NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Move over, cats. The photos going viral in Japan lately are of businessmen.
Yes, you read that right. Noted photographer Yuki Aoyama asks some of Japan’s top corporate executives to pose in a special way — in the air.
He gets them to jump. And do it next to their daughters.
The results are viral gold. It’s hard not to smile — and occasionally belly laugh — as people who are typically associated with serious business and intense stares are suddenly doing toe touches better than a cheerleader or flying through the air like Superman.
In Japan, businessmen are called “salarymen.” Their work habits are legendary — think of it like the Asian version of the Puritan work ethic. Salarymen are expected to do 80-hour weeks.
“I wanted to convey a cool image of salarymen,” Aoyama told CNNMoney.
“I think salarymen are actually somewhat unique individuals, but they can appear quite repressed if you saw them in their day-to-day work environments, so the contrast really comes alive in the jumping shots,” he says.
But it’s not just the jumps that have made Aoyama’s photos Internet hits on his blog, on social media and now in a book, “Solaryman,” which is a play on the Japanese word for sky “sora” (“sola” is an alternate spelling) and salarymen.
The other key was getting the salarymen to pose with their daughters.
“The dads put everything they’ve got into the jumps,” Aoyama shares. “I think they want to show off in front of their daughters, but they’re not used to photo shoots or jumping and they’re getting older, so the end result tends to be slightly comical.”
One time a dad tried so hard he ripped his trousers.
But the best part for Aoyama is after the photoshoot. While there’s often a bit of awkwardness between the father and teenage daughter at first, they often leave hugging and laughing. He also takes a few more serious portraits of the fathers and daughters for them to have.
Aoyama has done over a thousand of these photos. He started the project in 2006 after his own father — a salaryman — passed away. Like many young people, Aoyama didn’t understand what his dad really did at the office all those hours.
“It was only after my father’s death that I discovered how he was actually great at his job as a salaryman, through the stories of people around me,” the now 36-year-old says.
Always looking for models, Aoyama tells CNNMoney that he’ll be shooting in New York in September and Singapore in October.
Tokyo-based translator Jennifer Tominaga contributed to this article.
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