Inspired by the #MeToo movement, Nobuyoshi Araki’s long-time model KaoRi has publicly accused the renowned Japanese photographer of misleading her into working without a contract, distributing pictures of her around the world without her knowledge or consent, and failing to compensate her fairly for her time or for her her role in Araki’s work.
KaoRi modeled from 2001 to 2016 for Araki, who mythologized her as a favorite muse. On April 1, a Japanese blog published her detailed first-person account of her working relationship with Araki, including her accusations against him. KaoRi’s piece was translated with permission by Alisa Yamasaki and re-posted on Medium on May 1.
Noting that her relationship with Araki was “only photographer and model; we were never lovers,” KaoRi says she naively believe “someone so famous would never treat me poorly…I sacrificed myself by being polite.” She also says she was initially caught up in the photographer-muse narrative promoted by Araki and his acolytes: “I felt like I was contributing to his art,” she says.
But KaoRi says she ended up being objectified and exploited. “[H]e would tell made up stories about me in TV and magazine interviews, create and sell one book after the other without me knowing, give them titles like ‘KaoRi Sex Diary’ without my consent, make me pose in extreme ways in front of audiences, take all the credit for my performances,” she writes. Because of the stories he told about her, she says, “I was constantly hurt by daily harassment and stalking, fake videos of me disseminated on the internet, and friends who believed in the lies.”
KaoRi worried that the mental and financial stress she was under would result in serious illness. But when she asked Araki for better working conditions, he by turns ignored her, blamed her for her predicament, and bullied her.
Their relationship ended acrimoniously in 2016, at which point KaoRi was so caught up in the myth of the tragic muse that she was on the brink of suicide. When the #MeToo campaign began in the US, “I realized that I didn’t need to devote myself to his lies anymore.” She adds, “I don’t want any more models hiding behind the mask of art, hurting in the shadows.”
KaoRi offers an apology at the beginning of her piece to Araki’s fans: “If I end up destroying the dreams of photography fans, I’m sorry. Whether you believe my story or not, regardless of the Me Too movement, if you use my story as one perspective to view his art, that’s enough for me.”
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