Remembering Kishin Shinoyama: The Legendary Photographer Behind Lennon & Ono’s Last Album Cover

a person posing for the camera
  • Kishin Shinoyama, renowned for photographing John Lennon & Yoko Ono’s last album cover, passes away at 83.
  • Shinoyama's work included the iconic 1980 album cover of Lennon and Ono’s "Double Fantasy".
  • His photography captured intimate moments, landscapes, and artistic nudes, leaving an indelible mark on the art world.

The art world mourns the loss of Kishin Shinoyama, a legendary Japanese photographer who passed away at 83. Renowned for capturing one of music history's most iconic images, the 1980 album cover of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s "Double Fantasy," Shinoyama leaves behind a legacy that transcends time and genres.

a man wearing sunglasses
John Lennon and Yoko Ono as photographed by Kishin Shinoyama

The Iconic Album Cover: A Symbol of Love and Loss

Shinoyama's photograph of Lennon and Ono, depicting a tender kiss, became emblematic not only of their album but also of an era. Taken just three months before Lennon's tragic death, it is a poignant reminder of their love and his untimely loss. This image, among others from the five-day shoot, was compiled in a book by Taschen in 2015, a testament to Shinoyama's ability to capture raw, intimate emotions.

The Birth 6, 1968. Photographed by Kishin Shinoyama | Image courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery

A Diverse and Pioneering Portfolio

Beyond his work with Lennon and Ono, Shinoyama's career was marked by versatility and daring. Beginning as an advertising photographer while still at Nihon University, he soon ventured into freelancing. His lens captured a range of subjects – from celebrities like Yukio Mishima and Momoe Yamaguchi to sweeping landscapes and vibrant fashion shows.

Kishin Shinoyama. John Lennon & Yoko Ono. Double Fantasy, published by Taschen | image by Mark Seelen

His work often delved into the realm of expressionism and naturalism, particularly in his artistic nude photography. These images, marked by a delicate balance of vulnerability and strength, were not just photographs but explorations of the human form and psyche.

Influential and Controversial

Shinoyama's work did not shy away from controversy. His nude photographs, especially those of celebrities like Rie Miyazawa and Kanako Higuchi, were as celebrated as they were debated. His portrait of author Yukio Mishima, taken shortly before Mishima's suicide, added a layer of depth and poignancy to his portfolio.

Honoring a Visionary Artist

Shinoyama's passing is a significant loss to the art world. His ability to capture the essence of a moment, whether in a candid shot of a famous couple or in the nuanced expression of a nude model, speaks volumes of his talent and vision.

As we remember Kishin Shinoyama, we are reminded of the power of photography – to immortalize, to evoke, and to inspire. His work, spanning decades and various styles, remains a testament to a life dedicated to the art of capturing the ephemeral.

a man and a woman standing in front of a window
Kishin Shinoyama photographed John Lennon and Yoko Ono for their 1980’s album Double Fantasy | images courtesy of Taschen

Shinoyama's work, particularly his portrayal of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, will continue to inspire future generations of photographers and artists. His unique vision and fearless approach to his subjects have left an indelible mark on the world of photography.

a person standing in front of a window