‘The Groupies’ by Baron Wolman

Groupies, the original fangirls – dedicated and devoted to rock stars. In the 60’s rock photography legend & chief photographer at Rolling Stone magazine, Baron Wolman photographed these obsessed young girls who were willing to dedicate their lives to getting the attention of rock stars. Wolman gave the followers a change of authority and take centre stage in their own right. Wolman believed that groupies deserved a place on the cover of Rolling Stone just as much as the rockers they loved.

Today groupies have almost levelled up to become the fangirl – to debate which is healthier or more dedicated would be a pointless exercise, the digital age now allows fans to build a fantasy relationship with their idols from the other side of the world, whereas before, groupies would have to follow the band from city to city in order to be a true fan, rather than just on twitter. The prior method meant devotion was built on “real” interaction but a place to call home and often morals were compromised. It would be interesting to consider how technology and digital culture has fed the culture of groupies and transformed them into something completely new.

See the full series here.

From aspirations of beauty to intelligence

I’m a big believer in how childhood can profoundly shape your adult life, particularly in regards to the toys you play with. Even though society has progressed to almost equal pay for boys and girls it seems that toy shops are still insisting little girls grow up to be princesses and mummies whereas boys be train drivers and fire fighters.

Goldieblox is one company who are trying to change this – by launching engineering kits for little girls. Let’s be honest most kids would be happy with a cardboard box, so they only reason girls are given dolls and plastic ovens is because that’s what society tells them they should play with and aspire too.

I am all for this product and am excited that the future generation of girls will be empowered and intelligence encouraged over beauty.

‘Teenage Stories’ by Julia Fullerton-Batten

With a new interest in miniature sets built for photography I stumbled across the work ofJulia Fullerton-Batten. Her series ‘Teenage Stories‘ focuses on the adolescent experiences of teenage girls.

Using hand built miniature sets and teenage subjects (no photoshop involved), Julia exacerbates the emotions, awkwardness, venerability and self-consciousness of ‘coming of age’. If Julia had depicted these scenes in real city/suburban environments they may appear almost photojournalistic, however her use of scale creating giants out of her subjects adds an uncanny atmosphere which makes us as the spectator explore the issues she’s raising.

See the full series here.

Interchangeable Icons

TOKYO, 2013

21st Century Geisha, Magical Girl and Product Placement. These are all “looks” of our protagonist. Female pop cult icons change their visual identity in order to comply with whichever product or theme is in demand.  They become like dolls boundlessly changing whilst simultaneously being branded as unique and liberating. Consumers are led into a false sense of empowerment, told we are free to choose how these icons look, when really we are being drip fed options. Our so called freedom is choosing from a series of pre-selected branded looks which demand we pay before getting access. This transcends into all aspects of consumerism surrounding these transmedia icons, figures, photos and trading cards all offer different variations, we buy into choices in order to show we don’t conform. When the act of needing them suggests the opposite.

Mariko Mori

Mariko Mori has a vast collection of work which you can see samples of below. Most of her work concerning identity and gender in Japan. There is also a common theme of science fiction. On a surface level I would say influenced by Japans geek culture or Otaku culture and technology. I want to dig deeper into the meaning behind the images. Is she using her work to make people question the society they live in? or is it more of a personal protest, being different because no one else dares too.

In the best works, like Subway (1994), the public reaction to Mori’s performance adds the realism that I so desperately crave whenever I find myself inundated by the in-again-out-again world of fashion. In Subway, Mori found herself having to utilise a fish-eye lens because the commuters who thought they would be in the frame sheepishly slid out of the camera’s view. Interestingly, despite the fact that there is a woman in a Space 1999 suit signalling to some far-off planet, nobody on the train is looking at her; instead they prefer to avoid involvement through consumption of more staid media (like newspapers or adverts).

