly photographed fellow passengers on New York subways.
Ironically, we may reluctantly accommodate ourselves to being watched at the A. Milo also noted a connection between Mr. With new technologies providing the means to spy on each other, a political atmosphere that raises issues about the right to privacy and a cultural climate obsessed with the personal lives of everyday people, themes of voyeurism and surveillance are extremely topical and important in the U.
Yet earlier artists also went to great lengths to capture transgressive behavior. In the s Brassai photographed the prostitutes of Paris at night; his camera was conspicuously large, but his subjects were willing participants. More recently, in the early s, Merry Alpern set up a camera in the window of one New York apartment and photographed the asations of prostitutes through the window of another.
Sandra S. Phillips is organizing an exhibition on surveillance imagery for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art next year. I would compare him to Weegee, one of the great photographers who was also interested in looking at socially unacceptable subjects, mainly the bloody and violent deaths of criminals.
The raw graininess in Mr. As Vince Aletti writes in the publication accompanying the current show, Mr.Japanese couple fuck park
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