Kishin Shinoyama, who took one of the final and best-known shots of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, has died aged 83.
Japanese photographer Shinoyama spent a few days with John and Yoko in 1980 and his photo of the iconic couple kissing was used on the cover of their album Double Fantasy.
The shot would prove to be one of the very last of the pair as Lennon was murdered outside his Manhattan apartment on December 8, 1980.
Shinoyama claimed credit for directing John and Yoko’s kiss, later saying: “I think it was their happiest moment. I was fortunate to have been there and I feel privileged to have captured the moment.”
Shinoyama was born in Tokyo in 1940 and studied photography at the Nihon University College of Arts. He started freelancing in 1968 for an advertising agency and rose to prominence for his portraits of Yukio Mishima — a celebrated but controversial Japanese author who committed suicide not long after posing for Shinoyama’s lens in a series of macabre photographs.
“Time continues to die and photography is a tool to record those dying moments,” Shinoyama said in an interview with Japanese essayist Ririko Amakasu in 2014.
Shinoyama also causes a sensation after taking a series of artistic nude photographs of Japanese actresses Rie Miyazawa and Kanako Higuchi. The photos of Miyazawa sold 1.65 million copies.
He continued to explore nude photography; however it landed him in trouble when he was ordered to pay a fine for public indecency and blasphemy by a Tokyo court in 2010 after he took a series of photos of naked women in a cemetery in the Japanese capital.
The sentence prompted debate in Japan over whether the authorities impinged on freedom of expression but Shinoyama was stoic about his punishment. “I have been taking nude photos outdoors since the 1960s. But (whether the act is considered an offense or not) is determined by the mood of the time. It cannot be helped,”The Japan Times quotes him as saying. “There is no complete freedom in terms of expression.”
Shinoyama did not limit himself to just one genre: he took photos of victims of the March 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Fukushima. When asked what he was going to shoot next, he said ” “I don’t know. Ask that moment in time.”
During the 2010s he held a number of highly popular and successful touring exhibitions culminating in a large-scale exhibition at the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum in 2021.
He even coined the word “Gekisha” which means the act of capturing a defining moment of an iconic figure which became a buzzword in Japan.
Shinoyama died of old age on Thursday. He was married and had two sons.
Image credits: Photographs by Kishin Shinoyama