– http://www.frieze.com/issue/review/24back2_mariko_mori/

She is a fine artist making politically motivated commentary but the outcome was beautifully ‘Pop’ and accessible in its dreamy, colourful, cartoony sheen. Her futuristic plastic doll costume complete with Manga blue hue hair is perfectly put together.

– http://isysarchive.tv/on-pioneers-mariko-mori/

The theatrical setting and costuming of her early photographs undeniably reflect the trends in Japanese popular culture, especially that of adolescent Japanese girls, known as shōjo culture.

In each of the Tokyo photographs Mori is a self-constructed idol, or idoru, ubiquitous in the world of J-Pop,anime or digital gaming.[5] These idols reflect the pastime of cosplay (kosupure, or costume playing) that has been popular amongst Japanese urban youth since the mid-1990s.

In Love hotel (1994), a uniformed schoolgirl kneels on a circular bed in a themed room. Concealed inside a silver unitard with angular ears this idoru is suggestive of Tezuka Osamu’s universal robotic hero Tetsuwan Atomu, or Astro Boy (1951–1967).[6] The mise en scène is potent with ambiguity as Mori’s idol asserts a youthful naïvety and vulnerability. This Lolita does not recline submissively on the hotel bed nor provocatively engage with the viewer. In Red light (1994), the idol wears a shimmering pink dress and pointy-eared silver unitard. Standing amidst the neon lights and signage of Kabuki-chō back streets (a well-known ‘pink’ or red light district of Tokyo) the idol takes a call on a mobile phone. Like the photographs of Yanagi Miwa,[7] Mori’s generic settings and cute idoru are dramatic and relatively formulaic. In retrospect, we can see that the work of artists such as Yanagi and Mori coincided with the global promotion and popularity of Japanese subcultures, in particular anime and manga. Mori’s cyborg lovers appear to perpetuate the entertainment industries’ use of the female body as a site of desire and pleasure—a stereotype that many young women photographers challenged throughout the late 1990s as social conditions in Japan changed.

– http://intersections.anu.edu.au/issue23/holland.htm

In Tea Ceremony III (1994), Play With Me (1995) and Subway (1994), Mori makes use of traditional female roles and then adds non-traditional details in order to critique the positioning of women within Japanese culture.

According to Mori, her earlier work concentrated on social criticism, addressing issues
of modern-day Japan.

– http://www.rachelschreiber.com/pdfs/CyborgsAvatarsLaaLaaPo.pdf

Mori’s work has been written about a lot, her visual interpretation of Japanese culture seemed to be shocking and new at the time of production. It’s interesting that one text compares her work to that of Miwa Yanagi, another photographer I have been looking at recently. I feel with relation to my project Mori’s work could take me down a hole new route, tackling identity and pop culture idols. But her work doesn’t openly tackle ideas of sex and cuteness which is the area I have decided to focus on.Perhaps the only image that does is Love Hotel (see below) however I will continue my search for other photographers as I am not keen to clutch at straws.

Ryoko Suzuki continued

I have looked at Ryoko Suzuki’s series on Kawaii. But she has 2 other projects would be a great example of activism photography.


My ANIKORA series is acting in front of social background, of a growing trend in Japan, known as “aikora”: it is about Japanese men’s desire to see their favorite pop or movie stars in pin-up or nude poses.The ANIKORA series ironizes such masculine desire. The figures featured in these works have almost nude bodies of an exaggerated perfection, like all anime characters. But by exchanging the original face of these virtual identities with my own, real face, I am showing a critical, human position about a (globally) increasing indifference towards some of our desires, leading to a situation of external control.


Screen Shot 2013-01-03 at 16.33.23

Sweat7 2002


The second, ANIKORA-SEIFUKU series, developed afterwards, shows girl figures wearing several types of uniforms that are commonly seen in Japanese animations (“Manga”). I was wondering why a figure in such a uniform (made especially for teenage girls) looks more seductive to adult men than the same figures in a state of nudity.I came to the conclusion that this kind of specific social effect only exists for men, and for a time the girls being a certain age – reflecting a uniformed, female image they can control. I felt I had to take a close look at this and work towards this situation.

