World's Most Difficult Photography (NSFW): viewer discretion advised)

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World's Most Difficult Photography (NSFW): viewer discretion advised)

Let me start by saying, this is powerful work if not overwhelming and is not something every viewer will want to explore. Look carefully at the featured image before you continue and decide whether or not Manabu Yamanaka's work is too visceral for you before proceeding. Yamanaka’s methods, purpose and approach have shown that his projects are not intended to produce cheap shock value and that his subjects are respected and glorified. Like wise, featuring this artist's work is not intended as "flame bait" or to spur disrespectful/narrow minded comments. Rather you should view these photos and internally process how they make you feel and why.

After 25 years of work, Japanese photographer Manabu Yamanaka has published "Gyahtei" a book that features Yamanaka's six photo series that exposes the subjects: street children, the homeless, the physically deformed, the elderly, unborn/deformed embryos and animal corpses. Focusing on societal outcasts, each series took between 4 and 5 years to complete. Yamamanaka's work pushes the viewer's comfort level to the very edge and for many beyond but it has been suggested that any unnerving feelings we have viewing these have more to do with how we distance ourselves from the stark, seemingly horrific reality of Yamanaka's subject's lives. Long before the camera is incorperated Yamanaka's process first involves immersion in his subject's environments and living conditions.

Manabu Yamanaka:"First of all, I decide on a subject for a project and then study and research the subject. And the next step is planning out picture composition [while] at the same time scouting, casting, and thinking about the other details. Finally, I start the new project if I convince myself that all of the above is in place. Usually it is not so easy, so I’m constantly making changes. I always find the appropriate way of shooting after I start. I believe that there is always a way through a difficult project."

The work being shown in this post is from the series "Jyoudo": (the home of a Bodhisattva, or Buddhist saint).

"I’ve always thought that those in this world born with deformities, or who lose freedom of movement in accidents and mishaps, were living a life of continued suffering. Perhaps because of bad deeds in a previous life, or because they’re pathetically unfortunate." "In a rest home I met a young girl. She was nothing but skin and bones, barely even breathing while she lie down. Why was she born like this, and what are we supposed to learn from it? To understand the meaning of her existence, I decided to photograph her." "People who gradually become smaller as the body expends all its water, people whose bodies rot as their skin peels off and their figures turn red and swell," "people whose heads gradually expand from water that has collected within, people with part of their feet or hands unusually large, and soon." "I’ve met and photographed many people like that, living with afflictions that are not explainable, and for whom a cure is said to be hopeless." "Yet even in that state, when I looked upon them without cringing, I saw how truly natural each one of their lives really were. I came to feel the presence of Bodhisattva within their bodies. These people were the “Incarnation of Bodhisattva,” the children of God."

  The other 5 series in Manabu Yamanaka's "Gyahtei" can be found in the links below.

 WuKongMangMangRan:"For reasons unknowable, not every life is welcomed into this world.

And yet for a fleeting moment this tiny embryo, barred from

admission before ever having the chance to utter its first cry,

bequeathed to me an everlasting image of its perfect beauty."

 Dohshi:"I feel like clinging to something I know will change me, but I don't know how. I decided I'd try by living in an impoverished place where there was no water supply, no electricity, and a subsistence unchanged from that of thousands of years ago.

I'd wake up every morning in house with a dirt floor, where there was no way to completely escape the elements. The water I drank was muddy and scarce. The food I ate was plain. When I become sick, there was no medicine or hospitals to look to for help. People locked in a daily struggle for mere survival can rarely escape this kind of existence.

Where do they differ from me, I thought.

They have many siblings, though half of them will not live long. For this reason, perhaps, they don't live in fear of death, nor are obsessively attached to life. They simply live.

I even wonder if they do not regret having been born? They live in a reality void of material assets except for their own bodies. Life is lived fervently in hopes of someday arriving at that eternal place where there is no suffering.

How do I appear to them? Who am I? Who is Yamanaka?

I was moved by the sight of children covered in mud, dirt and scratches. They didn't appear the least bit miserable, but live robustly. Their eyes were marvelously pure, like incarnations of the Zenzaidohshi, children of ancient times who had rid themselves of all desire in pursuit of the Way of the Buddha."

 Gyahtei:After completing my two works- 'Arakan' and 'Fujohkan', I was groping for next title.

In my mind, I was thinking of Buddhist four(4) pains namely 'birth'.'age', 'disease'. and 'death'.

And I had a desire to make photograph of either 'age' or 'disease' out of them.

However, regarding the title of 'disease',even if I take a picture of the figure or carriage of a sick person, it will not depict buddhist 'disease' but it will show only apparent reality.

