Naoki (Tokyo, Japan)

Naoki is a photographer Born in 1950, in Nara prefecture.
He studied in the U.S, originally aspired to become a painter, later shifting to photography because of his affinity for working with people.
After flourishing as a photographer in the fashion mecca of Milan and London, he returned to Japan in 1987.
He established a commercial agency in Tokyo, called Face to Face, for the management of models, photographers, and hair and make-up artists.
In 1995, he published a photography book titled Ordinal, accompanied by exhibits in Tokyo and Paris.
In 2004, his photography book Real Faces was published by Shufunotomo Co., Ltd.
As one of the few top fashion photographers in Japan, he has done work for countless fashion magazines and advertisements.
He has been involved in launching many magazines. He is also known for his talents in discovering models, producing shoots, and directing hair and make-up.
In recent years, he has held workshops for the training and cultivation of models and photographers.
Naoki held the photo exhibit Summer Diary in Sifinos at the Logos Gallery in Shibuya Parco in 2008, the exhibit Shibuya Kawaii Style at the Blitz Gallery(Art Photo Site Tokyo) in 2009, the exhibit DOUBLE at the Bulgari Tower Ginza in 2010, and the exhibit MOOD-9 GIRLS at Chanel Nexus Hall in 2012 and Nijo Castle in 2013.
His ongoing theme is to portray 21ST century Japanese girls, as someone who’s shot fashion internationally, and seen many models grow up over many years.

Since the 1990s, high-quality fashion photography has been recognized as a form of art in the West.
However, in Japan, it still remains little more than an advertisement providing information on clothing. This is due to the fact that editors and clients do not allow photographers to use their discretion during photo shoots. It is under such circumstances in Japan that one photographer, NAOKI, continues to take on the challenge of fashion photography as art.
What makes this possible is that in addition to being a photographer, he is also proficient in the roles of art director, hair stylist, and make-up artist.
NAOKI is a rare artist who is able to single-handedly control all elements of producing fashion photography.

In fashion photography, the instinctive tastes of the photographer imbue the work produced. Yet it has been difficult for photographers with distinctive taste to emerge in the classless society of post-war Japan. However, even in this capacity, NAOKI is unique. NAOKI was born in a prominent Buddhist temple located in Nara. In Japan, temples are supported by influential people in the region and have historically been the bearers of culture. It was there that NAOKI spent his youth, immersed in a culturally-rich environment. In the natural course of events, he went on to pursue an art-related career. At first he hoped to become a painter, but as he began to feel the allure of communicating with people, he turned his aspirations toward photography. After working in the fashion centers of Milan and London, he returned to Japan in the late 1980s, where he continued to work as a photographer while also being active as a writer.
One of his earlier masterpieces, entitled ORDINAL, was produced in the early 1990s, This photo book is a collection of snapshot-like works featuring fledgling actresses and models he himself had discovered, shot as portrayed in the streets of Tokyo, just after the burst of Japan’s bubble economy.

Beginning in 2000, NAOKI began to work on Double, for which he photographed young models engaging in cosplay on the streets of Shibuya. He focused on Japanese pop culture and the concept “Cool Japan” at an early stage, incorporating the phenomenon of “kawaii” into his works. In contemporary art, Takashi Murakami has received international acclaim by using manga and anime as a base for the works he created following the kawaii theme.
However, created sophisticated visuals of kawaii using real people as subjects for photographs is no easy task. It was only possible because of NAOKI himself, and his ability of control the entire process of image creation-from model casting to hair and make-up.
MOOD-9 GIRLS, exhibited in 2012 at CHANEL NEXUS HALL is the sequel to this work. Here, NAOKI uses fashion photography methods to portray the evolution of kawaii in Japanese women. They are depicted using various themes such as cosplay, the OL (female office worker), gyaru (gals), high school girls, bar hostesses, and shöjo (young girls). We expect contemporary fashion photography to capture the essence of our current era and present us with a future vision. In MOOD-9 GIRLS, NAOKI offers his views on the ideal women amidst the diversified values of contemporary Japan.

The way that he embraces the imperfection of kawaii is an extension of the time-honored Japanese aesthetic sense of “wabi” and “sabi”. CHANEL NEXUS HALL likely considered the concept behind NAOKI’s work when they decided to exhibit his work at Nijo Castle in Kyoto. Displaying these works, which reinterpret Japanese traditional aesthetic sensibilities with a modern touch in a historical building sends the message that shouldering the weight of history and tradition also involves constantly finding new interpretations for it. As CHANEL NEXUS HALL alternates their exhibitions between the innovative and the historical, this exhibit seems to fulfill each aspect of this policy all at once.

The way NAOKI embraces kawaii as imperfect beauty questions the idea of society giving precedence to economic growth in post-war times. By way of the Lehman collapse and other events, the world has finally come to understand the meaning of his message.
High-quality fashion photography could thus come to illustrate the new values of the era, and there is no doubt that NAOKI’s work, including MOOD-9 GIRLS, is a testament to this new turn.

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