The Park

It is a wonderful thing when an artist finds or invents the perfect medium for telling their story.

In the 1970s Kohei Yoshiyuki wanted to document the phenomenon of people meeting in Tokyo’s parks after dark for anonymous sex and, more than this the men who would silently observe under cover of darkness and sometimes shrubbery. Yoshiyuki found the perfect tool in the form of a 35mm camera loaded with infrared film and fitted with an infrared flash which is invisible to the human eye. The topic of voyeurism has been has been part of photography since its invention so it is interesting to think about looking at images made by a man watching men watching people being intimate.

The photographs were first exhibited in an exhibition of life sized prints in 1979. The gallery was in pitch darkness and each visitor was given a flashlight as Yoshiyuki wanted to recreate the feeling of the park. I wish I could have been there.

In The Photobook, A History, Vol. II, Parr and Badger write that Document Park “is a brilliant piece of social documentation, catching perfectly the loneliness, sadness and desperation that so often accompany sexual or human relationships in a big, hard metropolis like Tokyo”.

A collection of these photographs was published by Hatje Cantz as The Park in 2007 and the series was exhibited by Yossi Milo.
Stephen Meisel recently shot a fashion story in the style of The Park with a modern ‘dogging’ twist. It was deemed too controversial for Vogue Italia but was picked up by the American magazine V.

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