– http://www.ryokobo.com/contents/anikora2.html



Japan is a country submerged in“cuteness”.
I have been surrounded with“cute”things since childhood and thus they seem natural,but I have come to believe this“cuteness”is unique to Japan.
ANIKORA series Three takes“cuteness”as a sub-theme.
Along with ANIKORA series 1 and series 2,the purpose of these works is to investigate the desire of men to see“anime”or cartoon characters of young women with child-like face and improbably voluptuous bodieis. It is easy to see how men’s desires are reflected in these characters, but less so how this way of seeing women is expressed in Japan’s culture of“cute”things.
Women who are immersed in the culture of “cuteness”define themselves and present themselves to society as objects of “cuteness”. Being“cute”is the most important value for Japanese young women. But aren’t they losing themselves and their own identities and personalities by trying to become objects of masculine society’s desire for“cuteness”?

– http://www.ryokobo.com/contents/anikora3.html







M.A.C X Nick Knight continued

I suddenly remembered this advertising campaign I found, and decided to re-look at it. It could be used as one of the consumerism examples of a cute and sexy representation of women.

The image below in particular uses the iconography of hello kitty, cute dickie bows and pink throughout the image. But this is harshly displayed against black latex corsets. And a  bowl of white liquid (strange for a makeup ad) which connotes questionable material. The style of lighting also resembles a cheap singular flash. The kind of lighting used by amateurs which emphasises the colours and makes the image almost trashy. The great thing about this as an example is it’s advertising a Western product via a Western photographer. Much like my already existing example of Nick Knight’s shoot of Brittany Spears is.

Supporting the idea of sex and cute, connoting Otaku culture the models appear at the product launch with a plastic look, and appear to be standing in a giant box. Reflecting the idea of figurines/ barbie.

“Girls are dancin’” by Emily Jane Wakeling

“Girls are dancin’”: shōjo culture and feminism in contemporary Japanese Art

by Emily Jane Wakeling
University of Queensland

Read the full text here http://pdf.jpf-sydney.org/newvoices/5/foreword.pdf#page=134

Word definition( Collins English Dictionary)
Personal Note
Page Number
Other peoples References & theories


It is relevant to read and discuss all of the abstract as it defines the project well and gives clear indication to the purpose of the text. It is broken up with my notes.

“This article explores the gender-transgressive (transgressive= offend/ violate boundaries) expressions found in shōjo culture in order to highlight the potential for feminist analysis in the prevalence of the shōjo motif in contemporary Japanese art. Shōjo culture is a fascinating cultural space, within contemporary Japanese culture, which fosters creative expressions of gender that negate or make complex hegemonic (hegemonic = dominant) categories. (In my mind this sentence translates more simply to challaging the expectations related to the depiction of women.) Departing from stereotypes of Japanese girls, this article will pay particular interest to an emerging wave of figurative contemporary art practices in which the figure of the shōjo is utilised for a new generation of feminist critique. Aoshima Chiho, Kunikata Mahomi, Takano Aya, Sawada Tomoko and Yanagi Miwa are among the current artists who feature the shōjo motif in contexts that foreground female subjectivities found paralleled in shōjo culture. These works will then be contextualised in the greater picture of current trends and themes in global contemporary feminist art.”

Although the majority of artists mentioned are painters I will read all of this text as I feel it is the most relevant text I have found to my topic, especially now it has been narrowed down to the representation of women.


“The cultural construct of girlhood in Japan typifies the country’s typical absorption of foreign cultural influences and embracing it as uniquely “Japanese”.”

“The Japanese term “shōjo” is particularly useful to gender discussions of the Japanese girl. It is a way of referring to someone as feminine, but with a distinct suggestion of youth.” I have encountered the term Shojo before, but as a genre of manga rather than a feminist view.

