Embodying Japan: Cultures of Sport, Beauty, and Medicine 2017

Bad Girl Photography - Capturing Sexuality

             “Hiromix,” or Toshikawa Hiromi, who won a photography contest in 1995 against 456 applicants, a semi-famous Japanese photographer who went on to do a fair bit of popular work, may have been part of the genesis of “bad girl photography.” Bad girl photography is the harnessing of sexuality by Japanese women through many modes of photography. Hiromix includes topless or partially nude photographs of herself in her work.
            It is important to note the first stages of photography in Japan. Some Japanese people in the beginning believed taking a photograph of yourself could steal part of your soul or shorten your life. As aristocrats and the empress began to have their photograph taken, the trend slowly began to trickle down to the rest of the people and it became widespread. In 1908, there was also a global beauty contest done by the Chicago Tribune in which contestants sent their photographs in to be judged. The judges were looking for “nonprofessional women in respectable form.” There is one possible underlying theory that this ever-present element of constantly being judged a woman faces based off her beauty is one of the largest reasons for bad girl photography having such a popularity.
            A major element of “bad girl photography” is the Purikura machines. Sasaki Miho first came up with this idea in 1994 and it took one year for her bosses to take the idea seriously. The Purikura machine is a photo booth that also allows for the photographs to be edited in all sorts of ways that range from funny, to weird, to gross. Many surveys have shown that a large portion of girls visited a Purikura at least once a week. Purikura clubs even began to form. Girls would submit their Purikura photos and others would comment and critique them. The article contained all sorts of examples of dirty and lude edits that girls used on their photographs. Catching falling feces from a friend’s ass, bikini tops pulled down but with hearts covering the breasts, panties exposed (look closely and you can see pubic hair), friends arranged in sexual positions, Pooh Bear preforming cunnilingus, and more.
            The concept of “bad girl photography” still comes back to the larger idea of “How much of this “X” thing is women attempting to seize some power back in their lives, from an intensely patriarchal system? Especially here as it relates to sex. Women are using these photographs to escape from the constant traditional beauty standards and hyper sexualization that they are normally held to.

Commodification of Desire

Miller, Laura, ed. Bad Girls of Japan. Comp. Jan Bardsley. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.


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