Posts Tagged ‘Japanese art

04
Jul
18

Exhibition: ‘I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection’ at Museum der Moderne Salzburg

Exhibition dates: 21st April – 8th July 2018

Curator: Christiane Kuhlmann, Curator Photography and Media Art; with Andrea Lehner-Hagwood, Curatorial Assistant, Museum der Moderne Salzburg

Works by Nobuyoshi Araki, Masahisa Fukase, Takashi Hanabusa, Jun Jumoji, Daidõ Moriyama, Masaaki Nakagawa, Bishin Jumonji, Shunji Õkura, Issei Suda, Akihide Tamura, Shin Yanagisawa, Yoshihiro Tatsuki

 

 

Daidō Moriyama. 'Lips from a Poster' 1975

 

Daidō Moriyama (born 1938 Osaka, Japan)
Lips from a Poster
1975
Gelatin silver print on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg
© Daidō Moriyama

 

 

Much as I love the grittiness and stark contrast of Japanese photography of the 1960-70s – its reaction against the pro-American optimism of The Family of Man exhibition that went to Tokyo in the 1950s, its rejection of journalistic illustration, its I-reality that is not a objective record but a personal story, “a poem composed in photography”, its spirit of ennui, a state of dissatisfaction with the status quo – there is also another, less edifying side to Japanese photography of this period.

Basically, it’s a male view of the world, any world, any reality, but always with the “I” at the front of it, the world of the male ego. A world where women are objectified, bound and gagged in pretty gruesome “erotic” sex scenes (not in this posting, but you can Google them online). No matter that the photographer had permission, these photographs are about male power and the male gaze. Nothing more, nothing less. A world where cameras pry on people having anonymous sex in the park in the dark. Let’s call it what it is, it’s misogynistic and voyeuristic.

The obverse of a concern for the sitter, or the landscape, or the object, can be observed (did you see what I did there… obverse/observe), in that there is a concern with the minutiae of life in extremis, rather than an empathy for it. Maybe that is the Japanese culture. Perhaps this microscopic analysis comes about because of the fast pace of their life, their mixture of state, religion, culture and capitalism, their violent history and the submissive place of women within that society (The traditional role of women in Japan has been defined as “three submissions”: young women submit to their fathers; married women submit to their husbands, and elderly women submit to their sons ~ Wikipedia)

There is something I cannot put my finger on about the power of the photograph to capture a dominance over women, the landscape, people, protests – a suppressed violence against the self?

I’m just thinking out loud here…

Marcus

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Many thankx to the Museum der Moderne Salzburg for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

The collections of the Museum der Moderne Salzburg include an outstanding and sizeable ensemble of Japanese photographs from the 1960s and 1970s. These works will be on view for the first time in many years in a series of exhibitions. The opening presentation is dedicated to the depiction of humans and perceptions of postwar Japanese society in transformation. A future second exhibition will focus on images of city and countryside.

In the history of Japanese photography, the idea of the “I-photo” is a kind of photographic adaptation of the literary convention of first-person narrative. The photographic image is conceived and employed as a medium articulating the photographer’s self as well as an instrument with which to scrutinise reality. A pioneer of postwar photography, Masahisa Fukase in the late 1960s created photographic series mixing documentary and fictional elements. His central motifs and models were his wife Yoko and their family. Nobuyoshi Araki, the best-known, most prolific, and probably also most provocative Japanese photography artist, launched his career as a fashion and advertising photographer in 1963. The collection contains highly personal photographic notes by him and his wife Yoko, who died early. Fukase, Araki, and the other Japanese “I-photographers” such as Issei Suda, Shin Yanagisawa, and Daidõ Moriyama regard the “I-photo” as a blend of truth and falsification that can elicit an emotional response and disconcert. The aesthetic of the pictures is characterised by hard black-and-white contrasts and lacerated abstract structures. It signals the artists’ rejection of the tradition of classical art photography while also probing the potentials of the medium itself. The Japanese photography scene is highly controversial; the spectrum of themes ranges from erotic depictions of bodies to political statements.

 

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection

 

Daidō Moriyama (born 1938 Osaka, Japan)
Untitled (l. a. r.)
c. 1970
Lips from a Poster
1975
3 gelatin silver prints on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection
© Museum der Moderne Salzburg
Photo: Rainer Iglar

 

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection

 

Daidō Moriyama (born 1938 Osaka, Japan)
Stray Dog, Misawa
1971
From the series Hunter
Untitled
c. 1970
9 gelatin silver prints on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection
© Museum der Moderne Salzburg
Photo: Rainer Iglar

 

Daidō Moriyama. 'Stray Dog, Misawa' 1971

 

Daidō Moriyama (born 1938 Osaka, Japan)
Stray Dog, Misawa
1971
From the series Hunter
Gelatin silver print on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg
© Daidō Moriyama

 

Daidō Moriyama (born 1938 Osaka, Japan) 'National Highway 1 AT Dawn 1, Asahi-cho, Kuwana City, Mie Prefecture' 1968

 

Daidō Moriyama (born 1938 Osaka, Japan)
National Highway 1 AT Dawn 1, Asahi-cho, Kuwana City, Mie Prefecture
1968
Gelatin silver print on Baryte paper
6.50 x 9.72 in. (16.5 x 24.7 cm)
Museum der Moderne Salzburg
© Daidō Moriyama

 

 

Daidō Moriyama

Daidō Moriyama is one of Japan’s leading contemporary photographers. He studied design and photography in Kōbe before moving to Tokyo in 1961 and deciding to focus entirely on photography. After a stint as Eikō Hosoe’s assistant, he went into business for himself as a photographer in 1964.

Like the art critic Kōji Taki and the photographers Yutaka Takanashi, Shōmei Tōmatsu, and Takuma Nakahira, Moriyama was a member of the group around the influential magazine Provoke (1968-1969). Although no more than three issues appeared in print, its importance in the history of the medium in Japan can hardly be overstated. The Provoke Manifesto declared that photography was capable of registering what could not be expressed in words. The visual style of the photographs Provoke would run was to be are-bure-boke, Japanese for “grainy, blurry, and out of focus” – a specification that still aptly describes Moriyama’s photographs; the same style is evident in his work for magazines such as Camera Mainichi, Asahi Journal, and Asahi Camera.

Moriyama’s inexhaustible signature theme is the city of Tokyo, but he has also worked elsewhere. In an interview, he once said: “For me cities are enormous bodies of people’s desire.” He still prowls the streets day after day, taking pictures of appealing or striking sights, never peering into his small compact camera’s viewfinder. Shots of traffic, of pedestrians and shop windows, of posters and details such as lips, eyes, or plants are recurrent motifs. Hard black-and-white contrasts lend his prints a strangely alien and otherworldly allure, but the depictions always remain anecdotal, as though from a dream. Moriyama’s photobooks may accordingly be read as photonovels of a sort. Japan A Photo Theater (1968) was the first book in this vein he published; his oeuvre has now grown to several hundred photobooks.

The Photographic Society of Japan, whose purpose is to promote photography in Japan, elected him its photographer of the year in 1983. In 2012, he received the Infinity Award for Lifetime Achievement of the International Center of Photography, New York, which honors outstanding accomplishments in photography and visual art.

 

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection

 

Masahisa Fukase (1934-2012)
Untitled
1971
From the series Yoko
9 gelatin silver prints on Baryte paper (Vintage prints)
Museum der Moderne Salzburg

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection
© Museum der Moderne Salzburg
Photo: Rainer Iglar

 

Masahisa Fukase. 'Untitled' 1961-1970

 

Masahisa Fukase (1934-2012)
Untitled
1961-1970
From the series Yoko
Gelatin silver print on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg
© Masahisa Fukase, Courtesy Michael Hoppen Gallery London

 

 

Masahisa Fukase

Masahisa Fukase completed a PhD at the Institute of Photography at Nihon University, Tokyo, in 1956. He worked as a photographer for advertising agencies and various publishing houses until 1968 and then as a freelance photographer until his death in 2012. His work was included in the 1974 group exhibition New Japanese Photography at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, followed by numerous solo and group shows all over the world. In 1976, he received the annual Ina Nobuo Award, which has been given out by the Nikon Salon in Tokyo since 1976. At the 1992 Higashikawa International Photo Festival, his exhibition Karasu (Ravens) earned him a Higashikawa Photography Award in the Special Award category.

In the 1960s, his photography is largely focused on his own life and that of his wife Yoko. She stars in pictures that show her in all sorts of situations in life, private as well as public. Fukase captures Yoko as his bride, in the nude, during sex, or as a tourist in the street. He is also interested in the passage of time and ageing in general. After separating from Yoko, Fukase started photographing ravens as symbols of loneliness and loss. The photobook Karasu (Ravens) became one of the most coveted works of its kind in postwar Japan; it was first reprinted just last year.

 

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection

 

Bishin Jumonji (born 1947 Yokohama, Japan)
Untitled
1971
3 gelatin silver prints on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection
© Museum der Moderne Salzburg
Photo: Rainer Iglar

 

Bishin Jumonji. 'Untitled' 1971

 

Bishin Jumonji (born 1947 Yokohama, Japan)
Untitled
1971
Gelatin silver print on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg
© Bishin Jumonji

 

Bishin Jumonji. 'Untitled' 1971

 

Bishin Jumonji (born 1947 Yokohama, Japan)
Untitled
1971
Gelatin silver print on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg
© Bishin Jumonji

 

 

Bishin Jumonji

After studying at the Tokyo College of Photography, Bishin Jumonji became an assistant to the photographer Kishin Shinoyama, who had risen to renown with publications about Kabuki theater, erotic depictions in photography magazines, and work in unusual book formats such as flipbooks. Since 1971, Jumonji has worked both freelance and as an advertising photographer. This was also when he began to take pictures for the series on view, Untitled. Shot around Tokyo, the works portray families, day-trippers, a quartet of rock musicians, dancers, or bodybuilders – in short, representatives of modern Japan. The details are chosen so that the heads and faces do not appear in the prints. This underscores the subjective quality of photography as such while also conveying the anonymity of life in the megalopolis.

Otto Breicha had seen the series as early as 1974, when it was featured in New Japanese Photography, a group exhibition John Szarkowski organized at the MoMA in New York. Breicha decided to include it in Neue Fotografie aus Japan, the follow-up show he mounted in Graz in 1977.

In 1990, Jumonji receives the Domon Ken Award, one of the most important Japanese photography prizes. The work of the honorees is showcased at the Ginza Nikon Salon, Tokyo, and the Domon Ken Museum of Photography, Sakata, the first museum in Japan dedicated to photography. Some of Jumonji’s pictures are published in international magazines including the German newsweekly Stern.

 

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection

 

Akihide Tamura (born 1947, Yokyo, Japan)
Yokohama, 1966 (l.)
Yokosuka, 1969 (r.)
7 gelatin silver prints on Baryte paper
From the series Base
Museum der Moderne Salzburg

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection
© Museum der Moderne Salzburg
Photo: Rainer Iglar

 

Akihide Tamura (born 1947, Yokyo, Japan) 'Yokohama' 1966

 

Akihide Tamura (born 1947, Yokyo, Japan)
Yokohama
1966
From the series Base
Gelatin silver print on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg
© Akihide Tamura

 

 

Akihide Tamura

Akihide Tamura studied at the Tokyo College of Photography and got his degree in 1967. Even before he graduated, the academy’s director, the photography critic Shigemori Koen, recognised his unusual approach. In 1974, the MoMA in New York featured Tamura’s House series in its group exhibition New Japanese Photography and acquired it for the museum’s collection. Taken over the course of a year – from July to July – the pictures show houses in abandoned landscapes. The alternation of day and night and the cycle of the seasons play a prominent part in the series.

Tamura’s life was defined by the wrenching changes Japan underwent after World War II. His work is an astute photographic record of these metamorphoses. For the series Base (1966-1970), he captured landscapes, people, and combat aircraft and other military planes at several American bases south of Tokyo. In retrospect, he wrote: “When I was a photography student, I knew that the military base existed in a territory that had been created due to the tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union and the possibility of a nuclear war. I was shaken by the incredibly beautiful and yet insane fighter jets before my eyes. The contradiction between my fear that the world would vanish in an instant if someone were to push the nuclear button and the exotic and eerie spell the military base cast over me left me perpetually torn.”

