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Yurie Nagashima

Artist 312

Yurie Nagashima

Feminism and Society

Photography


 Yurie Nagashima, from Self-Portraits (Dashwood Books, 2020)
Yurie Nagashima, from Self-Portraits (Dashwood Books, 2020)

Yurie Nagashima (born 1973) is a Japanese artist known for being a photographer and contemporary artist working predominantly in the genres self-portraiture, portraiture, street photography and still life.


Nagashima photography monographs deal with themes of family, gender, identity and sexuality. Today’s artworks are from her book ‘Self-Portraits’ (2020) which charts the life of this major Japanese figure over a period of 24 years from 1992-2016 - from brazen young artist to a tender portrayal of pregnancy and motherhood.


 Yurie Nagashima, from Self-Portraits (Dashwood Books, 2020)
Yurie Nagashima, from Self-Portraits (Dashwood Books, 2020)

In her her work Nagashima has explored subjects including sexuality, body-image, and the female experience, often photographing her own family and the meditative moments that surround them. However, her most present subject has been herself. She has 140 of her self-portraits presented in the photobook, Self-portraits.


“I began to make self-portraits while I was traveling. Then I chose to use myself for nudes, too, because I just couldn’t ask my friends or anyone else. I felt guilty asking someone to be naked—not in an “arty” way but a controversial way. That’s the primary reason I started making self-portraits. Another good reason is that I had more control. I’m shy, and it’s hard for me to ask a favor without worrying about how the other person feels. Some time later, I realized that self-portraiture is an important genre of photography, especially in the context of feminism.” - Yurie Nagashima


 Yurie Nagashima, from Self-Portraits (Dashwood Books, 2020)
Yurie Nagashima, from Self-Portraits (Dashwood Books, 2020)

In at times through her provocative photographs Nagashima has tested public perceptions on obscenity and censorship in Japan.


She was reductively labelled a “girl photographer” in the 90s but is now considered a leading voice in feminist photographic discourse.


 Yurie Nagashima, from Self-Portraits (Dashwood Books, 2020)
Yurie Nagashima, from Self-Portraits (Dashwood Books, 2020)

In the early 1990s, the work of a group of young Japanese artists was labelled ‘onnanoko shashin’: ‘girl photography’.


At the time, then-20-year-old Nagashima was frustrated by the ignorance of the male photo critic who coined the term. When she returned four years later, she was astonished to find that ‘onnanoko shashin’ had become an actual photographic genre.


 Yurie Nagashima, from Self-Portraits (Dashwood Books, 2020)
Yurie Nagashima, from Self-Portraits (Dashwood Books, 2020)

Nagashima was seen as the leading figure of the group — a cohort of young women challenging the status quo of a male-dominated industry, reclaiming the gaze in provocative self-portraits, and intimately documenting their personal lives. Many of the photographers identified as part of the “genre” are now some of Japan’s most respected contemporary practitioners.


Based on all her experiences from their onnanoko shashin to our girly photo Nagashima explores the hidden discrimination in Japanese photographic discourse, and redefines the movement through the analysis of work made by women between 1990 and 2014.


 Yurie Nagashima, from Self-Portraits (Dashwood Books, 2020)
Yurie Nagashima, from Self-Portraits (Dashwood Books, 2020)

“If I didn’t write a book about our work, future academics would base their research on the opinions of a few old men. And if they’re referencing these men, there is no way we are ever going to reach any form of feminist understanding,” she says.


“I had a problem with the way women were being photographed. It made me think that men were probably looking at me in the same way” - Yurie Nagashima


 Yurie Nagashima, from Self-Portraits (Dashwood Books, 2020)
Yurie Nagashima, from Self-Portraits (Dashwood Books, 2020)

Her works are described as raw, playful, and politically charged. The fall into two categories: Myself or Self Portrait. The former is based on her “real life”, and the latter is acted — but both are performative, she explains. Many of the images are a parody of the Hair Nude boom — soft-core photographs of young women popularised in the 90s.


Nagashima explains, “When I started making images, I was thinking about how women could escape this male gaze. I could have taken nude photographs of other women, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are being subjected to a gaze. So I decided to make self-portraits.”


 Yurie Nagashima, from Self-Portraits (Dashwood Books, 2020)
Yurie Nagashima, from Self-Portraits (Dashwood Books, 2020)

There were also more sub-contextual reasons for Nagashima’s photography. As a young woman, the photographer suffered from an eating disorder. “Part of me wanted to confront why I felt so resentful towards my own body,” she says, explaining how photography was a way to challenge the way she saw herself.


“If I said I had an eating disorder, or that I was bisexual, I felt that all my work would be understood only in those terms,” Nagashima explains. “Art was a way to express myself, while keeping those things hidden.”


Yurie Nagashima, from Self-Portraits (Dashwood Books, 2020)
Yurie Nagashima, from Self-Portraits (Dashwood Books, 2020)

Photography became part of her healing, and she now speaks openly about it. After lectures, students will often approach her to talk about their own experience with eating disorders, or for advice on how to address their sexuality in their work. “I started speaking out for people like them. To show that I suffered from these things too, and now, I’m okay.”


“My self-portrait is a way of expressing my sarcasm, and I think that many women have had disappointing sex because of the images that the media keeps emitting. After my work started being recognized, I was offered the opportunity to model for some famous male photographers. I was aware that I shouldn’t really take those opportunities, because I knew it would somehow contradict my own work. In art school, for my undergrad degree, I acted and posed for my friends in their movies and photographs, and they made me frustrated with their poor depiction of female characters. It was always awfully stereotypical and boring.” Nagashima


Yurie Nagashima, from Self-Portraits (Dashwood Books, 2020)
Yurie Nagashima, from Self-Portraits (Dashwood Books, 2020)


Yurie Nagashima, from Self-Portraits (Dashwood Books, 2020)
Yurie Nagashima, from Self-Portraits (Dashwood Books, 2020)

Sources Consulted:

Yurie Nagashima, from Self-Portraits (Dashwood Books, 2020)

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