intimacy and nudity are subjects that #itchysilk have covered before. For us however the work of Akitoshi Tou (based in Saigon) took on a significance with the new cyber law passed by the government of Vietnam in June. The essence of the law (which will come into effect in 2019) is a shackle to freedom of expression.
His nude night images capture his moments of intimacy as Akitoshi Tou ventures into “lust” and “desire” while “suppressed feelings” are laid bare. Importantly this “'freedom of expression' allows us to enter his world away from any suppression.
Talk to us about the genesis of your interest in photography?
When I was 20 years old, my father gave me his Nikon FM with 28 – 85mm lens. After one year using this, I tried to quit photography because I didn't know what to shoot. But I remembered a quote from Hamvas Béla, my favourite philosopher who said – “Humans need to create works from themselves, so that they can live in eternity. But the work should be open, so that if anyone wants to step in, we receive.” At this point of time, I realised that I should take photos for myself first.
An important quote for you.
For sure. I realised that I wanted to know about photography as a discipline as well as the art of photography. So, I tried to improve my photography by taking a lot of images and reviewing them. Through this I found my love in photography rested in nude, portrait and landscape. Sometimes, I wonder how can street-photographers take a lot of great images with strangers? I consider myself a realist. I have no courage to take images of people I don't know. Most of the time, I take landscape without people and if I must take images with people, it must be nude photography.
Before we get onto your nude photography-how vibrant is the photographic scene in Vietnam?
In Vietnam, photography has become more popular than ever. With smartphones, in fact it is now more of a habit than an art. The good news is that film photography has become trendy in Vietnam with young people. It's easy to find an analogue camera and film can be bought easily.
From a technical perspective we know you use a 35mm-why?
A 35 mm film compact camera allows me to take images inconspicuously. I am shy naturally and I don't like to talk to strangers so there is something about coyness and satisfaction in all my work. I love compact cameras. My friends have a store to sell cameras, so I usually borrow a camera. No matter what I use however, my style and mood in images does not change.
Nude photography who are your inspirations? As you know we have already looked at nude photography with the Japanese photographer Aizawa?
Photographers, writers and philosophers are my inspiration. Some of the names I adore are; Henry Miller, d.H. Lawrence, E.M. Cioran, and Tanizaki Junichiro. I admire their visions and their way of thinking. They inspired my work on woman's sensuality, and my thoughts about death. But most of all, the ones who gave me the most inspiration were Daido Moriyama and Araki Nobuyoshi. Araki teaches me how to take unbiased images while Daido makes me believe in my instinct.
There is a fragile line between decent-nude-images and erotica/pornography. I am the in-between image-taker.
How difficult is it to be a nude photographer in Vietnam?
Vietnam has passed a law on cybersecurity and I have found publishing my work difficult. Taking nude images in Vietnam is very sensitive. Some nude photographers in my country have been tried for sexual harassment. I chose people I know and let them into my world. They understand the world of nude photography.
What are the challenges to the type of work you create in Vietnam?
Nude photography requires patience and courage. In Vietnam, it is not difficult to find a professional model, but it lacks that intimacy. Unlike fashion or street photography, I love the beauty of the woman, from the features to the emotions. In many ways what I really want to capture is the emotion. If the model is professional, the feeling is not real.
Desire is an emotion you explore.
Yes. I like to explore desire, to capture the beauty and to have such great moments, it is necessary to understand the intimacy between the model (my partner) and I. The fact that other photographers have used models and they have been accused of sexual harassment makes me more inclined to use someone I know. Without that fear the intimacy is real and pure.
There's also lust in the work.
Yes, there is lust, but others show suppressed feeling, and enjoyment. There is a fragile line between decent-nude-images and erotica/pornography. I am the in-between image-taker. Sometimes I take my “private” moments and thanks to contradiction in my sense of art, I can make them more poetic.
How do night shoots add to the emotional power of your work?
I work full-time, so I only have free time in the evenings. Somehow, I found the evening is easier for me to find inspiration. I prefer the intensity of darkness. At night, it is easy to capture the loneliness in combination with the flash. The subject seems more real.
For the un-censored images click on Tumblr.