Public Sex and Peeping Toms

Kohei Yoshiyuki

Kohei Yoshiyuki

Kohei Yoshiyuki was walking through a Tokyo park one night in the early 1970s when he noticed people having sex in the bushes. Then he noticed people spying on the people having sex. That must have been when he decided to get his camera. Using infrared film and flash, Yoshiyuki followed and surreptitiously photographed the voyeurs who were peeping on copulating couples.

“My intention was to capture what happened in the parks, so I was not a real ‘voyeur’ like them,” he said recently. “But I think, in a way, the act of taking photographs itself is voyeuristic somehow. So I may be a voyeur, because I am a photographer.”

Yoshiyuki’s photos were first exhibited at a Tokyo gallery in 1979, and published in a book the following year, but only now have they been collected in a new English book, The Park. The photos been getting quite a lot of attention because, as Philip Gefter notes in the New York Times, they raise questions not only of voyeurism but of surveillance, which is of particular concern in this age of omnipresent CCTV and Great Firewalls.

Surveillance, of course, comes from a desire to control, and control manifests itself in many ways. Just as in Tokyo, young couples in Hong Kong used to enjoy each other’s company in the woods of Victoria Park, but a redesign put an end to that by fencing off footpaths and doing away with secluded clearings.

Yoshiyuki has said that the couples who were having sex were mostly unaware that they were being watched. It’s likely they went to the park simply to get away from their families, since it was common for young Japanese people to live with their families until they got married. These days, the desire to have sex in public seems driven by the thrill of being watched.

Kohei Yoshiyuki

Kohei Yoshiyuki

This entry was written by Christopher DeWolf , posted on Monday March 08 2010at 09:03 am , filed under Art and Design, Asia Pacific, Public Space, Society and Culture and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

One Response to “Public Sex and Peeping Toms”

  • Julia says:

    We are selling this at the bookstore. Its the eeriest thing. In these photos you can’t tell as much, but in the book it seems to be more about the voyeurs than about the people having sex.