The works on view are part of the major cycle Erehwon – the title is the word “nowhere” read backwards – that Tamura worked on between 1967 and 1973. The series combines combat aircraft taking off and hurtling off into the sky, their engines a pair of glowing eyes, with ghostly portraits of children that gradually fade into the dark. The composition reflects the photographer’s mindset, a hard-to-pin-down blend of admiration and fear.

 

 

Diverse and controversial, sometimes mysterious and often at odds with stereotypical ideas about Japan: there is much to discover in Japanese photography from the 1960s and 1970s. The Museum der Moderne Salzburg now presents its extensive and singular collection in a two-part exhibition series.

For the first time in many years, the Museum der Moderne Salzburg puts its collection of c. 600 original prints of Japanese photography from the 1960s and 1970s, which was purchased in the museum’s early years, on display. The series of two shows begins with IPhoto. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection, which presents works that focus on the depiction of the human being and the changes in postwar Japanese society.

“In this exhibition, my vigorous efforts to undertake a thorough review of our collections are bearing fruit, and so I am especially pleased that we are able to present our holdings of Japanese photography – a sizeable ensemble of outstanding works – which have not been seen by the public in a long time. The show also spotlights a chapter in the history of the museum, which started collecting and conserving photography early on. Otto Breicha, the museum’s first director, personally traveled to Japan to meet many of the artists and select works for the projected exhibition,” Sabine Breitwieser, Director of the Museum der Moderne Salzburg, observes. Curator of Photography and Media Art Christiane Kuhlmann emphasizes that “this effort to champion Japanese culture and acquire Japanese art for the nascent collection constitutes a pioneering achievement.” “At the time, the primary media in which Japanese photographers presented their pictures were photobooks and magazines,” Kuhlmann notes, “so that vintage prints in the quality and form at our disposal are now hard or impossible to come by. Breicha’s initiative to build a center for contemporary photography in Austria was in part motivated by his experiences in Japan.”

In the early 1960s, Japan enters a period of fast-paced economic growth, becoming a leading technology manufacturer. A quarter-century after the end of the war and the nuclear bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan hosts Expo’70, the first world’s fair to be held in an Asian country. Tokyo grows into an enormous megalopolis; construction on an international airport that will connect it to the entire world begins in 1971. These developments mark the definite end of the island nation’s decades-long isolation from the West, bringing rapid changes that affect Japanese society as well. In the 1960s, millions of Japanese citizens rally to protest against educational and land reforms and the security treaty with the former enemy, the United States of America. The Japanese photography scene devises a new and dynamic visual language that reflects the country’s more expansive self-image. Distinctive features include the reflection on perception, the quest for novel ways to express the self, and a revised definition of the photographic medium. Hard black-and-white contrasts and lacerated abstract structures are characteristic of the aesthetic of these pictures.

The idea of the “I-photo” is an adaptation of the term “I-novel,” which designates a genre of first-person narrative fiction in Japanese literature. Conceiving of themselves as authors, the photographers understand the “Iphoto” as the instrument of an exploration of reality. Japan’s photography scene is often highly controversial, with themes ranging from erotic depictions of bodies to political statements. Western observers are bound to find some pictures enigmatic and unsettling; they run counter to how Japan is generally imagined abroad. Yet it was Western art institutions that, in the 1970s, first included Japanese contemporary photography in their programming. Neue Fotografie aus Japan (New Photography from Japan) was the title of the first exhibition in Europe that Otto Breicha mounted in Graz in 1977; with I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection, the Museum der Moderne Salzburg brings back the exhibits from that historic show, though with different emphases. The presentation includes works by the photographers associated with the magazine Provoke (1968-1969) in which reality seems to be dismantled into its constituent elements, as well as by artists such as Nobuyoshi Araki and Masahisa Fukase who pursued their own highly individual creative agendas. Also on display are pictures by the members of the Kompora group, who sought to render a lucid and accurate portrait of everyday life in a clinical visual idiom.

Press release from Museum der Moderne Salzburg

 

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection

 

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection
© Museum der Moderne Salzburg
Photo: Rainer Iglar

 

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection

 

Yoshihiro Tatsuki (born 1937 Tokushima, Japan)
Untitled
c. 1970
3 gelatin silver prints on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection
© Museum der Moderne Salzburg
Photo: Rainer Iglar

 

Yoshihiro Tatsuki (born 1937 Tokushima, Japan) 'Untitled' c. 1970

 

Yoshihiro Tatsuki (born 1937 Tokushima, Japan)
Untitled
c. 1970
Gelatin silver print on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg
© Yoshihiro Tatsuki

 

 

Yoshihiro Tatsuki

Yoshihiro Tatsuki was born in 1937 in Tokushima, where his family had long run an established portrait studio. He studied at the Tokyo College of Photography (today’s Tokyo Polytechnic University) and graduated in 1958. Initially joining the advertising agency Adcenter in Tokyo as a photographer, Tatsuki went freelance in 1969, working for clients in the advertising, fashion, and publishing industries. In 1965, his series Just Friends and Fallen Angels, which had appeared in the photography magazine Camera Mainichi, earned him the emerging photographer’s award of the association of Japanese photography critics. The works garnered wide attention in Japan. Among his best-known creations are GIRL, EVES, Private Mariko Kaga, Aoi Toki, My America, and Portrait of Family.

Tatsuki has long focused on nude photography, combining traditional Japanese compositional templates with the characteristic poses of Western models. It is hard to tell whether he wants to debunk or cater to the – primarily Western – fantasy of the Geisha as concubine.

 

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection

 

Nobuyoshi Araki (born 1940 Tokyo, Japan)
Untitled
1971
From the series Sentimental Journey
7 gelatin silver prints on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection
© Museum der Moderne Salzburg
Photo: Rainer Iglar

 

Nobuyoshi Araki (born 1940 Tokyo, Japan) 'Untitled' 1971

 

Nobuyoshi Araki (born 1940 Tokyo, Japan)
Untitled
1971
From the series Sentimental Journey
Gelatin silver print on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg
© Nobuyoshi Araki

 

Nobuyoshi Araki (born 1940 Tokyo, Japan) 'Yoko, my Love' Nd

 

Nobuyoshi Araki (born 1940 Tokyo, Japan)
Yoko, my Love
Nd
Gelatin silver print on Baryte paper (Vintage print)
Museum der Moderne Salzburg
© Nobuyoshi Araki

 

 

Nobuyoshi Araki

Nobuyoshi Araki studied photography and film studies at Chiba University from 1959 until 1963. After completing his degree, he joined an advertising agency; in the spare time left by his work as a commercial photographer, he started developing his own photographic ideas.

1970, the artist declared, would be “The First Year of Araki.” Increasingly dissatisfied with the status quo that prevailed in established photography, he launched a variety of creative experiments. The popular photography that dominated the market in Japan at the time, he thought, traded in illusions and dishonesty, and so he proposed to change the situation and create a new kind of photography that would reveal the true face of a society undergoing rapid change.

In 1971, he was married to Yoko. His documentation of their honeymoon was published as the small photobook Sentimental Journey. The travelogue – several pictures from it are in the Museum der Moderne Salzburg’s collection – opens with a portrait of Yoko on the train. The title and this picture are a reference to Doris Day’s 1945 worldwide hit. The series continues with shots of places, sights, and, again and again, pictures of Yoko, in the street, nude, or having sex. As Araki sees it, the book is a new form of reportage about life. Taking photographs and living, to his mind, are synonymous. In a statement accompanying Sentimental Journey, he writes: “The I-novel comes closer to photography.” The title of our exhibition, I-Photo, alludes to this Japanese literary genre, in which the author’s experiences, rendered in as much realistic detail as possible, form the material out of which a fictional story is wrought.

In 1992, Camera Austria, Graz, hosted Araki’s first solo exhibition in Europe. He is famous for his widely debated photographs of erotic bondage, but also for his photobooks, which now number almost six hundred.

 

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection

 

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection featuring the work of Nobuyoshi Araki
© Museum der Moderne Salzburg
Photo: Rainer Iglar

 

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection

 

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection
© Museum der Moderne Salzburg
Photo: Rainer Iglar

 

Takashi Hanabusa (born 1949 Kobe, Japan) 'Untitled' Nd

 

Takashi Hanabusa (born 1949 Kobe, Japan)
Untitled
Nd
Gelatin silver print on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg
© Takashi Hanabusa

 

 

Takashi Hanabusa

Takashi (Lyu) Hanabusa was born in Osaka in 1949. After graduating from the Kuwasawa Design School, Tokyo, he joined the staff of the publishing house that produced the magazine Nippon Camera. In 1971, he became an assistant to the photographer Yutaka Takanashi, whose well-known series Tôshi-e (Towards the City) surveyed Tokyo as the Japanese began to embrace modern metropolitan life.

Hanabusa’s works build on this influence, documenting the city as a mysterious place defined by jarring contrasts between tradition and modernity, high tech and nature. His photographs are marked by deliberately ambiguous particulars, as when faces are obscured by shadows. The shots are framed so as to render bodies in fragments or bring out details in classic Japanese fabric patterns that European beholders cannot place.

Hanabusa has been a freelance photographer and member of the Japan Professional Photographers Society since 1973.

 

Masaaki Nakagawa (1943-2005) 'Selfportait, Against Wall of My Home' Nd

 

Masaaki Nakagawa (1943-2005)
Selfportait, Against Wall of My Home
Nd
Gelatin silver print on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg
© Masaaki Nakagawa

 

 

Masaaki Nakagawa

Masaaki Nakagawa completed his studies of Japanese literature at Kōnan University, Kōbe, in 1966. He then worked for various advertising agencies and created fashion shots and reportages for magazines. From 1969 until his death in 2005, he was a freelance photographer in Tokyo and taught at the Kuwasawa Design School.

Otto Breicha described Nakagawa as a storyteller and compared him to the American photographer Duane Michals, whose notion that “things are queer” seems to inform his Japanese colleague’s work as well. Created in series, Nakagawa’s sequences of pictures, rather than aiming for an obvious punch line, appear to move in circles. In the series Self-Portrait against Wall of My Home, the photographer’s shadow looms on the wall, as do things the title identifies as his possessions. Yet the pictures remain vague, almost ghostly, and it is not clear what the focus is on. In this respect, Nakagawa joins the ranks of those conceptual photographers who employ photography as a tool of pictorial analysis, scrutinising the medium’s intrinsic technical-visual potential.

Masaaki Nakagawa was one of the photographers who assisted Otto Breicha during his research in Japan in preparation for the exhibition Neue Fotografie aus Japan.

 

Issei Suda (born 1940 Tokyo, Japan) 'Untitled' 1975-76

 

Issei Suda (born 1940 Tokyo, Japan)
Untitled
1975-76
From the series Fûshi Kaden
Gelatin silver print on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg
© Issei Suda

 

 

Issei Suda

Issei Suda was trained at the Tokyo College of Photography, from which he graduated in 1962. From 1967 until 1970, he worked as a stage photographer for the avant-garde theater ensemble Tenjō Sajiki, which was led by the writer and filmmaker Shūji Terayama.

In the late 1960s, Suda and others opposed to the style championed by the magazine Provoke founded the group Kompora. The label is a typical Japanese compound, a contraction of the English terms “contemporary” and “photography.” The group’s key point of reference was Contemporary Photographers: Toward a Social Landscape, an exhibition held at the George Eastman House in Rochester, N.Y., in 1966. Their goal was to create lucid and accurate portrayals of everyday life in a clinical visual idiom. Despite the aspiration to cool objectivity, however, some of their pictures strike Western beholders as no less enigmatic and unsettling.

That is certainly the impression one gets from the works we present, a selection from the series Fûshi Kaden (1975-1976), which was published as a photobook – Suda’s first – by Asahi Sonorama in 1978. The series proposes a visual discourse on tradition and modernity. The enormous tension between Japan’s hyper-modern cities and the deep-rooted traditions lingering in rural areas is a theme that preoccupies Suda throughout his life. For Fûshi Kaden, he crisscrossed the country; many pictures were taken at the traditional festivals known as matsuri. The title is difficult to translate. It is a tribute to a theoretical disquisition on Nō theater penned in the early fifteenth century by one of its leading practitioners, the grand master Zeami Motokiyo. Sketching his vision of the beauty and style of drama, the author compares it to a flower that has not yet fully blossomed. But he also examines questions of inward perception and outward expression in theatrical performance. Issei Suda translates this vision into his mode of photography. The figures in his pictures sometimes seem to be involved in some kind of stage action and yet utterly unaware of it, as though only the photographer knew the director’s script.

