Texas' Soulful Guitar Man Takes The Blues Into the 21st Century
“I can't feel a thing,” sings Gary Clark Jr. in “Numb,” a track taken from his lauded first major label studio album Blak and Blu, but the Texan guitarist, singer and songwriter’s gritty, powerful riffs are about as passionate as they come. The 29-year-old Austin native counts the likes of Eric Clapton and Barack Obama among his fans—the President notoriously dubbed him the “future” of the blues—and has shared the stage with Alicia Keys, Dave Matthews Band and The Rolling Stones. Clark’s soulful approach to genre-splicing channels the best of rock, R&B, jazz and hip-hop heritage, mashing up Jimi Hendrix’s intensity with The Beatles’ timelessness and vocals reminiscent of lo-fi act The Black Keys, updated with a contemporary hard edge. With his most recent LP ranked among Rolling Stone magazine’s 50 Best Albums of the year, Clark is also growing into something of an accidental style icon: rarely photographed without his signature brimmed hat, he can now add modelling for John Varvatos alongside Led Zeppelin guitar hero Jimmy Page to his reputation for following in the footsteps of greats.
The Photography Legend Turns a Sensual Lens to Tokyo’s Annual Floral Explosion
Known for his darkly erotic portraits of women and his suggestive shots of flowers, Japan’s prolific Nobuyoshi Araki set out to harness the stunning cherry blossom season in Tokyo for this exclusive series. An annual occurrence in the Japanese capital and the center of centuries of local tradition and literary inspiration, the sakura flower has very rarely featured in Araki’s oeuvre. This year, as the trees bloomed early in Tokyo, the celebrated lensman used vintage Polaroid film, framing the vibrant pink flowers’ silhouettes with a distinctive, pitch-dark corroded border. Shot amid the petals at Tokyo’s Hamarikyu Gardens and Aoyama Cemetery, the results seem to reflect the traditional Japanese interpretation of the cherry tree as an enduring metaphor for the cyclical nature of life itself. “The city’s skyscrapers appeared as gigantic tomb stones in the background,” Araki explains of his melancholic urban florals. “Then at the graveyard I photographed a beautiful woman with a baby in her arms and another child happily running around the trees. For the first time, I realized that cherry blossom brings happy memories too.”
Do you go to see the cherry trees in bloom every year?
Nobuyoshi Araki: I hardly ever go, but I’m still very attracted to it. The flowers only blossom for one to two weeks out of the whole year, which creates this ephemeral quality. People sympathize with that.
What attracts you to the cherry blossoms in particular?
Araki: Flowers are there for me to love, and cherry blossoms are the top of their kind. I can’t quite put my affection for them into words, and that’s why it continues to hold a special place in my photographs. When standing under the old trees, the layers of flower petals look like women’s underwear, transparent to the sky above.
How do you feel these Polaroids stand out from your previous work on the subject?
Araki: They are completely different. In recent years I have experienced the tragedy in Fukushima, the threat of the nuclear power station and the passing away of a very close friend. I believe that that emotional proximity to death brought a different dimension to my work this year. Photography has never been a method of documentation for me, but a reflection of raw feelings and sensations born out of my experiences. This is why I only trust my libido—instead of "thinking" about photography, which is something I completely gave up some time ago. I don't analyze the situation; I capture the moment.
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