Kohei Yoshiyuki (Japanese, 1946-2022)

Kohei Yoshiyuki's (1946-2022; Japanese) daring photographs of Tokyo's subculture of voyeurs revealed an underbelly to the city's otherwise polished and reserved surface, and eventually established him as one of Japan's most important modern photographers. Yoshiyuki broke ground with his photographs taken in the early 1970s of couples engaged in sex acts in Tokyo's public parks, often accompanied by curious onlookers. His daring documentation of forbidden acts forced viewers to reckon with their own private lives and desires as well as the psychic unease felt collectively by the Japanese people following decades of loss and defeat for the country. It was not until 2007 that these photographs resurfaced in The Park, the artist's first U.S. show at Yossi Milo Gallery, revitalizing the artist's career and launching him onto an international stage.


Yoshiyuki took the photographs in The Park, taken in Tokyo's Shinjuku, Yoyogi, and Aoyama parks during the 1970s. The artist used a 35mm camera, infrared film, and flash to document the people who gathered there at night for clandestine trysts, as well as the many spectators lurking in the bushes who watched-and sometimes participated in-these couplings. With their raw, snapshot-like quality, these images not only uncover the hidden sexual exploits of their subjects, both homosexual and heterosexual, but also provoke questions about our own attitudes towards surveillance and voyeurism. Collectively, these photographs also serve as a chronicle of a Japan we rarely see; as Martin Parr writes in The Photobook: A History, Volume II, The Park is "a brilliant piece of social documentation, capturing perfectly the loneliness, sadness, and desperation that so often accompany sexual or human relationships in a big, hard metropolis like Tokyo."


Photographs from The Park are in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, among others. Works from the series have been exhibited around the world, including at the Tate Modern, London's exhibition Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance and the Camera; the 5th Berlin Biennial and 7th Gwangju Biennale; the 2012 Liverpool Biennial and 9th Moscow Photo Biennale; and in the 55th Venice Biennale exhibition curated by Massimiliano Gioni. In 2007, Hatje Cantz and Yossi Milo Gallery published a book of the series, which includes an original essay by Vince Aletti and an interview with the artist by Nobuyoshi Araki, which was republished by Radius Books and Yossi Milo in 2019.