Suda was a professor at the Osaka University of Arts and received the Domon Ken Award in 1997.

 

Shin Yanagisawa (1936-2008) 'Untitled' 1972

 

Shin Yanagisawa (1936-2008)
Untitled
1972
From the series In the Street, Toyama
Gelatin silver print on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg
© Estate of Shin Yanagisawa

 

 

Shin Yanagisawa

Shin Yanagisawa, who was born in Tokyo in 1936, was a member of the eminent generation of Japanese photographers who, in the 1960s and 1970s, saw contemporary life in their country with fresh eyes, discovering themes for photography that still inform how we imagine Japan between tradition and modernity. Yanagisawa studied at the Tokyo College of Photography in Shibuya and then worked as a freelance photographer.

He was interested in the changing face of the landscape and the raw reality of nature as well as the many facets of life in the big city. The series Traces of the City (1965-1970) reflects the worldview of an entire generation; as early as 1979, it was the subject of a solo presentation in Tokyo. Yanagisawa also contributed work to numerous group shows, including the famous 15 Photographers Exhibition at the Tokyo National Museum of Modern Art (1974), which featured work by Daidō Moriyama und Yutaka Takanashi as well.

The shots we present are a selection from the series In the Street (1972) and show a group of dancers and performers in costumes that would seem to fit in seamlessly with our vision of traditional Japanese culture. Upon closer inspection, however, dissonant notes creep in, especially when individuals turn to face the camera directly or a flashlight illuminates the situation. They reveal Yanagisawa’s presence as the photographer or, more properly, author of the picture. He has abandoned the position of the uninvolved observer, and although he is not visible in the picture as such, he becomes an active participant in the action before the camera. This approach may be regarded as characteristic of the principle of I-photography.

After concluding his active career as a photographer, Shin Yanagisawa wrote about various aspects of photography.

 

Shunji Ōkura (born 1936 Ushigome, Japan) 'Untitled' Nd

 

Shunji Ōkura (born 1936 Ushigome, Japan)
Untitled
Nd
Gelatin silver print on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg
© Shunji Ōkura

 

 

Shunji Ōkura

A grandson of the Japanese painter Kawai Gyokudō, Shunji Ōkura graduated from Dokkyo High School, Tokyo, in 1956. In 1958, he became an assistant to the photographer Akira Satō while also starting out as a freelance photographer, creating fashion shots for the magazines Fukuso, Wakai Josei, and So-en. Numerous photographs appeared in periodicals such as Camera Mainici, Hanashin No Tokushu, and Sunday Mainichi.

In the photographs in the Museum der Moderne Salzburg’s collection, Ōkura devotes himself to a classic subject of photography: the children’s portrait. These are situation-bound snapshots taken a playground; no posing was involved. It is interesting to note how the photographer embraces the way children see the world. Some parts of the scene are invisible in the low-angle shots or obscured by other objects, while Ōkura’s portraits suggest profound empathy; we feel we get a sense of these children’s fears and anxieties.

 

 

Museum der Moderne Rupertinum
Wiener-Philharmoniker-Gasse 9
5020 Salzburg
Phone: +43 662 84 22 20-451

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday: 10 am-6 pm
Wednesday: 10 am-8 pm
Monday: closed

Museum der Moderne Salzburg website

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13
Sep
16

Exhibition: ‘Ken Domon: Master of Japanese Realism’ at the Museo dell’Ara Pacis, Rome

Exhibition dates: 27th May – 18th September 2016

 

Social Realism

I love most Japanese photography of the post-war period (1950s-1970s) and this artist’s work is no exception. What a absolute master of photography, not just of Japanese photography, he was.

Direct, focused, gritty, unflinching, the work of this initiator of social realist photography lays bare “the direct connection between the camera and the subject” in the most forthright way. While professing that the photographs are “an absolutely non-dramatic snapshot” (just like the Bechers professed that their gridded, ordered photographs were just about form and nothing else), this artist produced quality work that narrates a transcendent story of life in Japan. His images are music, and visions, from the heart of a nation. You only have to look at the photograph Gemella non vedente (1957, below) from the series Hiroshima to understand what I mean. There is just this feeling in your synapses about his pictures, as though you yourself were holding the camera …

In his portrait photographs there is quietness and contemplation; in his other work anger, sadness, joy, humour. A direct connection to reality is at the forefront of his understanding. This connection is miraculously (as in, something that apparently contravenes known laws governing the universe) transformed into other spaces and feelings – the twirling of umbrellas, the lizard on the head, the raised arms and white gloves of the traffic policeman (shot from a crouching position). While he is not an artist who creates change he certainly documents the results of change in a magnificent way. I love them all.

Marcus

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Many thankx to the Museo dell’Ara Pacis for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Ken Domon. 'Allenamento degli allievi del corpo della Marina [Students of the Navy training]' 1936

 

Ken Domon
Allenamento degli allievi del corpo della Marina [Students of the Navy training]
1936
Yokosuka
535 x 748 mm
Ken Domon Museum of Photography

 

Ken Domon. 'Esercitazioni delle crocerossine [Red Cross exercises]' 1938

 

Ken Domon
Esercitazioni delle crocerossine [Red Cross exercises]
1938
Azabu, Tokyo
535 x 748 mm
Ken Domon Museum of Photography

 

 

For the first time ever outside Japan, an exhibition of work by Ken Domon (1909-90), recognized as a master of realism and one of the most important figures in the history of modern Japanese photography, is being held in Rome at the Museo dell’Ara Pacis. It features about 150 photographs taken in black and white as well as colour between the 1920s and the 1970s, which illustrate the author’s path towards social realism. From the first shots of the period before and during World War II, which display a vision linked to photojournalism and propaganda, through photography of the social sphere, the exhibit follows Ken Domon’s production up to the crucial work documenting the tragedy of Hiroshima, which the photographer undertook as though in response to a call and a humanitarian duty.

Regarded as an absolute master of Japanese photography and initiator of the realistic movement, Ken Domon marked a pivotal chapter in the history of post-war Japanese photography, laying the foundations for contemporary photographic production and remaining a constant point of reference for Japanese enthusiasts. According to Domon, “The fundamental gift of quality work lies in the direct connection between the camera and the subject.” The master’s aim was indeed always to capture a wholly realistic image devoid of drama. Against the background of the renewed spirit of the post-war period, he focused on society in general and everyday life: “I am immersed in the social reality of today but at the same time in the classical culture and traditions of Nara and Kyoto. This twofold involvement has the common denominator of a search for the point at which the two realities are linked to the destinies of people, the anger, sorrow and joy of the Japanese people.”

The realistic photograph, described as “an absolutely non-dramatic snapshot”, therefore plays the leading part in an exhibition thematically laid out to illustrate the master’s vast production, transversally encompassing the whole of Japanese culture. From the early work of a photojournalistic nature and at the service of pre-war propaganda and the cultural promotion of Japan overseas (Photojournalism and Pre-War Propaganda; The Post-War Period: Towards Social Realism) to a focus on recording everyday life and the city’s transformation and westernization with ever-greater attention to social themes. His social realism is expressed in particular through two series emblematic of this period, namely Hiroshima (1958), regarded by the Nobel laureate Kenzaburō Ōe as the first great modern work of Japan, and The Children of Chikuhō, a series on poverty in the mining villages of southern Japan with a broad range of lively portraits of children encountered in the streets.

This is followed by Portraits, comprising photographs of famous figures in the worlds of art, literature, culture and science such as Yukio Mishima, Jun’ichirō Tanizaki, Tarō Okamoto and Yusaku Kamekura. The final section is devoted to his most important series, Pilgrimage to Ancient Temples, photographs of Buddhist sculptures, buildings and treasures as well as views of landscapes taken on journeys throughout Japan in search of the beauty of the sacred places of the past. Landscapes that conjure up the fascination of cultural diversity and the exotic.

Ken Domon’s work can be described as autobiographical, documentation that is private rather social, always selected on personal criteria that transform the shot into a moment of dialogue with the subject. His vision of the subject, be it a landscape, a sculpture, a person or an object, is a vehicle of the universal beauty seen through the lens, which does not omit the physical characteristics of the form captured. A multifaceted figure whose photography embraces the whole of Japanese culture before and after the war, Ken Domon is also the first photographer to have a personal museum devoted entirely to his vast work in his hometown of Sakata, inaugurated in 2003. Together with friends and other leading figures in the Japanese world of art, he initiated the cultural renewal that enabled Japan to emerge definitively from the defeat in war and led to the contemporary aesthetic that is still a point of reference for the entire world.

The show is part of a vast programme of events that will represent the cultural and technological world of Japan in Italy all through 2016: major exhibitions of art, productions from the great tradition of Noh and puppet theatre (bunraku), concerts, performances of modern and traditional dance, film festivals, exhibits of architecture, design, comics, literature, sport and so much else. The occasion is the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the first treaty of friendship and trade between Italy and Japan, signed on 25 August 1866, which initiated diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Press release from the Museo dell’Ara Pacis

 

Ken Domon. 'Esercitazioni delle crocerossine [Red Cross exercises]' 1938

 

Ken Domon
Esercitazioni delle crocerossine [Red Cross exercises]
1938
Azabu, Tokyo
535 x 748 mm
Ken Domon Museum of Photography

 

Ken Domon. 'Pesca all'ayu' 1936

 

Ken Domon
Pesca all’ayu
1936
Izu, Prefettura di Shizuoka
457 x 560 mm
Ken Domon Museum of Photography

 

Ken Domon. 'Foto commemorativa della cerimonia di diploma del corpo della Marina [Commemorative photo of the Marine Corp graduation ceremony]' 1944

 

Ken Domon
Foto commemorativa della cerimonia di diploma del corpo della Marina [Commemorative photo of the Marine Corp graduation ceremony]
1944
Tsuchiura, Ibaragi
1047 x 747 mm
Ken Domon Museum of Photography

 

 

The pre-war period

From photojournalism to propaganda photography

Domon began to work in photography in 1933 at the age of 24, carrying out the humble duties of an apprentice at Miyauchi Kōtarō’s studio in Ueno. Right from the start he won prizes and began to write for photography magazines and journals, publishing his first photo in Asahi Camera in August 1935. The 10th of October of the same year marked an important turning point in his career. He replied to an advertisement published by the Nippon Kōbō studio in Ginza, which was looking for a photo technician. Founded by Natori Yōnosuke (1910-1962) when he returned from his experience in Berlin at the Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung, the studio spread in Japan for the first time concepts such as editing and reporting and a new system of production based on the collaboration between photographer and graphic designer under the supervision of an art director, which led to the large-scale diffusion of photojournalism.

Domon began his first reportage for the magazine Nippon, published in English in order to promote Japanese culture abroad with a mix of information and propaganda. The first photographic reportage was on the traditional Shichigosan Festival on the occasion of the presentation of children in the Meiji Jingu shrine, realised with his model C Leica. This was followed by services that presented handicrafts, traditions, industrial and military progress and the progressive aspects of Japan, which in the 1930s had become increasingly nationalistic.

The war years and the bunraku puppet theatre

During the years of maximum Japanese expansion in the Pacific, immediately prior to the Second World War, even photography had to comply with the strict rules of military policy. Only few selected professional photographers could obtain photographic materials for assignments deemed to be “essential”, and naturally the “essential” photographic services were subject to the requirements of government propaganda, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the International Tourism Agency and the International Cultural Relations Company.

Thus many photographic publications were discontinued, with economic repercussions for photographers. In fact, Domon had difficulty maintaining a family of seven. He also had the added anxiety of the probable arrival of a “red card” that would have called him to arms and probably to the front in a group of photo-reporters. In response to this critical situation, Domon decided to retire from the public scene, dedicating himself to culture, in particular to Buddhist temples and the bunraku puppet theatre.

On the 8th of December, 1941 he was in the backstage of the Yotsubashi Bunraku Theatre in Osaka when he read the special edition of a newspaper announcing the declaration of war to the United States. It was not easy to gain the respect and collaboration of the master puppeteers – national living treasures such as Yoshida Bungorō, Yoshida Eiza and Kiritake Monjūrō – in the key moment of taking the shot with a camera that did not go unnoticed due to its size and long exposure times. However, by 1943 he had shot about 7,000 negatives, which were collected in the book entitled Bunraku published in 1972.

