Very rarely do I see a photo book these days and find myself at a loss for words. Every artist has a story to tell or a point to make. Some do it with linear narrative others with a more abstract approach.
Delicacy by Masahiro Shoda is one of the most unusual books a have happened across in recent months...years....well it is just one of the most unusual books I have happened across.
As a comment upon the increasingly varied and "niche" markets in the sex industry that are blooming in Japan, photographer Shoda decided that he would try to express this aspect of Japanese culture by inviting a cross section of men to be photographed for this unusual project.
For obvious reasons Tokyo (sheer mass and diversity of population amongst them) was selected as the subject area, and he asked the men to bring to the photography session the type of underwear that excited them sexually. This ranged from new and unworn items, to those belonging to their partners (male and female).
The men were instructed to wear the underwear on their heads for the portraits. Each picture was then paired with a landscape image of the city and placed on the facing page of the book. Amongst them, city streets, urban areas, red light districts and interiors.
By doing this Shoda wished to show the ever changing nature of Tokyo itself, it's development and evolution whether positive or negative, and in doing so make a comparison to the increasingly diverse sexual tastes and fetishes of it's inhabitants.
My first impression on seeing the images, was that these were sad and lonely men, whom I imagined, suffocated by the reality of the loneliness that so often comes hand in hand with city living. The isolation and realisation that just because there are (literally) millions of people around you, the Utopian dream that you will be universally loved and appreciated (and of course, automatically absorbed into the 24 hour party scene that any metropolis is assumed to promise) is one that ultimately only exists in the fictions we read and create.
On reading the accompanying notes however, it seems that outwardly this is not the case for many of these men. It does, however seem that there is a curious dichotomy between living in an outwardly reserved and controlled society where the supply of many sexual services are prohibited by Japanese law, and - according to Shoda - the increasing amounts of niche, unusual and specific desires of the population which are actually being supplied.
These "specifics" are not mentioned within the context of the book. Shoda in fact alludes to the idea that the Japanese male psyche is a delicate thing, and feels that many of these men are in fact required to retreat into their own internal worlds in the pursuit of satisfaction.
In Delicacy, Shoda, has created a portfolio of images that pose some huge questions regarding culture, masculinity and the nature of desire. It is a book that will be greeted with any number of reactions, and ultimately answer none of those questions, but one thing is for sure, as photo book it is quite unique.
Delicacy is published by M+W Co Ltd Japan (2016), and includes a preface by Roland Kelts