“The shōjo is ‘free and arrogant, unlike meek and dutiful musume [daughter] or pure and innocent otome [maiden]’. “Daughter” and “maiden” both suggest the presence of a male authority in determining the girl’s identity, while the concept of shōjo has neither of these connections” – A woman who is considered independent.

Shōjo motif in contemporary art

“What differentiates them from others is their use of the shōjo motif in reference to the gender-transgressive expressions found in shōjo culture.”

“Aida identifies the sexualisation of shōjo in contemporary Japanese culture and makes comment through an exaggeration of his powerful position as a man and “pervert”.” – To my surprise this text does talk about Aida Makoto. Mainly discussing his artwork the text talks about how he uses his position as a man to make a social commentary on the representation of women. Almost ironically via adopting the iconic schoolgirl uniform and imagery we see so much in anime.

“Specifically, these artists use the shōjo motif to reference elements of shōjo culture that focus on her subjectivity over the male gaze.”

“They go beyond the sexual objectification of shōjo, as seen in the work of Araki, or ironically presented by Aida, to make reference to the creative uses of the fantastic, girlish aesthetics or gender-transgressive concepts found in shōjo culture.”

“Yanagi presents young women—specifically, the shōjo—as a status far removed from social conventions such as marriage and child-rearing”

“Minami (2000) imagines her older self as the eccentric owner of a Disney-style theme park being tended to by carers.” see photo left.
 “Yuka (2000) enjoys a ride on a sidecar speeding across the Golden Gate Bridge.” see photo left
“Feminist critic Ueno Chizuko notes that most of the shōjo subjects just imagine an extension of themselves ‘as they are now’ because ‘several of the grandmothers appear as cheerfully active and carefree as they are today’.38 ‘As products of Japan’s affluent society, these women refuse to relinquish the privileges afforded them as children, even as they approach their thirties. So children they will remain, into old age’.” – This analysis needs to be followed up!

38 Ibid., p. 61.

Feminism and Contemporary Art

“Yanagi considers her art practice to be different to artists who come from a Western background because ‘my knowledge of the origins and history of what is referred to as Western fine art, and of modernism, was grafted later on to a base of novel, movie and manga subculture’.41” Again this quote need following up. What else has Yanagi written about her interaction with manga and how it influenced her.

41 Yanagi in ARTiT, ‘Interview with Yanagi Miwa’, p. 56.

Gender in Shōjo Culture

“Kawaii style, mentioned briefly above, has been analysed as a female-centred rejection of adulthood. 51 Laura Miller presented cases of girls using photographic technologies, specifically the print-club sticker booths, to resist stereotypes. 52 Both refernces worth following up on as well. Laura Miller’s view on print-club could be helpful within my context section, heling me define this culture in a way that can be understood within minutes.

51 Kinsella, ‘Cuties in Japan’.
52 Miller, ‘Bad Girl Photography

“Shōjo manga is an especially rich subject to draw out girls’ expressions of gender transgression. To illustrate with an example, The Rose of Versailles—possibly the most iconic shōjo manga—was called a “revolutionary romance” by Deborah Shamoon. This manga would be worth a read, just to gain a better understanding of Shojo and see if I can find any similarities between the photographers I am looking at and this iconic manga.

This article has been really helpful. Towards the end it turned out to be looking at the photographers as practioners rather than what their work is trying to say. That it a key area to explore but I don’t want to end up creating a similar exploration into the artists  cultural background and reasons for creating work. I am more concerned with what they are trying to say with their work, are they trying to provoke change? but I have a long list of texts to look at. What I think this text is trying to say is the artists discussed within it are Shojo themselves they are part of this new breed of women, ans whilst that is vital to the understanding of their work it’s not what my topic aims to conclude on.

To read now:

51 Kinsella, ‘Cuties in Japan’.
52 Miller, ‘Bad Girl Photography
41 Yanagi in ARTiT, ‘Interview with Yanagi Miwa’, p. 56.
38 Ibid., p. 61.