 

Ken Domon. 'Vigile urbano a Ginza 4-chōme [Traffic policeman in Ginza 4-chōme]' 1946

 

Ken Domon
Vigile urbano a Ginza 4-chōme [Traffic policeman in Ginza 4-chōme]
1946
Tokyo
457 x 560 mm
Ken Domon Museum of Photography

 

Ken Domon. 'Donne a passeggio [Women walking]' 1950

 

Ken Domon
Donne a passeggio [Women walking]
1950
Sendai
457 x 560 mm
Ken Domon Museum of Photography

 

Ken Domon. 'L'attrice Yamaguchi Yoshiko [The actress Yoshiko Yamaguchi]' 1952

 

Ken Domon
L’attrice Yamaguchi Yoshiko [The actress Yoshiko Yamaguchi]
1952
535 x 748 mm.
Ken Domon Museum of Photography

 

Ken Domon. 'Pescatrici di perle (ama san) [Pearl fisherwomen]' 1948

 

Ken Domon
Pescatrici di perle (ama san) [Pearl fisherwomen]
1948
457 x 559 mm
Ken Domon Museum of Photography

 

Ken Domon. 'Sit-in studentesco a Tachikawa contro l'ampliamento della base americana [Student sit-in in Tachikawa against the expansion of US base]' 1955

 

Ken Domon
Sit-in studentesco a Tachikawa contro l’ampliamento della base americana [Student sit-in in Tachikawa against the expansion of US base]
1955
Tokyo
457 x 560 mm
Ken Domon Museum of Photography

 

 

The postwar period

The affirmation of realism in photography

The tragic events related to the Second World War and to the defeat of Japan, marked by the atrocities of the atomic bomb, revealed the great deception of the war propaganda. Defeat led to the collapse of the imperial myth and state Shintoism, which had been the basis of military ideology.

If on the one hand, by the end of the 1940s there had been considerable intellectual rebirth leading to a rapid resumption of the diffusion of magazines, publications, exhibitions and artistic circles, on the other hand there was no language that seemed suitable for expressing such a tragic reality. There was a need to document a society undergoing profound change and in this sense Domon became the promoter of realistic photography, becoming a landmark for amateur photographers. He embraced the western trends that had taken over the city, but also the alleys and the poorest sectors of the population.

The high point of the realist tendency was reached around 1953, thanks to the exhibition, Photography Today: Japan and France, held in 1951 at the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo, provided the opportunity to make comparisons with names such as Cartier Bresson, Brassai, Doisneau. Domon’s last word on realism appeared in the magazine Photo Art in 1957 with an article that debated the two fundamental concepts of photography: jijitsu, reality, and shinjitsu, truth.

 

Ken Domon. 'Bambini che fanno roteare gli ombrelli [Kids twirling umbrellas]' c. 1937

 

Ken Domon
Bambini che fanno roteare gli ombrelli [Kids twirling umbrellas]
c. 1937
Dalla serie Bambini (Kodomotachi)
From the series Children (Kodomotachi)
Ogōchimura
535 x 748 mm
Ken Domon Museum of Photography

 

Ken Domon. 'Sorelline orfane, Rumie e Sayuri [Orphan sisters, Rumie and Sayuri]' 1959

 

Ken Domon
Sorelline orfane, Rumie e Sayuri [Orphan sisters, Rumie and Sayuri]
1959
Dalla serie I bambini di Chikuhō (Chikuhō no kodomotachi)
From the series Children of  Chikuhō
457 x 560 mm
Ken Domon Museum of Photography

 

Ken Domon. 'Rumie' 1959

 

Ken Domon
Rumie
1959
Dalla serie I bambini di Chikuhō (Chikuhō no kodomotachi)
From the series Children of  Chikuhō
457 x 560 mm
Ken Domon Museum of Photography

 

Ken Domon. 'Lucertola [Lizard]' 1955

 

Ken Domon
Lucertola [Lizard]
1955
Dalla serie I bambini di Kōtō (Kōtō no kodomotachi)
From the series Children of  Chikuhō
Tokyo
457 x 560 mm
Ken Domon Museum of Photography

 

Ken Domon. 'Pioggerella [Drizzle]' 1952 - 1954

 

Ken Domon
Pioggerella [Drizzle]
1952 – 1954
Dalla serie Bambini (Kodomotachi)
From the series Children (Kodomotachi)
Atami
457 x 560 mm
Ken Domon Museum of Photography

 

 

Children and miners’ villages

Domon adored children. His first services for Nippon were focused on the Shichigosan Festival and then on children fishing in Izu. But in 1952 he began to photographing children all over Japan, capturing the vitality of the streets and of the poorer neighbourhoods in Tokyo, Ginza, Shinbashi, Nagoya and Osaka and in particular in the Kōtō area where he lived. Probably due to the loss of his second child in 1946 in an accident, Domon moved increasingly toward a realist if not a socialist approach, which allowed him to deal with current themes in an indirect way through the innocent eyes of children.

Several books were dedicated to this theme: The Children of Kōtō (Kōtō no kodomotachi), whose publication was stopped by Domon himself, dissatisfied with his work in 1956; The Children of Chikuhō (Chikuhō no kodomotachi), published in January 1960, and its continuation which followed in November, The Father of Little Rumie is Dead (Rumie chan has otōsan ga shinda), which showed the miserable conditions of children in the villages of the mining area on the island of Kyūshū, and in particular the story of two orphan sisters, whose story moved Japan becoming a best seller. Lastly, the collection Children (Kodomotachi), published in 1976 by master of graphics and friend, Yūsaku Kamekura, and published by Nikkor Club, the amateur photographers’ association linked to Nikon and Domon.

 

Ken Domon. 'Bagno presso il fiume davanti allo Hiroshima Dome [Bath at the river in front of the Hiroshima Dome]' 1957

 

Ken Domon
Bagno presso il fiume davanti allo Hiroshima Dome [Bath at the river in front of the Hiroshima Dome]
1957
Dalla serie Hiroshima
535 x 748 mm
Ken Domon Museum of Photography

 

Ken Domon. 'La morte di Keiji [The death of Keiji]' 1957

 

Ken Domon
La morte di Keiji [The death of Keiji]
1957
Dalla serie Hiroshima
457 x 560 mm
Ken Domon Museum of Photography

 

Ken Domon. 'Paziente in ospedale [Hospital patient]' 1957

 

Ken Domon
Paziente in ospedale [Hospital patient]
1957
Dalla serie Hiroshima
457 x 560 mm
Ken Domon Museum of Photography

 

Ken Domon. 'Donna in cura per le lesioni da bomba atomica [Women being treated for injuries from atomic bomb]' 1957

 

Ken Domon
Donna in cura per le lesioni da bomba atomica [Women being treated for injuries from atomic bomb]
1957
Dalla serie Hiroshima
457 x 560 mm
Ken Domon Museum of Photography

 

Ken Domon. 'Gemella non vedente [Blind twin (female)]' 1957

 

Ken Domon
Gemella non vedente [Blind twin (female)]
1957
Dalla serie Hiroshima
457 x 560 mm
Ken Domon Museum of Photography

 

 

Hiroshima

Published in March 1958, the year prior to the first brain hemorrhage to strike Domon Ken, the Hiroshima collection presents 180 photographs introduced by a short explanatory essay. The work, completed thirteen years after the dropping of an atomic bomb on Hiroshima and then on Nagasaki, focused the attention of the world once again on the still open but almost forgotten wounds of Hiroshima, with a strong social impact.

The importance of this event in the life of the photographer is also evidenced by Domon’s recording in his notebook in the day and time of his arrival: July 23rd, 1957, 2.40 pm. From then until November he went there six times, for thirty-six days, producing more than 7,800 negatives, of which Hiroshima is only the synthesis. Domon realized that until then he had ignored and been afraid of what Hiroshima had actually meant. With his 35mm camera he revealed the places and people directly and indirectly affected by the atomic bomb, coldly recording with tears in his eyes the material damage, physical injuries, scars, deformations, and the plastic surgery and transplants undergone by the victims of the bomb, dedicating 14 pages at the beginning of the book to the progress made in the field of plastic surgery, which became a real photographic dossier.

The public shock that followed the publication of the dossier made him the object of harsh criticism that, however, failed to undermine his determination to represent reality. In an article published in the magazine Shinchō in 1977 the Nobel Prize winner Ōe Kenzaburō defined Hiroshima as the first work of modern art that dealt with the theme of the atomic bomb, talking about the living instead of the dead.

 

Ken Domon. 'Autoritratto [Self-portrait]' 1958

 

Ken Domon
Autoritratto [Self-portrait]
1958
Pubblicato sul numero di novembre della rivista Sankei Camera
457 x 560 mm
Ken Domon Museum of Photography

 

Ken Domon. 'Shiga Naoya (scrittore/writer)' 1951

 

Ken Domon
Shiga Naoya (scrittore/writer)
1951
457 x 560 mm
Ken Domon Museum of Photography

 

Ken Domon. 'Shiga Kiyoshi (medico ricercatore/medical researcher)' 1949

 

Ken Domon
Shiga Kiyoshi (medico ricercatore/medical researcher)
1949
457 x 560 mm
Ken Domon Museum of Photography

 

Ken Domon. 'Takami Jun (scrittore/writer)' 1948

 

Ken Domon
Takami Jun (scrittore/writer)
1948
457 x 560 mm
Ken Domon Museum of Photography

 

Ken Domon. 'Kuga Yoshiko (attrice/actress) and Ozu Yasujirō (regista/director)' 1958

 

Ken Domon
Kuga Yoshiko (attrice/actress) and Ozu Yasujirō (regista/director)
1958
457 x 560 mm
Ken Domon Museum of Photography

 

Ken Domon. 'Ushi (Bue), dai dodici guardiani (jūnishinshō) del Murōji [Ushi (Ox), one of the twelve guardians (jūnishinshō) of Muroji]' 1941-1943

 

Ken Domon
Ushi (Bue), dai dodici guardiani (jūnishinshō) del Murōji [Ushi (Ox), one of the twelve guardians (jūnishinshō) of Muroji]
1941-1943
Murōji, Nara
535 x 748 mm
Ken Domon Museum of Photography

 

Ken Domon. 'Hitsuji (Pecora), dai dodici guardiani (jūnishinshō) del Murōji [Hitsuji (Sheep), one of the twelve guardians (jūnishinshō) of Muroji]' 1941-1943

 

Ken Domon
Hitsuji (Pecora), dai dodici guardiani (jūnishinshō) del Murōji [Hitsuji (Sheep), one of the twelve guardians (jūnishinshō) of Muroji]
1941-1943
Murōji, Nara
535 x 748 mm
Ken Domon Museum of Photography

 

 

Portraits (Fūbō)

In 1953 the publication of the Portraits (Fūbō) collection of photographs, which came out in paperback the following year, concluded fifteen years of work dedicated to the portrait that had begun with the first photograph in May 1936 portraying the writer Takeda Rintarō, continuing during the war and until the year in which the collection was published. Domon gathered in a single volume 83 portraits of friends and acquaintances, personalities from the world of entertainment, literature, theatre and politics, stressing in the introduction that they were “[…] people I respect and like and am close to […] The choice of people was surprisingly subjective and random and no claim to any strictly historical or cultural meaning can be made.”

It seems that the initial choice of the faces to be included in the collection was made by Domon with a list written in ink on a sliding door on the second floor of his house in 1948. This list was subjected to the comments and opinions of friends and publishers who went to his house and subsequently underwent substitutions and changes. Through familiar faces and less well-known personalities, Domon bears witness to a crucial era in Japan, one of great writers such as Mishima, Kawabata and Tanizaki, of actors and directors of the caliber of Mifune and Ozu, of great artists who were often his friends and gave rise to a new important artistic trends in the country, such as the sculptor Noguchi, the graph artist Kamekura, the founder of the Ikebana School, Sōgetsu Teshigahara, or painters like Fujita, Umehara, Okamoto. Each picture is accompanied by the name of the subject, their occupation and the date it was taken. There are also short texts describing the relationship between Domon and the person depicted, in addition to the atmosphere created during the shooting.

