On Photobooks

Normally, I don’t write accompany pieces so quickly from one post to another. I have, personally, found myself rather notorious for coming back months later with ‘Remember that one thought I had…?’. However, the juices are flowing and I find my personal observations interesting so let’s get started.

If you’d like some further context to this article, I recommend starting here. It’s my over-elaborated tragic backstory to collecting art books. This article, will be my significantly less over-elaborated, and less tragic backstory to collecting photo books.

Before diving too deep into my personal recollections, let’s doing that thing where I clarify what a photobook/ photo book is.

It’s a self explanatory title. A photo book is just that, a printed compilation of photos. Unlike anime and manga art books, photo books are produced for a variety of people, at least in Japan. Typically photo books are focused on a specific individual, or the entire group. However, it’s not something just in otaku land. Many musicians, models, actors, actresses, musical theatre performers, etc also publish photo books as well. Typically, the photos included are the subject in various outfits, in several set locations (Hawaii being very popular), just posing for the camera. Some may be focused at a specific event, or comeback. At the end of the book their might be an interview with the subject, or potentially the photographer/director as well. Typically, the majority of the photos will be previously unreleased.

My story for photo books, as previously stated much less difficult then my art book one. This is mainly due to the fact that I got into ‘real people’, i.e. idols and actors way later then anime and manga. I was much more seriously involved in Visual Kei, which despite it’s name should have more photo books in my opinion, then idols. As my time in Japan progressed, I began to notice more and more of these things called ‘photo books’.

To be honest, I found them rather distasteful.

My first exposure to them was through Tower Records. I remember I was looking for the most recent EXILE TRIBE CD release, and was waiting in line to pay. Right near the register was… boobs. I mean, a girl in a bikini on the cover of something. Upon scanning around the cover, looking for somewhere else to look, I realized there were several of these… publications of young women in bikini’s being sold. Considering where I was, I put 2 and 2 together and realized they were probably members of a female idol group. Thus, with my brilliant power of deduction I realized these were probably the rather notorious ‘photo books’ I had seen online.

Now, that was a very loaded paragraph above that is suppose to be written sarcastically. It probably comes of was misogynic, and to a degree I was at the time. My own insecurity in my own body, coupled with these clearly aimed at men ‘photo books’, just was really off putting. And yes, I was one of those hypocritical fans that thought it was okay for a man to be shirtless on a cover, but a woman in a bikini is slutty. I have grown and changed on the subject, and that’s not quite the point of this blog post but I figured I’d clear the air on that.

Much like anime and manga art books, I didn’t really have a group I liked enough, or an individual in a group I liked enough to justify buying a photo book. They are still an expensive piece to add to a collection. Plus fans debating getting first editions, over republications is still something I don’t understand when it comes to photo books.

While I abstained from art books, I found myself flipping through photo books if I had the chance. I could spend a long time recounting why, but I’ll do a shorter summary. I spent from around Jr High School to until college doing amateur photography, taking classes and learning about what makes a good photo. Things like composition, lighting, and all those fun technical terms. Safe to say, I have an appreciation of a good photo and know what it takes to make one.

There’s so many things that get added in when an idol, or anyone produces a photo book. A theme has to be selected and then locations scouted. The subject has to have hair make-up and styling. The photographer and the subject have to be able to communicate to make the photo actually have something behind it. There’s a lot of effort that goes into a photoshoot with another human being!

Then, I fell very very hard for Iwata Takanori. Then I fell for the entirely of Generations from EXILE TRIBE. I mean this in a very serious way, it was the end of my study abroad and realized how much I liked EXILE TRIBE. There were, literally, so many members and groups to chose from and of course I wanted it all.

I am not made of money.


But, once again Mandarake in person stores came in clutch in mid 2016. I went to Mandarake Complex in Nakano Broadway. I headed into the store section of idols/musicians and immediately picked up the two Generations from EXILE TRIBE photo books second hand. I giddily added in Iwata Takanori’s only photo book at the time, which featured a shirtless cover, into my basket without any hesitation.

While I felt my face flush when my host mother asked about what I had bought… I think she was a fan of my choices though. She also was one of the people who pointed out that I was obviously a fan of Iwata Takanori, as well as EXILE in general.

I figured at three books, that I would stop. I did not. I found myself pre-ordering not only Iwata Takanori’s second photo book, but also his character Cobra from HiGH&LOW’s photo book. Again, I thought I would just stop at collecting Iwata’s photo books. Easy.

It was not.

Until October 2017, when Shuuka Fujii (featured image) announced her first photo book, which was self titled. Without considering anything, including my bank account, I pre-ordered it with express shipping. Quite the 180 from just a few years earlier, right?

It didn’t even stop there! Looking through my current in-person collection, I noticed some interesting things. That art book wise, I still only have three. In person I have three photo books, keeping the numbers even right? Nope, since I have six photo books in the states. I already ended up ordering two more photo books this week as well.

How am I spiraling this hard into photo book collecting over art books? I’ve sat for awhile, trying to make a bigger point of this blog then there is. Honestly, I’ve just shifted interests for awhile. I just happen to have an easier time to spend money on ‘real people’ books, then ‘art’ books. Since I am also woefully, out of practice in photography, seeing these books is inspiring. Even more simply, they make me happy just as much as art books. Once again, I will probably pull my books off the shelf and flip through their pages after this finishes.

The only thing is that I should probably slow my roll with buying these books. A solid probably.

So yeah. A little less conhearant and having a good point then before. Just wanted to get this out here, and maybe I’ll revisit this later.




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