I had a nice surprise the other day when I visited my favourite bookstore, Libro in Shibuya Parco Part 1. While browsing the photography section I stumbled across a book by Nobuyoshi Araki that I hadn't seen before, called Dirty Pretty Things. Basically a photodiary, the book records his trip to London and Paris in October 2005 with hundreds of black and white, and some colour photos.

Araki's books (and he has published more that 300) tend to be divided loosely into those that focus on sex and those that don't – although even his most pedestrian work is infused with eroticism. This collection is pretty much what you would expect from one of Araki's more documentary style books. Lots of candid snaps of the people he met on his trip and great street photography interspersed with nudes of the models who accompanied him. Not surprisingly all the photos documenting the circus his presence inspired are shot in black and white, while the most erotic shots – of his muse Kaori stripping in front of a huge crowd in Paris – are shot in colour, the sudden flesh grabbing your attention as you flick through the book.

While it's a good change to see Araki focusing on cities other than Tokyo, the reason Araki went to Paris and London that year was to oversee the installation of a huge retrospective of his life's work. It was while he was in London that I had the chance to interview him for The Financial Times newspaper. Over a two hour lunch in the Barbican Art Gallery restaurant we had a good chat about the influences behind his work and the controversy that it sometimes causes. As we ate, he wrote some kanji on a napkin to explain his relationship to Hokusai, then paused to pick up his camera and take a photo. Which, to my surprise has made it into Dirty Pretty Things along with the following quote:

"This is my lunch at the Barbican. Beans. They were sweet. I was being interviewed, and I was writing something on my napkin for them. We were talking about art maniacs and photo maniacs. You know, I said I liked Picasso and Bacon just for the hell of it. I told them my rival isn't Bacon but Hokusai. So I said Hokusai was an "art maniac" but I'm a "photo maniac".

He is too. A complete shakyojin.

Now if only I can remember what I did with that napkin?!

For more of what Araki said that day you can download a PDF of my interview with him here...

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