Sometimes subjects were exasperated by the professional stubbornness of Domon, as is clear in the portrait of Umehara that reveals an air of irritation close to intolerance. Outrightness and instantaneousness, which were always Domon’s objectives, became easier to achieve thanks to technological developments. He passed from a camera assembled for cabinet card portraits – with a dry plate and flash that worked with magnesium powder, used before the war – to a small Leica in the post-war period.

 

Ken Domon. 'Ōnodera, campana e ciliegi [Onodera, bell and cherry trees]' 1977

 

Ken Domon
Ōnodera, campana e ciliegi [Onodera, bell and cherry trees]
1977
Nara
535 x 748 mm
Ken Domon Museum of Photography

 

Ken Domon. 'Pagoda del Murōji con la neve [Pagoda Muroji with snow]' 1978

 

Ken Domon
Pagoda del Murōji con la neve [Pagoda Muroji with snow]
1978
Nara
535 x 748 mm
Ken Domon Museum of Photography

 

Ken Domon. 'Buddha Shaka ligneo a figura intera presso il Mirokudō del Murōji [Buddha Shaka wooden full-length at the Mirokudō Muroji]' c. 1943

 

Ken Domon
Buddha Shaka ligneo a figura intera presso il Mirokudō del Murōji [Buddha Shaka wooden full-length at the Mirokudō Muroji]
c. 1943
Nara
457 x 560 mm.
Ken Domon Museum of Photography

 

 

Pilgrimage to the ancient temples (Kojijunrei)

Murōji

The Murōji temple, small and immersed in the greenery of the Nara mountains, was for Domon the first stage of a “pilgrimage to the ancient temples”, a sort of journey of the soul that accompanied him throughout his life and from which came the encyclopaedic work Kojijunrei (Pilgrimage to the Ancient Temples). It all began in 1939 with a simple excursion, suggested by friend and art historian Mizusawa Sumio (1905-1975): an experience that changed his life. In the first year alone he returned more than forty times and on many more occasions over the course of the following years.

At first Domon focused his photographic work on buildings, from the five-story pagoda – the smallest in Japan – to the architectural details, focusing on the sculptures inside, but also on the imposing profile of the Miroku Buddha of Ōnodera, excavated on the rocky wall facing the river along the road that leads to Murōji. Later he concentrated on wooden statues (kōninbutsu) of the Heian era (794-1185) inside the temple and starting with wide, overall shots he then moved on to capture the most minute details of the wood, so as to emphasize the folds and hems of the vestments and the gestures of the hands and eyes. His favourite statue was of Buddha Shaka, enthroned Mirokudō, who with his “beautiful and compassionate face” was, he claimed, the “most beautiful man on earth.”

For this particular job he used a basic Konishiroku (now Konika) camera made of wood, especially suitable for cabinet card portraits that he had purchased in 1941, but also an Eyemo with a tripod, often carried by his assistants. Evidence of Domon’s numerous pilgrimages and countless photographs can be found in the 1954 Murōji collection. The expanded, definitive edition of this work, Nyonin Takano Murōji, was published in 1978 and includes photographs taken subsequently with the new post-war techniques.

 

Pilgrimage to the ancient temples (Kojijunrei)

Around the temples

The thousands of shots that Domon took in 39 temples from 1939 to the seventies made up the Pilgrimage to the Ancient Temples (Kojijunrei), the masterpiece of his career for which, even today, he is known worldwide. It consists of five volumes published over a number of years (the first in 1963, the second in 1965, the third in 1968, the fourth in 1971 and the fifth in 1975) which put together 462 colour pictures and 325 photogravures of temples and statues built between the seventh and the sixteenth century, following a subjective criterion and not expecting such large proportions. It is first and foremost a work that documents the beauty of architecture, sculpture, gardens and landscapes around the temples and shrines selected by Domon. And yet it is also a testimony of the progression of photographic technique in those years, such as the transition to colour film of 1958, and of Domon’s health problems that influenced his choices.

In December 1959 he suffered a brain haemorrhage that paralysed the right part of his body, thus making it impossible to hold the camera, even after a long period of rehabilitation. Therefore, he resolved to use a tripod. He suffered a second haemorrhage on the June 22nd, 1968, which this time confined him to a wheelchair. And even with this umpteenth misfortune he did not stop taking photographs. With the help of assistants and by moving his point of view further down, he continued to work. He had a third haemorrhage in 1979, followed by a long stay in hospital and his death on the September 15th, 1990.

 

 

Museo dell’Ara Pacis
Lungotevere in Augusta, Rome

Opening hours:
Daily 9.30 am –  19.30 pm

Museo dell’Ara Pacis website

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18
Feb
16

Exhibition: ‘The Younger Generation: Contemporary Japanese Photography’ at the Getty Centre, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 6th October 2015 – 21st February 2016

Curator: Amanda Maddox, assistant curator in the Museum’s Department of Photographs

 

 

I’ll leave you to make up your own mind about these works by contemporary Japanese photographers. I particularly like Sawada Tomoko’s OMIAI ♡ (2001, below). The J. Paul Getty Museum recently acquired the series for their collection.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the J. Paul Getty Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“The history of Japanese photography, long dominated by men, experienced a dramatic change at the turn of the 21st century. Challenging the tradition that relegated women to the role of photographic subject, a number of young women photographers rose to prominence during this period by turning their cameras on themselves. The resulting domestic, private scenes and provocative self-portraits changed the landscape of the Japanese art world. The Younger Generation: Contemporary Japanese Photography, on view at the Getty Center October 6, 2015 – February 21, 2016, features works by five contemporary photographers born in Japan who emerged in the 1990s and 2000s: Kawauchi Rinko, Onodera Yuki, Otsuka Chino, Sawada Tomoko, and Shiga Lieko.

“These photographers bring a variety of approaches to their explorations of living in contemporary Japan and how they observe and respond to their country’s deep cultural traditions,” says Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “From quiet morning rituals to scenes of matchmaking and marriage, this body of work provides a rich perspective on Japan’s ongoing examination of its cultural uniqueness and place in the wider world.”

As these younger photographers began to emerge at the end of the 20th century they were often viewed collectively and their work labeled onnanoko shashin, or “girl photographs,” despite their wide-ranging aesthetics and interests. This term, coined by critic Iizawa Kōtarō, was largely perceived as derisive, though some considered it a celebration of these women’s achievements. Countering the idea that “girl photography” could define a generation of practitioners, The Younger Generation showcases the breadth of work made by five midcareer photographers during the past twenty years. Selected images from one series by each of the five photographers will be featured in the exhibition, including recent acquisitions of photographs by Sawada Tomoko and Shiga Lieko made possible by the support of the Getty Museum Photographs Council.

 

The Photographers

Kawauchi Rinko. ‘Untitled’ 2005

 

Kawauchi Rinko (Japanese, born 1972)
Untitled
2005
From the series Cui Cui
Chromogenic print
24.5 x 24.5 cm (9 5/8 x 9 5/8 in.)
Courtesy of and © Kawauchi Rinko

 

Kawauchi Rinko. ‘Untitled’ 2005

 

Kawauchi Rinko (Japanese, born 1972)
Untitled
2005
From the series Cui Cui
Chromogenic print
24.5 x 24.5 cm (9 5/8 x 9 5/8 in.)
Courtesy of and © Kawauchi Rinko

 

Kawauchi Rinko. ‘Untitled’ 2005

 

Kawauchi Rinko (Japanese, born 1972)
Untitled
2005
From the series Cui Cui
Chromogenic print
24.5 x 24.5 cm (9 5/8 x 9 5/8 in.)
Courtesy of and © Kawauchi Rinko

 

Kawauchi Rinko. ‘Untitled’ 2005

 

Kawauchi Rinko (Japanese, born 1972)
Untitled
2005
From the series Cui Cui
Chromogenic print
24.5 x 24.5 cm (9 5/8 x 9 5/8 in.)
Courtesy of and © Kawauchi Rinko

 

 

In 2001, Kawauchi Rinko burst onto the Japanese photography scene with her signature snapshot style of photographing moments of everyday life that frequently escape notice. Using color film and often employing a 6×6 cm Rolleiflex camera, she presents the world around her in quiet, fragmentary scenes, as if suspended in a dreamlike state. In the featured project Cui Cui, named after the French onomatopoeia for the twitter sound made by birds, Kawauchi concentrated on the passage of time as it relates to her family and hometown. Some photographs feature ordinary objects and everyday rituals such as meals and prayer, while other images record significant events that constitute turning points in Kawauchi’s life.

 

Otsuka Chino. ‘1976 and 2005, Kamakura, Japan’ 2005

 

Otsuka Chino (Japanese, born 1972)
1976 and 2005, Kamakura, Japan
2005
From the series Imagine Finding Me
Chromogenic print
12.7 x 18.1 cm (5 x 7 1/8 in.)
Wilson Centre for Photography
© Otsuka Chino

 

Otsuka Chino. ‘1982 and 2005, Paris, France’ 2005

 

Otsuka Chino (Japanese, born 1972)
1982 and 2005, Paris, France
2005
From the series Imagine Finding Me
Chromogenic print
9.5 x 14 cm (3 3/4 x 5 1/2 in.)
Wilson Centre for Photography
© Otsuka Chino

 

Otsuka Chino. ‘1979 and 2006, Kitakamakura, Japan’ 2006

 

Otsuka Chino (Japanese, born 1972)
1979 and 2006, Kitakamakura, Japan
2006
From the series Imagine Finding Me
Chromogenic print
14 x 9.8 cm (5 1/2 x 3 7/8 in.)
Wilson Centre for Photography
© Otsuka Chino

 

Otsuka Chino. ‘1980 and 2009, Nagayama, Japan’ 2009

 

Otsuka Chino (Japanese, born 1972)
1980 and 2009, Nagayama, Japan
2009
From the series Imagine Finding Me
Chromogenic print
14 x 9.5 cm (5 1/2 x 3 3/4 in.)
Wilson Centre for Photography
© Otsuka Chino

 

 

Caught between two cultures for much of her life after leaving Japan to study in England at the age of ten, Otsuka Chino draws upon the intersection of her Japanese and British identities for many of her photographic projects. The “double self-portraits” from Otsuka’s series Imagine Finding Me, a selection of which will be featured in The Younger Generation, were motivated by her curiosity about the prospect of speaking with her younger self. With the help of a digital retoucher, Otsuka seamlessly inserts contemporary self-portraits into old photographs of herself from a family photo album. The results combine pictures from different ages and moments in her life. In this context, the photograph acts as a portal to the past, a time machine that allows the artist to become a tourist in her own memory.

 

Shiga Lieko. ‘Rasen Kaigan 21’ 2012

 

Shiga Lieko (Japanese, born 1980)
Rasen Kaigan 21
2012
From the series Rasen Kaigan (Spiral Shore)
Chromogenic print
60 x 90 cm (23 5/8 x 35 7/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Shiga Lieko

 

Shiga Lieko. ‘Rasen Kaigan 39’ 2009

 

Shiga Lieko (Japanese, born 1980)
Rasen Kaigan 39
2009
From the series Rasen Kaigan (Spiral Shore)
Chromogenic print
60 x 90 cm (23 5/8 x 35 7/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Shiga Lieko

 

Shiga Lieko. ‘Portrait of Cultivation’ 2009

 

Shiga Lieko (Japanese, born 1980)
Portrait of Cultivation
2009
From the series Rasen Kaigan (Spiral Shore)
Chromogenic print
120 x 180 cm (47 1/4 x 70 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Shiga Lieko

 

Shiga Lieko. ‘Candy Castle’ 2011

 

Shiga Lieko (Japanese, born 1980)
Candy Castle
2011
From the series Rasen Kaigan (Spiral Shore)
Chromogenic print
90 x 60 cm (35 7/16 x 23 5/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Shiga Lieko

 

Shiga Lieko. ‘Mother’s Gentle Hands’ 2009

 

Shiga Lieko (Japanese, born 1980)
Mother’s Gentle Hands
2009
From the series Rasen Kaigan (Spiral Shore)
Chromogenic print
90 x 60 cm (35 7/16 x 23 5/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Shiga Lieko

 

 

In her practice, Shiga Lieko works with local communities, immersing herself in them and incorporating their histories and myths into her photographs. In 2008 Shiga moved to the Tōhoku region in northern Japan, a largely rural area known for its association with Japanese folklore. Working out of a small studio in Kitakama, she became the official photographer of the town, documenting local events, festivals, and residents. After much of Kitakama was devastated by the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, Shiga continued to photograph, recording the impact on the land and people. Made between 2008 and 2012, the series Rasen Kaigan (Spiral Shore) showcases the chaos and mysteriousness of this strange place. With a history associated with mythology, natural disaster, and trauma, Kitakama resembles an otherworldly, postapocalytic site. Six works from Rasen Kaigan will be on display, including photographs made after the disaster in Tōhoku, during which Shiga was forced to flee her home.”

