Last fall the publisher of the bilingual magazine European Photography asked me to write a short review on the book Aoisora Polgasun by Aoi Sora. At that time I had never heard the name of the photographer and a short search on the web revealed that Aoi Sora is not a photographer by profession, but a Japanese idol and porn star, who made a series of self portraits on request of the publisher PowerShovelBooks, a publisher who is involved in Lomo photography.
5 Japanese popular idols are asked to take self-portrait. They are given more than 50 films and few days for it. They are asked to take the cameras with them all the time, anywhere they go and anywhere they are. As if the cameras are their boyfriends or undetestable stalkers. The girls are Nao Oikawa, Aki Hoshino, Rei Ito, Kyouko Nakashima and Sora Aoi. Their mission is to keep on popping shutters until they get sick of doing it.[…]
(Later) we asked Sora to take pictures continuously. We were desperate to see more photographs she takes. Sora was kind and curious enough to take photographs with many cameras we provided, such as BabyHolga, Babylon4, Holga and GR. Most of the photographs taken by Sora with those cameras were very interesting. However, her photographs have been completely changed since she started using POLGA. (You know, POLGA is Holga Polaroid holder for Holga.)
[Quote: Hideki Ohmori/ PowerShovelBooks]
[Polgasun short review] Photography became the preferred medium of self-expression for young woman in Japan in the mid-1990s, giving rise to a veritable boom in girl photographers (onna no ko shashinka). For them, the camera represented a tool in their search for identity in a society that still offers women little more than the traditionalroles of mother and housewife or minor employee. The first book by a girl photographer by Yurie Nagashima in 1995 consisted mainly of self-portraits in the form of nude photographs à la Nobuyoshi Araki and Nan Goldin. Since then, the term “self-nude” for this kind of photography by young women has gained common currency in Japan.
Having been given a Polga (Polaroid) camera in the context of a photography project, Aoi Sora also chose the theme of the “self-nude”. The result is the book Aoisora Polgasun (Tokyo, 2005) containing nude self-portraits in both black-and-white and color which play with intimate and lascivious poses. And therein lies the decisive difference to earlier girlphotographers, whose self-nudes were rather timid, reticent, cautious. Not so Aoi Sora, who is a celebrated Japanese nude idol and well-known porn star, accustomed to showing off her body and all its details in public. It would appear that in Polgasun she is trying to swap the wretchedness and banality of the pornography genre for intimacy and authenticity, and, as Mariko Takeuchi a Japanese critic suspects, find a way back into the mainstream of society through this more accepted form of self-presentation.
(Slightly altered version of the review published in:
European Photography, No. 78, Fall/ Winter 2005)
Aoi Sora: Polgasun