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Bad Girl Photography

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Bad Girls of Japan

Abstract

Inside a Tokyo auditorium in 1995, a female high school student beat 456 applicants to become the grand prix winner of Canon’s Cosmos of Photography photo contest, earning one million yen in prize money. In the quote above one of the judges is describing his interpretation of the winning entry, entitled “Seventeen Girl Days” by photographer Hiromix (real name Toshikawa Hiromi). Following the contest she embarked on a brilliant career as a successful photographer, publishing photo-diary books with occasional snapshots of herself in underwear or topless. Although the judge intends to praise the putatively unmanipulated nature of girls’ photography, Hiromix and other young women do invest thought into their photo diaries and other photographic projects. As the anthropologist David Sapir noted “A photograph is at once a direct representation of reality and the result of an utterly subjective choice.”2 Sapir’s insightful acknowledgment of debate over reality and its representation is especially true of the type of photography produced by Japanese girls.

“Girls tend to hold nothing back, and don’t think too much. Without thinking too much, they let their feelings rule their actions.”

Araki Nobuyoshi, commenting on the prize-winning photography of the 17-year-old photographer Hiromix 1

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Notes

  1. David J. Sapir, “On Fixing Ethnographic Shadows,” American Ethnologist 21, no. 4 (1994): 868.

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  2. Graffiti photos (rakugaki purikura or rakugaki shashin) are described in Laura Miller, “Graffiti Photos: Expressive Art in Japanese Girls’ Culture,” Harvard Asia Quarterly 7, no. 3 (2003): 31–42.

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  3. The role of purikura in buttressing social solidarity is also noted in Richard Chalfen and Mai Marui “Print Club Photography in Japan: Framing Social Relationships,” Visual Sociology 16, no. 1 (2001): 55–77. This friendship-marking function is seen in the earliest Japanese photographs: see the photo of two girls entitled “Girls of Good Friendship” (Ogawa Kazuma, 1860–1929), No. 345 in the Nagasaki University Database of Old Photographs of the Bakumatsu-Meiji Period, Online at <http://oldphoto.lb.nagasaki-u.ac.jp/unive/>.

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  4. For more on extreme makeup and fashion see Sharon Kinsella’s chapter, this volume, and Laura Miller, “Media Typifications and Hip Bijin,” U.S.-Japan Women’s Journal English Supplement 19 (2000): 176–205.

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  5. Impertinent linguistic forms used among girls are described in Laura Miller “Those Naughty Teenage Girls: Japanese Kogals, Slang, and Media Assessments,” Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 14, no. 2 (2004): 225–247.

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  6. Anne Wilkes Tucker, Dana Friis-Hansen, Ryuchi Kaneko and Joe Takeba, The History of Japanese Photography (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003).

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  7. Sakuma Rika, “Shashin to josei,” in Onna to otoko no jikū: Nihon no joseishi saiko, ed. Kōno Nobuko et al. (Tokyo: Fujiwara Shoten, 1995–1998), 196.

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  8. A painting showing three American men forcing a Japanese woman to pose for the camera is in Oliver Statler, The Black Ship Scroll: An Account of the Perry Expedition at Shimada in 1854 (Tokyo: John WeatherHill, 1964), 56–57.

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  9. Frederic Scharf, Sebastian Dobson and Anne Nishimura Morse, Art and Artifice: Japanese Photographs of the Meiji Era (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 2004).

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  10. This derogatory label is discussed in Laura Miller “You are Doing Burikko!: Censoring/Scrutinizing Artificers of Cute Femininity in Japanese,” in Japanese Language, Gender, and Ideology: Cultural Models and Real People, ed. Janet Shibamoto Smith and Shigeko Okamoto (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 146–165.

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  11. John Fiske, “Cultural Studies and the Culture of Everyday Life,” in Cultural Studies, eds. Lawrence Grossberg, Cary Nelson, and Paula Treichler (New York: Routledge, 1992), 137.

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  12. Nagashima Yurie, Nagashima Yurie (Tokyo: Fuga Shobō, 1995).

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  13. Miyashita Maki, Heya to shitagi (Tokyo: Shōgakkan, 2000).

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  14. Susan Sontag, “Notes on Camp,” in Susan Sontag, Against Interpretation (New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1966), 277.

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  15. David Laing, One Chord Wonders: Power and Meaning in Punk Rock (Philadelphia: Open University Press, 1985), 94.

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  16. Shibuya Hetamoji Fukyu Iinkai, Gyaru moji heta moju kōshiki Book (Tokyo: Jitsugyōno Nihonsha, 2004).

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Authors

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Laura Miller Jan Bardsley

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© 2005 Laura Miller and Jan Bardsley

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Miller, L. (2005). Bad Girl Photography. In: Miller, L., Bardsley, J. (eds) Bad Girls of Japan. Palgrave Macmillan, New York. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781403977120_9

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