 

Onodera Yuki. ‘Portrait of Second-hand Clothes No. 1’ 1994

 

Onodera Yuki (Japanese, born 1962)
Portrait of Second-hand Clothes No. 1
1994
Gelatin silver print
41.9 x 40.6 cm (16 1/2 x 16 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Yossi Milo Gallery, New York
© Onodera Yuki, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

 

Onodera Yuki. ‘Portrait of Second-hand Clothes No. 42’ 1997

 

Onodera Yuki (Japanese, born 1962)
Portrait of Second-hand Clothes No. 52
1997
Gelatin silver print
41.9 x 41.3 cm (16 1/2 x 16 1/4 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Yossi Milo Gallery, New York
© Onodera Yuki, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

 

Onodera Yuki. ‘Portrait of Second-hand Clothes No. 52’ 1997

 

Onodera Yuki (Japanese, born 1962)
Portrait of Second-hand Clothes No. 42
1997
Gelatin silver print
41.9 x 41.3 cm (16 1/2 x 16 1/4 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Yossi Milo Gallery, New York
© Onodera Yuki, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

 

Onodera Yuki. ‘Portrait of Second-hand Clothes No. 8’ 1994

 

Onodera Yuki (Japanese, born 1962)
Portrait of Second-hand Clothes No. 8
1994
Gelatin silver print
41.9 x 41.9 cm (16 1/2 x 16 1/2 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Yossi Milo Gallery, New York
© Onodera Yuki, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

 

 

Born in Tokyo, but based in France, Onodera Yuki pursued photography after her disenchantment with the fashion industry. Interested in subverting the notion that photography represents the world accurately – the Japanese word for photography, shashin, translates as “to copy reality” – Onodera uses the medium to generate surrealistic images that defy reality. On view in the exhibition will be photographs from her series Portrait of Second-hand Clothes, wherein Onodera repurposes garments she collected from Dispersion, an installation by the artist Christian Boltanski that contained large piles of clothing for visitors to take home and “disperse.” Onodera photographed each piece against an open window in her apartment in Montmartre, and her use of flash enhances the ghostlike quality of the garments.

 

Sawada Tomoko. ‘OMIAI ♡’ 2001

 

Sawada Tomoko (Japanese, born 1977)
OMIAI
2001
Chromogenic print
12.2 x 9.7 cm (4 13/16 x 3 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Sawada Tomoko

 

Sawada Tomoko. ‘OMIAI ♡’ 2001

 

Sawada Tomoko (Japanese, born 1977)
OMIAI 
2001
Chromogenic print
31.7 x 25.1 cm (12 1/2 x 9 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Sawada Tomoko

 

Sawada Tomoko. ‘OMIAI ♡’ 2001

 

Sawada Tomoko (Japanese, born 1977)
OMIAI 
2001
Chromogenic print
46.4 x 36.7 cm (18 1/4 x 14 7/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Sawada Tomoko

 

Sawada Tomoko. ‘OMIAI ♡’ 2001

 

Sawada Tomoko (Japanese, born 1977)
OMIAI 
2001
Chromogenic print
46.4 x 36.7 cm (18 1/4 x 14 7/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Sawada Tomoko

 

Sawada Tomoko. ‘OMIAI ♡’ 2001

 

Sawada Tomoko (Japanese, born 1977)
OMIAI 
2001
Chromogenic print
46.4 x 36.7 cm (18 1/4 x 14 7/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Sawada Tomoko

 

Sawada Tomoko. ‘OMIAI ♡’ 2001

 

Sawada Tomoko (Japanese, born 1977)
OMIAI 
2001
Chromogenic print
46.4 x 36.7 cm (18 1/4 x 14 7/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Sawada Tomoko

 

Sawada Tomoko. ‘OMIAI ♡’ 2001

 

Sawada Tomoko (Japanese, born 1977)
OMIAI 
2001
Chromogenic print
70.6 x 56 cm (27 13/16 x 22 1/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Sawada Tomoko

 

Sawada Tomoko. ‘OMIAI ♡’ 2001

 

Sawada Tomoko (Japanese, born 1977)
OMIAI 
2001
Chromogenic print
70.8 x 56 cm (27 13/16 x 22 1/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Sawada Tomoko

 

Sawada Tomoko. ‘OMIAI ♡’ 2001

 

Sawada Tomoko (Japanese, born 1977)
OMIAI 
2001
Chromogenic print
70.8 x 56 cm (27 13/16 x 22 1/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Sawada Tomoko

 

Sawada Tomoko. ‘OMIAI ♡’ 2001

 

Sawada Tomoko (Japanese, born 1977)
OMIAI 
2001
Chromogenic print
83 x 65.6 cm (32 11/16 x 25 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Sawada Tomoko

 

 

Born and raised in Kobe, Japan, Sawada Tomoko has used self-portraiture to explore identity. She transforms into various characters with the help of costumes, wigs, props, makeup, and weight gain, all of which drastically alter her appearance. Her work – a cross between portraiture and performance – plays upon stereotypes and cultural traditions in order to showcase modes of individuality and self-expression. Her project OMIAI♡, recently acquired by the J. Paul Getty Museum, includes thirty self-portraits, each one made in the same photo studio but intended to represent a different kind of woman. These images mimic photographs traditionally produced as part of the Japanese custom of omiai, or a formal meeting that occurs as part of the arranged marriage tradition. This unique set of OMIAI♡ includes vintage frames selected by Sawada to represent how such portraits would traditionally be displayed in the windows of local photo studios in Japan.

“Sawada’s playful, charming self-portraits belie a deeper commentary on her culture,” says Amanda Maddox, assistant curator in the Department of Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum and curator of the exhibition. “With OMIAI♡ she reminds us how such traditions still play a significant role in Japanese society.”

Press release from the Getty Museum website

 

 

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Los Angeles, California 90049

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Saturday 10 am – 9 pm
Sunday 10 am – 5.30 pm
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16
Feb
16

Exhibition: ‘Ishiuchi Miyako: Postwar Shadows’ at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Centre, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 6th October 2015 – 21st February 2016

Curator: Amanda Maddox, assistant curator, Department of Photographs, the J. Paul Getty Museum.

 

 

This is a compelling body of work from Japanese artist Ishiuchi Miyako. I especially like the work from the 1970s period which is, I feel, stronger than the later work from the 1990s onwards. The 1970s work has a biting quality of observation and pathos that the later work somehow lacks. And, more generally, I have always loved Japanese photography from the 1950-70s for these very qualities.

Why you would want print an intimate object like your mother’s lipstick over a metre tall is beyond me… other than to buy into the current fashion in contemporary photographic art, which is to print big. The same goes for some of the photographs of clothing in her latest series ひろしま/hiroshima (2007, below). From a distance they may like fine, but when you get up close the image would just fall apart. No sense of the intimacy and privacy of the object here … except for the small prints, such as ひろしま/hiroshima #41 (Kawamuki Eiko) (2007, below) which evidence the delicacy of the object as part of life, history and memory.

But for me it is the essential quality of the earlier work – the large grain, the desperate looking individuals, the unnoticed corners of existence imagined in contrasty, handmade analogue prints – which really strikes at the emotions. The personal interweaved with the political. The brightness of hope mixed with a heavy dash of desolation.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the J. Paul Getty Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All text from the J. Paul Getty Museum press release.

 

“In the 1970s Ishiuchi Miyako shocked Japan’s male-dominated photography establishment with Yokosuka Story, a gritty, deeply personal project about the city where she spent her childhood and where the United States established a naval base in 1945. Working prodigiously ever since, Ishiuchi has consistently fused the personal and political in her photographs, interweaving her own identity with the complex history of postwar Japan that emerged from the shadows cast by American occupation.

This exhibition is the first in the United States to survey Ishiuchi’s prolific career and will include photographs, books, and objects from her personal archive. Beginning with Yokosuka Story (1977-78), the show traces her extended investigation of life in postwar Japan and culminates with her current series ひろしま/hiroshima, on view seventy years after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.”

 

 

 

“Survey exhibition includes Ishiuchi’s series ひろしま/hiroshima, presented during the 70th anniversary year of the bombing of Hiroshima.

The first major exhibition in the United States and the first comprehensive English-language catalogue on celebrated Japanese photographer Ishiuchi Miyako (born Fujikura Yōko in 1947) will showcase the artist’s prolific, groundbreaking career and offer new scholarship on her personal background, her process, and her place in the history of Japanese photography.

On view at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center from October 6, 2015 – February 21, 2016, Ishiuchi Miyako: Postwar Shadows will feature more than 120 photographs that represent the evolution of the artist’s career, from her landmark series Yokosuka Story (1976-77) that established her as a photographer to her current project ひろしま/hiroshima (2007-present) in which she presents images of garments and objects that survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

“About eight years ago, the Getty Museum began a concerted effort to expand our East Asian photography holdings and since that time work by Japanese photographers has become an important part of the collection,” explains Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “As part of this effort, the Museum acquired 37 photographs by Ishiuchi, some of them gifts of the artist, which constitute the largest holdings of her work outside Japan.” Potts adds, “Particularly poignant during this 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, and shown for the first time in an American institution, is Ishiuchi’s ひろしま/hiroshima, a delicate and profound series of images depicting objects affected by the atomic blast.”

Born in Kiryū in the aftermath of World War II, Ishiuchi Miyako spent her formative years in Yokosuka, a Japanese city where the United States established an important naval base in 1945. She studied textile design at Tama Art University in Tokyo in the late 1960s before quitting school prior to graduation and ultimately pursuing photography. In 1975 she exhibited her first photographs under her mother’s maiden name, Ishiuchi Miyako, which she adopted as her own.

For the past forty years Ishiuchi has consistently interweven the personal with the political in her work. Her longstanding engagement with the subject of postwar Japan, specifically the shadows that American occupation and Americanization cast over her native country following World War II, serves as the organizing principle of the exhibition. Across three interconnected yet distinct phases of her career, Ishiuchi explores the depths of her postwar experience…

 

 

Ishiuchi Miyako. ‘Yokosuka Story #98’ 1976–1977

 

Ishiuchi Miyako (Japanese, born 1947)
Yokosuka Story #98
1976-1977
Gelatin silver print
45.5 x 55.9 cm (17 15/16 x 22 in.)
Collection of Yokohama Museum of Art
© Ishiuchi Miyako
Digital file © Yokohama Museum of Art

 

Ishiuchi Miyako. ‘Yokosuka Story #58’ 1976–1977

 

Ishiuchi Miyako (Japanese, born 1947)
Yokosuka Story #58
1976-1977
Gelatin silver print
45.5 x 55.9 cm (17 15/16 x 22 in.)
Collection of Yokohama Museum of Art
© Ishiuchi Miyako
Digital file © Yokohama Museum of Art

 

Ishiuchi Miyako. ‘Yokosuka Story #62’ 1976–1977

 

Ishiuchi Miyako (Japanese, born 1947)
Yokosuka Story #62
1976-1977
Gelatin silver print
45.5 x 55.8 cm (17 15/16 x 22 in.)
Collection of Yokohama Museum of Art
© Ishiuchi Miyako
Digital file © Yokohama Museum of Art

 

Ishiuchi Miyako. ‘Yokosuka Story #61’ 1976–1977

 

Ishiuchi Miyako (Japanese, born 1947)
Yokosuka Story #61
1976-1977
Gelatin silver print
45 x 55.3 cm (17 11/16 x 21 3/4 in.)
Collection of Yokohama Museum of Art
© Ishiuchi Miyako
Digital file © Yokohama Museum of Art

 

Ishiuchi Miyako. ‘Yokosuka Story #34’ 1976–1977

 

Ishiuchi Miyako (Japanese, born 1947)
Yokosuka Story #34
1976-1977
Gelatin silver print
45.2 x 55.7 cm (17 13/16 x 21 15/16 in.)
Collection of Yokohama Museum of Art
© Ishiuchi Miyako
Digital file © Yokohama Museum of Art

