Bad Girl Photography

  • Laura Miller


Inside a Tokyo auditorium in 1995, a female high school student beat 456 applicants to become the grand prix winner of Canon’s Cosmos of Photography photo contest, earning one million yen in prize money. In the quote above one of the judges is describing his interpretation of the winning entry, entitled “Seventeen Girl Days” by photographer Hiromix (real name Toshikawa Hiromi). Following the contest she embarked on a brilliant career as a successful photographer, publishing photo-diary books with occasional snapshots of herself in underwear or topless. Although the judge intends to praise the putatively unmanipulated nature of girls’ photography, Hiromix and other young women do invest thought into their photo diaries and other photographic projects. As the anthropologist David Sapir noted “A photograph is at once a direct representation of reality and the result of an utterly subjective choice.”2 Sapir’s insightful acknowledgment of debate over reality and its representation is especially true of the type of photography produced by Japanese girls.


Beauty Contest Japanese Girl Photo Book Good Girl Female High School Student 
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    David J. Sapir, “On Fixing Ethnographic Shadows,” American Ethnologist 21, no. 4 (1994): 868.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 3.
    Graffiti photos (rakugaki purikura or rakugaki shashin) are described in Laura Miller, “Graffiti Photos: Expressive Art in Japanese Girls’ Culture,” Harvard Asia Quarterly 7, no. 3 (2003): 31–42.Google Scholar
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    The role of purikura in buttressing social solidarity is also noted in Richard Chalfen and Mai Marui “Print Club Photography in Japan: Framing Social Relationships,” Visual Sociology 16, no. 1 (2001): 55–77. This friendship-marking function is seen in the earliest Japanese photographs: see the photo of two girls entitled “Girls of Good Friendship” (Ogawa Kazuma, 1860–1929), No. 345 in the Nagasaki University Database of Old Photographs of the Bakumatsu-Meiji Period, Online at <>.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    For more on extreme makeup and fashion see Sharon Kinsella’s chapter, this volume, and Laura Miller, “Media Typifications and Hip Bijin,” U.S.-Japan Women’s Journal English Supplement 19 (2000): 176–205.Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Laura Miller and Jan Bardsley 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laura Miller

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