Or everything you always wanted to know about Japanese erotic bondage when you suddenly realized that you didn't speak Japanese
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Kinbaku and Art-American Bakushi Part Five –
Making Money With Your Rope . . . Or the Wonderful World of Advertising
by Master “ K”
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Please join me next time as we continue our exploration into the fascinating subject of “Kinbaku and Art!”
As for the results, here are several photographs that I took a few months after the shoot when I happened to pass an upscale make-up boutique on Beverly Boulevard in West Hollywood.
On the other hand, these kinds of experiences can be wonderful when the people you're working with are sincere, honest and know what they're talking about when they engage you.
Of course, over the years, there have been some “straight,” ads that included coded references to restraint, some comic (the “girl tied to the railroad tracks” sort of thing) and some even rather elegant, but to use bondage, as the BDSM community would know it, to seriously sell a product would have been seen as strictly beyond the limits of acceptability and good taste.
Of course, any vanilla ads using “bondage” fall under the category of “edgy” material but there is no doubt that there has been a small but significant shift in the landscape that allows Kinbaku, in some special circumstances, to be used to help reach the consumer public.
(Please see posts 7 and 9 in this series, as well as the “News and Views” page at www.masterkclasses.com for more information on all these projects.)
Imagine my surprise and disappointment when upon arriving on the set I found the photographer had neither interest in Kinbaku nor in doing anything more than a comic take on “bondage,” the models seemed transported from the cast of “Zoolander 2” and my main job for two days was running around Los Angeles trying to find enough wide, plastic rope that had the right reflective quality and color for our, oh so picky, commercial photographer.
They were hoping to launch a “Shibari” line of jewelry for women, something which was a first for them. They had seen some of my other work for Michel Comte and Michael Helms and had contacted me hoping that I could do something similar for them and also assist in finding them a model. The images from this shoot were to be used as trade ads during the upcoming Man/Woman contemporary fashion trade show which is held every September in New York City.
Because some previous Cast of Vices campaigns utilized edgy material, the very talented photographer, Bennet Perez, was both experienced and truly interested in including genuine Kinbaku in his photographs. There was no stifled laughter on this shoot. However, creating successful photographs for this particular product was still quite challenging.
Two different shoots, two completely different experiences. I was very grateful to be asked to be a part of both but, even though one was more enjoyable and satisfying than the other, the fact that, hopefully, artful Kinbaku could in this day and age be used as part of any “vanilla” advertising campaign and, therefore, be seen and, again hopefully, appreciated by the general public was, perhaps, the greatest satisfaction of all.
For those interested in contacting Master “K” regarding professional rigging projects please do so at the web site - www.masterkclasses.com.
Which is not to say that these advertising jobs are always a pleasant walk in the park. Trying to please any “client,” be it an audience or an ad executive, is always full of creative challenges and, sometimes, problematic circumstances.
(For those interested there are complete biographies of all of the above mentioned legendary rope masters in “The Beauty of Kinbaku.”)
Take for instance a job I was recently ill advisedly urged to do for an ad agency on behalf of a fairly well-known cosmetics firm.
Unlike fashion shoots for clothing, where the ads usually include all or most of a model's body to show off the garments, photo shoots for jewelry usually involve very small objects and to enhance their look and desirability while still being accented by rope and an “edgy,” fetish take took a great deal of thought.
The second major creative decision involved the model's poses and here having the full trust and cooperation of both the photographer and the company's creative personnel was vital since it allowed for a truly creative and collaborative atmosphere which ultimately resulted in some, I think, striking images of Kinbaku that kept the model safe but still presented the product in an attractive, if “edgy,” light.
Fortunately for me, the model selected was small in stature which allowed me to use single strands of rope near the jewelry. This meant less visual competition for the delicate jewelry designs.
I had been told that the gig would take two days, pay well and would involve two attractive models, various packaged cosmetic products and an experienced and interested photographer. I was told to bring all of my standard Kinbaku kit, variously colored asanawa (hemp/jute rope) and be ready to do some “interesting rope.” Great!
While the ads are professional they are what they are and I can testify that it was not a fun job to do, especially when I also had to put up with too many slight snickers of laughter from grip, electric and make-up crew members every time the call went out for the “BDSM rope guy.” Prejudice still exists.
In part this is due to the tremendous financial success of the novels and films of the ”Fifty Shades of Grey” franchise, which has helped to create a more sophisticated general public, and also to various other factors such as the visibility and critical acceptance of the Kinbaku photographs of one of Japan's most internationally renowned photographers, Nobuyoshi Araki.
And it must be said that is still certainly true today for most markets and products.
Recently, I've had the extreme good fortune to be asked to do to several projects that fall into this category of “pure advertising.” I use the term “pure advertising” to differentiate such commercial projects from other work I've done for more avant guard artists, film makers and photographers; such as the music video “Come Unwound” for the group The Bulls, the Internet video for the English performance artist Millie Brown and the high fashion photo shoots for Swiss photographer Michel Comte .
And this has resulted in a few rare opportunities for the dedicated if perennially impoverished bakushi to ply their trade and make a few dollars, yen or euros outside the usual more marginal areas of adult entertainment and club performance.
Such was the case on a second recent commercial shoot done for the boutique jewelry firm Cast of Vices; a company that began small but whose product is now advertised on the pages of Vanity Fair and sold at exclusive retail shops everywhere.
When I was researching “The Beauty of Kinbaku” I was often struck by the diverse career paths that some of the great early names in Japanese BDSM took as they proceeded with their careers and became legends of Kinbaku.
For instance, Minomura Kou, Nureki Chimuo and Urado Hiroshi were all literary men who wrote, published and worked on magazines and books as they pursued their respective early careers. Even as bakushi they went their separate ways and did different types of jobs. Nureki concentrated on tying for BDSM magazines, Urado on rigging for Nikkatsu “Pink” movies and Minomura Kou kept on being the universal genius that he was and published and edited magazines, tied for photos, wrote articles, criticism and also created wonderful works of art and illustration under his "artist name" Kita Reiko, all for such adult content magazines as Kitan Club and Uramado. In other words, all of these talented men turned their hand to a number of jobs as they attempted to make a few Yen from their passion. The one thing they weren’t able to do was see their work presented to a “vanilla,” general public through such outlets as mainstream media or advertising.
The young Urado Hiroshi working at Uramado Magazine, c. 1960. The great Minomura Kou sits behind him.
In fact, just a few years ago it would have been almost unthinkable, in both Japan and the West, to use Kinbaku or erotic bondage of any sort for commercial advertising outside of “adult entertainment.”
Elegant Boucheron perfume ad, circa 2010.
However, over the last few years, this absolute “no go” area has begun to slip a little as the idea of BDSM has become a bit more acceptable to the “vanilla” world.
"Fifty Shades of Grey" poster, 2015.
Lady Gaga by Araki - Vogue for Men (Japan), 2010.
Michel Comte for GQ (Italy), 2015.
Benefit Cosmetic ad Campaign - 2016
Cast of Vices - trade show poster display, NY.
Cast of Vices - trade show merchandise display.
Production still - Cast of Vices - "Shibari" shoot.
Benefit Cosmetic ad Campaign - 2016
Cast of Vices - "Shibari" campaign ads.