 

Ishiuchi Miyako. ‘Yokosuka Story #64’ 1976–1977

 

Ishiuchi Miyako (Japanese, born 1947)
Yokosuka Story #64
1976-1977
Gelatin silver print
45.5 x 55.9 cm (17 15/16 x 22 in.)
Collection of Yokohama Museum of Art
© Ishiuchi Miyako
Digital file © Yokohama Museum of Art

 

Ishiuchi Miyako. ‘Yokosuka Story #121’ 1976–1977

 

Ishiuchi Miyako (Japanese, born 1947)
Yokosuka Story #121
1976-1977
Gelatin silver print
43.7 x 54 cm (17 3/16 x 21 1/4 in.)
Collection of Yokohama Museum of Art
© Ishiuchi Miyako
Digital file © Yokohama Museum of Art

 

Ishiuchi Miyako. ‘Yokosuka Story #73’ 1976–1977

 

Ishiuchi Miyako (Japanese, born 1947)
Yokosuka Story #73
1976-1977
Gelatin silver print
43.7 x 53.7 cm (17 3/16 x 21 1/8 in.)
Collection of Yokohama Museum of Art
© Ishiuchi Miyako
Digital file © Yokohama Museum of Art

 

 

Early Career: From Yokosuka Story to Yokosuka Again

Shortly after adopting photography as her means of personal expression, Ishiuchi began to take pictures of Yokosuka, where she and her family lived between 1953 and 1966. The prevalence of American culture there had shocked Ishiuchi as a child. Though it informed her love of pop music and denim jeans, it also caused her to harbor fears of the U.S. naval base and develop a hatred of the city. Armed with a camera and fueled by painful memories, Ishiuchi returned to Yokosuka in the 1970s to address her fears. The act of photographing old haunts, as well as unfamiliar places, proved to be a catharsis. Using money her father had saved for her wedding, Ishiuchi financed the production of prints, as well as the related publication, Yokosuka Story, which she named after the title of a Japanese pop song.

In 1953 Ishiuchi and her family left their home in Kiryū for Yokosuka, a port city with a large U.S. naval base. Shocked by the prevalence of American culture there, she quickly developed fears of the base, its soldiers, and specific neighborhoods. Harboring these anxieties for years, Ishiuchi viewed Yokosuka as “a place that I thought I’d never go back to, a city I wouldn’t want to walk in twice” after leaving in 1966.

But Ishiuchi eventually returned on weekends between October 1976 and March 1977 to photograph the city for her first major project. Filled with emotion and fueled by hatred and dark memories, Ishiuchi traversed the city on foot and by car, chauffeured by her mother who worked as a driver for the U.S. military. Questioned by police multiple times while making this work, Ishiuchi experienced the danger she sensed during childhood.

Using a darkroom she set up in her parents’ home, Ishiuchi printed the photographs on view here for an exhibition at Nikon Salon in Tokyo in 1977. The work features black borders and heavy grain, which represent memories Ishiuchi “coughed up like black phlegm onto hundreds of stark white developing papers.” With money her father reserved for her wedding, Ishiuchi financed the production of prints, as well as the related publication, Yokosuka Story, named after the title of a Japanese pop song.

.
“With Yokosuka Story, and ultimately the other series she produced at the beginning of her career, Ishiuchi attempted to transfer her emotions and dark memories into the prints through physical means,” says Amanda Maddox, assistant curator of photographs at the Getty Museum and curator of the exhibition. “By carefully controlling how she processed film, and by intentionally printing the photographs with heavy grain and deep black tones, she injected her feelings into the work. She loved working in the darkroom, in part because the tactile nature of processing film and printing photographs related to her training in textile production.” …

 

Ishiuchi Miyako. 'Apartment #1' 1977–1978

 

Ishiuchi Miyako (Japanese, born 1947)
Apartment #1
1977-1978
Gelatin silver print
50.5 x 60.3 x 2.5 cm (19 7/8 x 23 3/4 x 1 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Ishiuchi Miyako
Courtesy of and © Ishiuchi Miyako

 

Ishiuchi Miyako. 'Apartment #55' 1977–1978

 

Ishiuchi Miyako (Japanese, born 1947)
Apartment #55
1977-1978
Gelatin silver print
50.5 x 62.8 cm (19 7/8 x 24 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Ishiuchi Miyako
© Ishiuchi Miyako

 

Ishiuchi Miyako. 'Apartment #47' 1977–1978

 

Ishiuchi Miyako (Japanese, born 1947)
Apartment #47
1977-1978
Gelatin silver print
50 x 60 x 2.5 cm (19 11/16 x 23 5/8 x 1 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Ishiuchi Miyako
Courtesy of and © Ishiuchi Miyako

 

Ishiuchi Miyako. 'Apartment #19' 1977–1978

 

Ishiuchi Miyako (Japanese, born 1947)
Apartment #19
1977-1978
Gelatin silver print
50 x 60 x 2.5 cm (19 11/16 x 23 5/8 x 1 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Ishiuchi Miyako
Courtesy of and © Ishiuchi Miyako

 

Ishiuchi Miyako. 'Apartment #10' 1977–1978

 

Ishiuchi Miyako (Japanese, born 1947)
Apartment #10
1977-1978
Gelatin silver print
50 x 60 cm (19 11/16 x 23 5/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Ishiuchi Miyako
Courtesy of and © Ishiuchi Miyako

 

 

Interested in blurring the boundary between documentation and fiction, Ishiuchi tested the limits of this approach in her second major series Apartment. Isolating derelict, cheaply constructed apartments that resembled the cramped one-room apartment that her family occupied in Yokosuka, Ishiuchi photographed ramshackle facades, rooms, and interiors of buildings in Tokyo and Yokohama. Despite criticism of the series from other photographers, Ishiuchi ultimately earned the prestigious Ihei Kimura Memorial Photography Award for her book Apartment.

When Ishiuchi exhibited Yokosuka Story at Nikon Salon in 1977, the chairman of the Salon’s steering committee asked about her next project. Without hesitation, she responded “apartments.” Although she had only photographed a few apartment buildings in Yokosuka, Ishiuchi recognized the potential of this subject. For thirteen years she and her family lived in a cheaply constructed postwar building in Yokosuka, inhabiting a tiny apartment with an earthen floor and communal bathroom.

In 1977 Ishiuchi began to seek out similarly derelict apartments in Tokyo and other cities. With the permission of residents, Ishiuchi photographed rooms and interiors in the buildings, occasionally portraying the occupants. Her images inside these cramped quarters reveal the grim condition of each building – peeling paint, dimly lit hallways, and stained walls “steeped in the odor of people who move about” – and suggest many stories housed within these living spaces.

Ishiuchi wanted the disparate interiors featured in Apartment to feel as though one building contained them. Her desire to create a fictitious place – with different apartments from various locations presented together as one residential complex – met with criticism from traditional documentary photographers, but Ishiuchi ultimately earned the prestigious 4th Kimura Ihei Memorial Photography Award for her book Apartment. …

 

Ishiuchi Miyako. 'Endless Night #2' 1978–1980

 

Ishiuchi Miyako (Japanese, born 1947)
Endless Night #2
1978-1980
Gelatin silver print
78.7 x 106.5 cm (31 x 41 15/16 in.)
Courtesy of and © Ishiuchi Miyako

 

Ishiuchi Miyako. 'Endless Night #71' 1978–1980

 

Ishiuchi Miyako (Japanese, born 1947)
Endless Night #71
1978-1980
Gelatin silver print
78.7 x 106.5 cm (31 x 41 15/16 in.)
Courtesy of and © Ishiuchi Miyako

 

Ishiuchi Miyako. 'Endless Night #98' 1978–1980

 

Ishiuchi Miyako (Japanese, born 1947)
Endless Night #98
1978-1980
Gelatin silver print
50 x 63 cm (19 11/16 x 24 13/16 in.)
Courtesy of and © Ishiuchi Miyako

 

Ishiuchi Miyako. 'EM Club #28' 1990

 

Ishiuchi Miyako (Japanese, born 1947)
EM Club #28
1990
Gelatin silver print
77.2 x 104.8 cm (30 3/8 x 41 1/4 in.)
Courtesy of and © Ishiuchi Miyako

 

 

Endless Night, a series that developed as a result of her work on Apartment, features buildings across Japan that formerly functioned as brothels. In 1958 the Japanese government began to enforce an anti-prostitution law, causing many red-light districts to close. Brothels were either abandoned or transformed into inns, hotels, or private accommodations. With memories of walking past a red-light district in Yokosuka on her way to school, Ishiuchi felt a connection to this subject matter and to the women who once inhabited these places, their traces still palpable.

While photographing for Apartment, Ishiuchi sensed something “eerie” inside several buildings. She later discovered that those particular locations had formerly functioned as brothels. In 1958 the Japanese government began to enforce an anti-prostitution law, and as a result many red-light districts closed and some brothels became private accommodations or inns. Growing up in Yokosuka, where she passed through a red-light district on her way to school and where her identity as a woman was shaped by the masculine energy that emanated from the U.S. naval base, Ishiuchi felt particularly drawn to this subject.

Intent on photographing red-light neighborhoods across Japan, Ishiuchi started in Tokyo and eventually traveled to Sendai and Ishinomaki in northern Japan, as well as to Osaka, Kyoto, and Nara in the Kansai region. Entering these buildings proved an emotional experience for Ishiuchi, which she described as follows: “The space of the entryway froze me, the intruder, in my tracks. Inhaling it, I felt ill, as if I might vomit…. Though I had only come to take photographs, all of the women who had once inhabited this room came wafting out from the stains on the walls, the shade under the trees, the shine on the well-tread stairs.”

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In 1980 Ishiuchi returned to depict places not represented in Yokosuka Story, targeting locations that terrified her. For this new project she focused on Honchō – the central neighborhood where the presence of America felt especially concentrated, with the U.S. naval base and EM (Enlisted Men’s) Club located there. For six months Ishiuchi rented an abandoned cabaret on Dobuita Dōri (Gutter Alley). With the help of friends she converted the cabaret into an exhibition space, where she displayed the new work alongside images from Yokosuka Story. She continued to photograph in Yokosuka intermittently until 1990, when the dilapidated EM Club was finally razed. Her final Yokosuka projects, Yokosuka Again, 1980-1990, represents a triumph over the conflicting emotions she possessed toward the city…

 

Ishiuchi Miyako. '1·9·4·7 #61' 1994

 

Ishiuchi Miyako (Japanese, born 1947)
1·9·4·7 #61
1994
Gelatin silver print
39.5 x 54.6 cm (15 9/16 x 21 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Ishiuchi Miyako

 

Ishiuchi Miyako. '1·9·4·7 #15' negative 1988–1989; print 1994

 

Ishiuchi Miyako (Japanese, born 1947)
1·9·4·7 #15
1988-1989; print 1994
Gelatin silver print
39.4 x 54.5 cm (15 1/2 x 21 7/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Ishiuchi Miyako
© Ishiuchi Miyako

 

Ishiuchi Miyako. '1·9·4·7 #11' 1988–1989

 

Ishiuchi Miyako (Japanese, born 1947)
1·9·4·7 #11
1988-1989
Gelatin silver print
85.7 x 114.2 cm (33 3/4 x 44 15/16 x in.)
Collection of the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo
© Ishiuchi Miyako

 

Ishiuchi Miyako. '1·9·4·7 #12' 1988–1989

 

Ishiuchi Miyako (Japanese, born 1947)
1·9·4·7 #11
1988-1989
Gelatin silver print
85.7 x 114.2 cm (33 3/4 x 44 15/16 x in.)
Collection of the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo
© Ishiuchi Miyako

 

Ishiuchi Miyako. '1·9·4·7 #49' 1988–1989

 

Ishiuchi Miyako (Japanese, born 1947)
1·9·4·7 #49
1988-1989
Gelatin silver print
85.7 x 114.2 cm (33 3/4 x 44 15/16 x in.)
Collection of the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo
© Ishiuchi Miyako

 

Ishiuchi Miyako. 'Scars #45 (Illness 1955)' 2000

 

Ishiuchi Miyako (Japanese, born 1947)
Scars #45 (Illness 1955)
2000
Gelatin silver print
111 x 76.7 cm (43 11/16 x 30 3/16 in.)
Courtesy of and © Ishiuchi Miyako

 

Ishiuchi Miyako. 'Scars #27 (Illness 1977)' 1999

 

Ishiuchi Miyako (Japanese, born 1947)
Scars #27 (Illness 1977)
1999
Gelatin silver print
160 x 108 cm (63 x 42 1/2 in.)
Collection of the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo
© Ishiuchi Miyako

 

 

Midcareer: On the Body

Following her exhaustive investigation of Yokosuka, Ishiuchi contemplated quitting photography altogether. But as she celebrated her 40th birthday in 1987, she recognized that the traces of time and experience left on her body could inspire new work and spark another phase of her career. For 1·9·4·7, titled after her birth year, she approached friends also born that year and asked to photograph them – specifically their hands and feet. As news of the project spread, Ishiuchi expanded the series to include women she did not know. In intimate, close-up views, Ishiuchi draws attention to the calluses, hangnails, wrinkles, and other imperfections that develop on the skin during a lifetime of activity.

