Jesse’s Book Review – Ariphoto Vol. 4 by Shinya Arimoto


by Bellamy /

4 min read

Jesse’s book review, Ariphoto Selection by Shinya Arimoto
Jesse is back after a short break and he brings us a brilliant review of the work of Shinya Arimoto. I love Arimoto sans work and I am happy to see this latest piece on the site. Check it out.

I ran into Arimoto twice since the release of Airphoto Selection vol. 4. Once at the Josef Koudelka Retrospective opening in Tokyo and then in Shinjuku when I was on the way to his gallery for a portfolio review, one of which he said he wouldn’t attend because he wanted to go shooting (got to respect that). However, it was that second meeting that I was finally able to get Airphoto Selection vol. 4. Just like the previous three, there are 500 copies for 1000 yen each consisting of black and white photos shot in medium square with a Hasselblad.


In that this is a series, one of the joys of vol.4 is in the continuing motifs. Like a favorite television series going into its fourth season one joys in the delight of settling into a direction and understanding its characters while looking for subtle variances since one now has a basis for comparison and posses a better idea of the creator’s intent. Shinjuku is the setting as with vol. 1 and 2 often even utilizing the same locations, there is a continuing focus on homeless and other social outcasts, and there is that curious attention to shoddy robotic structures that we see in vol.1 with a giant teddy bear and in vol. 2 with the robot café woman that makes an appearance here as well. Not to mention this play with construction sites as seen here and in vol. 2. Yet there are the variances…


The first photo is of an older gentleman in a suit accessorized by gaudy jewelry in a telephone booth. Captured unknowingly, his glance is off in the distance coming off a bit suspicious. This is in essence already makes it an interesting photo, but looking closer you can see his right hand in the coin return. Because of the suspicious glance and unawares as too Arimoto’s presence one can suspect he is looking for change (as oppose to receiving his change after a call) which makes the photo more interesting because of his tasteless flamboyant appearance yet is reduced to looking for change in a coin return.


There is another photo that captures a woman (?) flashing her breast. Arimoto’s penchant for being the right place is displayed here as you can really see he captured this spontaneously since the focus is a bit off and the fact that people passing by in the shot are unaware. What also drew my attention was the extraneous arm on the right simply because most would have tried to exclude it, yet it is exists and shows the medium’s nature of frame selection while telling us of more. Also what this arm does is work on this play on limbs that can be seen in the adjacent photo with the woman conjoining her limbs while holding a boot and the crossing of limbs in the photo below.


This was the lead photo for Arimoto’s exhibition that year, capturing protesters. I talked with him about this one and he expressed how surprised he was in the dark room when that light streak showed up on the negative. The white line draws vertically across the frame setting in motion an intricate play of lines of both the protester’s and cop’s limbs that also increases the tension already present in the photo. Once again there is an extraneous hand in the foreground that achieves the same effect as the previous photo. Continuing this theme, there is a photo of a man with his upper torso down in a sewer drain leaving us only with his limbs in view. The story we can draw is that the man is possibly homeless judging from the desperate action of actually lifting a sewer cover because he saw something of value down in there in addition to his attire. You notice how each of these photos on their premise are great photos but they take on more with the stories they all contain.


Guess the question is how long will the series continue for. I have begun to notice the slights when Arimoto’s name comes up in conversations, “oh the guy that shoots homeless in Shinjuku” and such. Vol. 3 offers the variation with the Tibet photos that was as necessary as season 2 of The Wire in taking a departure covering a new cast at the docks. Both served to show range, while avoiding lazy stigmas that could be applied. However it may be, his work definitely sets itself apart.

For a point of reference also check my previous review on the first three here. The book comes in an awkward size that doesn’t quite fit conventional book shelves, but the printing and quality are top notch for the price. Buy two and cut the photos out of one and frame some.

Purchase from Arimoto himself Click Here


From here.

Jesse Freeman is a friend, photographer and movie buff. He has a great knowledge of photography books and classic cinema. He can also be relied upon for decent music recommendations.
You can more of his work and passions at the following places:

I want to thank Jesse for this review. It is great to see some of these images, as I know Arimoto san and I respect him a great deal. It is also interesting, as I was literally standing right next to him when he took the protesters shot. That was a wild day.


6 comments on “Jesse’s Book Review – Ariphoto Vol. 4 by Shinya Arimoto”

    Mike December 18, 2013 at 2:05 pm / Reply

    FYI, if you head to this interview ( ) with Arimoto-san, you can see a contact sheet that includes the photo of the older gentleman in the phone-booth, followed by a couple more of the same man. Just my guess but judging from the photos, I’d assume these shots weren’t taken unawares but rather through interaction with the man, and then “acted” out. Perhaps not, but it’s worth looking and making your own judgement.

    Ken Enochs December 19, 2013 at 11:22 am / Reply

    Thanks to Jesse for writing this review and to Bellamy for posting it.

    I am also a big fan of Arimoto-san’s, having been turned on to him by Floyd Takeuchi, a Hawaii-based photographer whose bag has been featured in JCH.

    Bellamy mentions being next to Arimoto-san when he took his protestor’s shot, and I have my own story to tell about the cover photo of Vol 4.

    I first met Shinya this winter/early spring, when a number of the photos in Vol 4 were being exhibited at the Totem Pole Photo Gallery. In the gallery were just Arimoto-san, I assumed, and this strikingly beautiful woman with whom he was chatting. When Arimoto-san asked me my impressions of his work, I noticed that my favorite photo in the exhibit was also of this very same woman.

    Arimoto-san had encountered her by chance on New Year’s day, took what is in my view a magnificent picture of her, and apparently invited her to come in and see herself on display.

    Both were kind enough to let me take their picture, which I share with you below:

    I might add that I have since purchased from Arimoto-san a framed print of this Vol 4 cover photo, which is now prominently displayed in my office.


      Jesse Freeman December 20, 2013 at 10:33 am /

      That is really cool man…thanks for sharing!

    Jesse Freeman December 19, 2013 at 11:25 am / Reply

    Thanks for sharing…actually being able to see the contact sheets does change things. I’d have to say you are right!

    Michael Penn December 19, 2013 at 12:59 pm / Reply

    I bought Arimoto’s book a few weeks ago. It’s great and the printing is fantastic.

      Jesse Freeman December 20, 2013 at 12:43 am /

      The printing is amazing right!

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