Makoto Aida continued

I looked briefly at Makoto Aida’s work here. Exploring his role in “Bye Bye Kitty” and his work. In doing this research I came across these images…


Aida is what I consider an activist photographer. Although he might not think it himself his work comments on the society he lives in a provokes change. Making the spectator question what they except as normal.

Japanese artist Makoto Aida used the form to make a biting commentary on how manga and anime objectifies the female form by drawing eyes on model’s breasts. When it’s not, the medium is people barely dodging a police fine for public indecency.
– http://kotaku.com/makoto-aida/

Kawaii is the dominant culture in Japan. How do you combat this or incorporate it in order to keep your work interesting?
It is a strange thing to say, but I did grow up among what they call “kawaii culture.” I say strange as we all take it for granted. I guess we’ve been exposed to such [kawaii] images without even realizing it. They are everywhere so, it’s always been in my subconscious. I do not take this whole thing too negatively, but still I am a man, I am not fanatically into what is considered kawaii in general. I guess you could say that I do incorporate the idea, or what I consider kawaii into my work unconsciously.
– http://hifructose.com/2012/12/19/exclusive-interview-with-makoto-aida/

Aida is known for his paintings rather than his photographs. It is hard to find text and information on his photographs, I will scouer the internet and try my best. If I can’t find anything I will have to put my own analysis skills to test.


Tokyo Tremors: Four New Waves in Japanese Contemporary Art

Tokyo Tremors
Four New Waves in Japanese Contemporary Art

Tokyo Tremors is a lecture and discussion with Adrian Favell which took place at UCLA on June 11th. It explores the 4 new waves of contemporary art in Japan.

You can read the full summary here, for the moment I will be looking at just one section which is relevant to my research.


A second wave focuses on the unique girl culture thriving in Japan today. While girls feature everywhere
in Japanese contemporary art – particularly in the adolescent styles of Murakami’s Kaikai Kiki artists –
other more independent women are striking a bolder, autonomous pose that is questioning gender
identity and roles in Japanese society, while celebrating their growing consumer power. This art has used
the camera as its main medium, influenced by popular street photography, as much as the extraordinary
innovations of the Japanese fashion world. Key artists here include Mika Ninagawa, Mikiko Hara, Miwa
Yanagi, Tomoko Sawada and Pyuupiru.

Miwa Yanagi also featured in the Bye Bye Kitty exhibition I wrote about, and whilst her and these artists focus on the role of the woman it is important to explore such a controversial new movement which opposes Japanese popular culture.

I am trying my hardest to get hold of a copy of the talk and to get into contact with Adrian Favell, the speaker. For now I will look at the work of practitioners mentioned and gain as greater knowledge as I can from that.

Mika Ninagawa

Mikiko Hara

Miwa Yanagi

Tomoko Sawada





Ryoko Suzuki – Anikora Kawaii

Japan is a country submerged in“cuteness”.
I have been surrounded with“cute”things since childhood and thus they seem natural,but I have come to believe this“cuteness”is unique to Japan.
ANIKORA series Three takes“cuteness”as a sub-theme.
Along with ANIKORA series 1 and series 2,the purpose of these works is to investigate the desire of men to see“anime”or cartoon characters of young women with child-like face and improbably voluptuous bodieis. It is easy to see how men’s desires are reflected in these characters, but less so how this way of seeing women is expressed in Japan’s culture of“cute”things.
Women who are immersed in the culture of “cuteness”define themselves and present themselves to society as objects of “cuteness”. Being“cute”is the most important value for Japanese young women. But aren’t they losing themselves and their own identities and personalities by trying to become objects of masculine society’s desire for“cuteness”?


In this series Ryoko Suzuki takes photos of figurines and then imposes an image of herself onto them. The effect is quite strong, instead of seeing a fiction character we are seeing a real face, making us question the reasons for these figures. Wether it is only having this effect on me as an anime fan, because I recognise some of these costumes so know the faces aren’t right.




See the rest of her series here.