Kohei Yoshiyuki: The Park

2 July–13 August 2011

During the 1970s, photographer Kohei Yoshiyuki frequented Tokyo's Shinjuku, Yoyogi, and Aoyama parks at night. Armed with a 35mm camera, infrared film, and a flash, he documented those who gathered there for clandestine trysts, as well as the others lurking in the bushes who watched them and sometimes participated in their couplings. With their raw, snapshot-like quality, his images not only uncover homosexual and heterosexual exploits, they also provoke questions about our attitudes towards surveillance, voyeurism, and photography, and document a side of Japan we rarely see. When Yoshiyuki showed The Park in a Tokyo gallery in 1979, the images were blown up to life size, the gallery lights turned off, and visitors given flashlights. 'I wanted people to look at the bodies an inch at a time', he said. A book was produced in 1980, but the work remained largely invisible until 2007, when New York's Yossi Milo Gallery presented a new edition of the prints. As Martin Parr writes, 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'.

Acknowledgements

A joint project with Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne, and Adam Art Gallery, Wellington. Thanks to Yossi Milo Gallery, New York.