The Park, Kohei Yoshiyuki’s cult 1970s photography book, presents its audience with scenes that were not meant to be seen by anyone but the people involved.
One night in the 1970s, when Yoshiyuki and a colleague were walking through Shinjuku’s Chuo Park, they noticed two lovers having sex in the darkness. But what drew his attention was not the act of public copulation, but that there were onlookers surrounding the couple, close to the action but unbeknown them. Yoshiyuki spent the following months diving into this strange, seemingly symbiotic subculture of public sex and its voyeurs before documenting it with his camera and an infrared flashlight.
The resulting photographs, available here in A3 size, re-printed by Osiris in an edition of 1000, are utterly exciting depictions of raw sex and spontaneous lust. But they also remind us of our fascination with watching these acts, of the thrill that is taking part in the intimacy of others.
There is a strange, unsettling atmosphere of participation in the pictures. This is to an extent an effect of the direct visual style of Yoshiyuki’s photographs – grainy, harsh contrast, lack of formal composition, imprecise focus – that evokes comparisons with security camera footage, or wildlife documentaries. But there is another layer of immediacy at play. With Yoshiyuki’s The Park, the viewer, who is looking at images looking at voyeurs looking at lovers, is implicated simply by the process of looking in such a way that he effectively becomes a part of his subject. And like the voyeurs, who occasionally touch and manipulate the couples they are watching, the viewer is invited to question if he doesn’t somehow play an active part in the acts depicted.