Buddhist'disease' is the pain caused by inevitable retribution of human being. I thought such picture will not make any photograph I aimed.

As to the title of 'age', I felt in the same way. I thought afiguar or life-style of dotard is far from the title of my next photograph. One day, while I was talking with one of my friends, he mentioncd about the nude of old people.

"This is it !" I noticed. For the title of 'age', making a copy of old person's body will be good enough.

I thought more than a half of my work was done at that time as the next step was only to find out proper model.

Since then, I have taken some dozens of pictures of old persons in the nude.

After selection, I found only some pictures of old women of about 90 years of age left. I thought those pictures depict faithfully "The last physical body of human who is just vanishing away"."

 Fujohkan:In my attemt to realize 'death', I have decided to watch the dead body of a dog continuosly at the coast.

1st day

- I patted him on head wondering if his life was happy one.

2nd day

- His face seemed to be sad. I felt the odor became stronger.

5th day

- Many crows crowded at the spot and were pecking his eyes and anus.

7th day

- His body was swallen, and blood and pus were flowing out. Many flies swarmed upon it, and the odor became awful.

10th day

- The mouth was infested with maggots, and the body was swallen double. When I touched the body, it was warm. As I thought the body heat was revived, I was inspired and joined my hands to the body.

12th day

- The skin abdomen was bursted, and a lot of maggots were seen inside. I was discouraged when I noticcd that the heat was caused by chafing maggots. I thought 'death' is ugly and sorrowful.

15th day

- The bone was seen from a part of broken skin of face. The body became so thin like mummy. The odor became less stinking. The dead body seemed as pretty as clay image, so that I took some pictures.

24th day

- Maggots were disappered, and head, limbs and body were dismembered completely. It seemed that no creature have any chance to eat it. In face with this scene, I felt the dog is really dead.

32th day

- Only small pieces of white bones were left which seemed to be soaked into the earth.

49th day

- The new grass was grown on the spot, and exsitence of the dog was vanished."

 Arakan:One morning, I Met a person clad in rags who walking slowly emitting an offensive odor. He was staring at the distant place with vacant eyes out of focus.

I started early in the morning by bicycle for searching them in busy streets and parks. When I found them, I asked them by saying "Please let me take your snap shots" However, they would't let me take the pictures so easily.

They hated it and walked away.I followed them and asked again and again. I continued to follow them in spite of their spitting and hitting on me until they tired out with their patience. They finally allowed me to take some pictures of them. Their profile was as follows.

Person who allowed me to take pictures after I accompanied him for two days. Person who keeps walking several tens kirometers a days. Person who has no bedding and clothing with him. Person who keeps chanting prayers earnestly. Person who clad cntirely with vinyle wrapper. Person whose hair was curdled like clay. Person who is not able to hear or speak Person whose face is uglily swollcn. Person who keeps sleeping wholc day. Person who is shuffling along because of malnutrition.

Out of the pictures of hundreds of persons I have taken during 4 years, I have chosen 16 persons who have such burilliancy as if they are holding position between Buddha and human.

I am sure those persons deserve to be called 'Arakan' who severs the ties of flesh and is assiduous in practicing austerities."

  via [500Photographers]

 
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10 Comments

Great feature! As a doctor, I appreciate these images for what they can teach us about the human condition, and what our bodies and minds are capable of surviving. We can learn so much from powerful art such as this... Those who are afraid to look should be asking themselves why, and why they feel the need to pretend this isn't real and that these people don't live with their condition every day.

Truly something different and powerful!

Wow! amazing work and research!

Simple exploitation posed as faux art

Face Value's picture

Any photography is exploitative. Whether it's art or journalistic, portraits or landscapes, you are taking from the subject. So really this isn't as simple as you may think. A photographer's intention holds a lot of substance when it comes to difficult subjects.

Very interesting work. Handled with exquisite care and concern. Commendable for sharing. And interesting to note - many of his subjects have wonderful, genuine smiles. This is a true reflection of the person behind the lens.

Anthony Riordan's picture

I doubt very much that this is exploitation Marshall. For someone to put in that much time, effort and emotion into something to make a quick buck doesn't seem logical. And when I looked at the images I felt pretty emotional so I couldn't even imagine having to shoot them.

This is a everyday situation for me and a lot of other photographers that like me work as Medical Photographers at hospitals. Aldo we are not allowed to show our work for the public since they are part of a documentation of a medical condition for each patient. I concur with Matt Skalski its amazing what people can endure show us who are without disabilities.

No exploitation here. Photography books aren't exactly best-sellers. No one gets rich on them -- or even well-heeled.

Sticking a black mask on my photograph cannot understand to me..!!  Manabu Yamanaka