Ultimately Ishiuchi chose to eliminate the facial portraits from the series, enhancing the anonymity of the project, to focus on extremities that are exposed to the world but often overlooked. In intimate, close-up views, she draws attention to the calluses, hangnails, wrinkles, and other imperfections that develop on the body during a lifetime. Ishiuchi includes the occupation of each sitter in captions published in the book 1·9·4·7 but excludes that information in exhibitions. Though the women remain anonymous, their body parts, photographed with great sensitivity, appear very distinct.

Inspired by 1·9·>4·7, Ishiuchi developed many projects that focused on the body as subject. Among the most powerful is Scars, a series she began in 1991 that remains a work in progress. As reminders of past trauma and pain, scars evoke memories that the skin retains on its surface. Ishiuchi regards these marks as battle wounds and symbols of victory. She also likens them to photographs, which serve simultaneously as visible markers of history and triggers of personal memory. For each large-scale print, Ishiuchi provides only the year that a wound was inflicted as well as its cause – such as accident, illness, attempted suicide, or war.

In her book Scars (Tokyo: Sokyū-sha, 2005), Ishiuchi explains her interest in this subject as follows: “Scars themselves carry a story. Stories of how each person was very sad, or very hurt, and it is because the memory remained in the form of the scar that the story can be narrated in words.” As reminders of past trauma and pain, scars are memories inscribed onto the body and retained into the present moment. Yet rather than view scars only as blemishes or manifestations of injury, Ishiuchi perceives them as battle wounds and symbols of victory over possible defeat. She likens them to photographs, which also serve simultaneously as visible markers of history and triggers of personal memory.

Scars developed as a sideline interest when Ishiuchi noticed old wounds on some of the men she photographed for a project called Chromosome XY. The stories associated with each scar are distilled in the titles, but Ishiuchi provides only the year that a wound was inflicted and its cause – such as accident, illness, suicide, and war. Photographing scars since 1991, Ishiuchi believes that some kind of wound – healed or open – exists on every body.

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Fascinated by the idea that a Polaroid camera operates as a portable, self-contained darkroom, Ishiuchi often shared Polaroid portraits with sitters immediately after they were produced. Her series Body and Air features some of these Polaroids – fragments of the body – grouped together by sitter. One of the people included in Body and Air is Ishiuchi’s mother; though her mother was camera-shy, she found the playful, interactive nature of this particular project appealing. Her acquiescence to serve as a photographic subject ultimately laid the foundation for Ishiuchi’s next major series.

An essential aspect of Ishiuchi’s photographic process involves work that must occur in the darkroom: developing film and printing negatives. The tactile nature of the medium immediately appealed to her, in part because it related to her training in textile design but also because it offered room to express her emotions via the contrast, grain, and texture she controlled in the print. She has noted that “photographs are my creations. I create them, brooding in the darkroom, immersed in chemicals.”

 

Ishiuchi Miyako. 'Mother’s #57' 2004

 

Ishiuchi Miyako (Japanese, born 1947)
Mother’s #57
2004
Chromogenic print
19.2 x 28.8 cm (7 9/16 x 11 5/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Ishiuchi Miyako

 

Ishiuchi Miyako. 'Mother’s #35' 2002

 

Ishiuchi Miyako (Japanese, born 1947)
Mother’s #35
2002
Chromogenic print
107.5 x 74 cm (42 5/16 x 29 1/8 in.)
Courtesy of and © Ishiuchi Miyako

 

Ishiuchi Miyako. 'Mother’s #49' 2002

 

Ishiuchi Miyako (Japanese, born 1947)
Mother’s #49
2002
Gelatin silver print
107.5 x 74 cm (42 5/16 x 29 1/8 in.)
Courtesy of and © Ishiuchi Miyako

 

Ishiuchi Miyako. 'Mother’s #16' 2001

 

Ishiuchi Miyako (Japanese, born 1947)
Mother’s #16
2001
Gelatin silver print
Framed: 107.5 x 74 cm (42 5/16 x 29 1/8 in.)
Courtesy of and © Ishiuchi Miyako

 

 

 

Recent Projects: Life and Death

Shortly before her mother died in 2000, Ishiuchi began to photograph her skin and face. While select photographs from this period can be found in the series Scars and Body and Air, Ishiuchi eventually generated a project specifically about her mother. Spurred by her decision to photograph her mother’s personal effects rather than simply dispose of them, Ishiuchi created the series Mother’s, in which she includes images of old shoes, girdles, and used lipstick once owned by her mother as well as photographs of her mother’s body made in 2010, soon before her death.

Ishiuchi’s mother died in 2000, about one year after Ishiuchi began photographing her. Unsure if she should keep or dispose of her mother’s personal effects, Ishiuchi decided to photograph them. She taped worn chemises and girdles to the sliding glass door in her parents’ home, allowing the sun to backlight the undergarments when photographed. Old shoes, dentures, used lipstick cases, tattered gloves, and other accessories owned by her mother also feature as subjects. Combining these images with the pictures of her mother made before she died, Ishiuchi generated a somber, gentle portrait with the series Mother’s. When exhibiting this work at the Venice Biennale in 2005, Ishiuchi realized that sharing these intimate views of her mother’s life resonated with many visitors, thus transforming the work from a private expression of sorrow into a powerful, universal eulogy.

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The shared experience of trauma as a photographic subject registers most poignantly in Ishiuchi’s current series ひろしま/hiroshima. Ishiuchi first visited Hiroshima when commissioned to photograph there in 2007. She chose as her principal subjects the artifacts devastated by the U.S. atomic bombing of the city, now housed at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Aware that Tōmatsu Shōmei, Tsuchida Hiromi, and others had previously photographed some of the same objects, Ishiuchi nevertheless wanted to photograph this material in order to present it from a different, distinctly feminine perspective. (The title of the series ひろしま/ hiroshima intentionally includes the word Hiroshima in Hiragana, a Japanese writing system that women used extensively in previous eras).

The title of the project, ひろしま / hiroshima, includes the word Hiroshima written in Hiragana, a Japanese writing system that women used extensively in previous eras. Images in this series typically feature objects once owned by women, primarily garments that had been in direct contact with their bodies at the time of the bombing. Ishiuchi sometimes speaks to the objects while photographing them and initially used a light box to illuminate fabrics, conjuring the ghostlike auras of the victims – which the artist reinforces by “floating” the photographs on the walls – and alluding to the “artificial sun” of the bomb. But the effects of irradiation – visible in the holes, stains, and frayed edges – are offset by the fashionable textiles, vibrant colors, and intricate, hand-stitched details. Included in the titles are names of individuals who donated each article to the Peace Memorial Museum, further animating the stories these photographs tell.

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Ishiuchi Miyako: Postwar Shadows
is curated by Amanda Maddox, assistant curator, Department of Photographs, the J. Paul Getty Museum. A fully illustrated scholarly catalogue, with essays by Maddox; Itō Hiromi, poet; and Miryam Sas, professor, University of California, Berkeley, accompanies the exhibition.”

Text from the press release; indented text from “Ishiuchi Miyako: Postwar Shadows,” published online 2015, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles Cited 03/02/2016.

 

Ishiuchi Miyako. 'ひろしま/hiroshima #69 (Abe Hatsuko)' 2007

 

Ishiuchi Miyako (Japanese, born 1947)
ひろしま/hiroshima #69 (Abe Hatsuko)
2007
Chromogenic print
108 x 74 cm (42 1/2 x 29 1/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Ishiuchi Miyako

 

Ishiuchi Miyako. 'ひろしま/hiroshima #9 (Ogawa Ritsu)' 2007

 

Ishiuchi Miyako (Japanese, born 1947)
ひろしま/hiroshima #9 (Ogawa Ritsu)
2007
Chromogenic print
187 x 120 cm (73 5/8 x 47 1/4 in.)
Courtesy of and © Ishiuchi Miyako

 

Ishiuchi Miyako. 'ひろしま/hiroshima #33 (Nishimoto Oyuki)' 2007

 

Ishiuchi Miyako (Japanese, born 1947)
ひろしま/hiroshima #33 (Nishimoto Oyuki)
2007
Chromogenic print
108 x 74 cm (42 1/2 x 29 1/8 in.)
Courtesy of and © Ishiuchi Miyako

 

Ishiuchi Miyako. 'ひろしま/hiroshima #60 (Abe Hatsuko)' 2007

 

Ishiuchi Miyako (Japanese, born 1947)
ひろしま/hiroshima #60 (Abe Hatsuko)
2007
Chromogenic print
33.5 x 23 cm (13 3/16 x 9 1/16 in.)
Courtesy of and © Ishiuchi Miyako

 

Ishiuchi Miyako. 'ひろしま/hiroshima #97F (Wada Yasuko)' 2010

 

Ishiuchi Miyako (Japanese, born 1947)
ひろしま/hiroshima #97F (Wada Yasuko)
2010
Chromogenic print
108 x 74 cm (42 1/2 x 29 1/8 in.)
Courtesy of and © Ishiuchi Miyako

 

Ishiuchi Miyako. 'ひろしま/hiroshima #82 (Uesugi Ayako)' 2007

 

Ishiuchi Miyako (Japanese, born 1947)
ひろしま/hiroshima #82 (Uesugi Ayako)
2007
Chromogenic print
23 x 33.5 cm (9 1/16 x 13 3/16 in.)
Courtesy of and © Ishiuchi Miyako

 

Ishiuchi Miyako. 'ひろしま/hiroshima #41 (Kawamuki Eiko)' 2007

 

Ishiuchi Miyako (Japanese, born 1947)
ひろしま/hiroshima #41 (Kawamuki Eiko)
2007
Chromogenic print
23 x 33.5 cm (9 1/16 x 13 3/16 in.)
Courtesy of and © Ishiuchi Miyako

 

 

The J. Paul Getty Museum
1200 Getty Center Drive
Los Angeles, California 90049

Opening hours:
Tues – Friday 10 am – 5.30 pm
Saturday 10 am – 9 pm
Sunday 10 am – 5.30 pm
Monday closed

The J. Paul Getty Museum website

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13
Jan
13

Exhibition: ‘William Klein + Daido Moriyama’ at the Tate Modern, London

Exhibition dates: 10th October 2012 – 20th January 2013

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Many thankx to the Tate Modern for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. More Daido Moriyama photographs can be found on my 2012 posting Fracture: Daido Moriyama at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and 2009 posting Daido Moriyama: Tokyo Photographs at Philadelphia Museum of Art.

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William Klein. 'Candy Store, New York' 1955

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William Klein
Candy Store, New York
1955
© William Klein

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William Klein. 'Pray + Sin, New York' 1954

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William Klein
Pray + Sin, New York
1954
© William Klein

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William. 'Klein, Bikini, Moscow' 1959

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William Klein
Bikini, Moscow
1959
© William Klein

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William Klein. 'Piazza di Spagna, Rome' 1960

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William Klein
Piazza di Spagna, Rome
1960
© William Klein

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William Klein. 'Gun 1, New York' 1955

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William Klein
Gun 1, New York
1955
© William Klein

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“Explore modern urban life in New York and Tokyo through the photographs of William Klein and Daido Moriyama. This is the first exhibition to look at the relationship between the work of influential photographer and filmmaker Klein, and that of Moriyama, the most celebrated photographer to emerge from the Japanese Provoke movement of the 1960s. With work from the 1950s to the present day, the exhibition demonstrates the visual affinity between their urgent, blurred and grainy style of photography and also their shared desire to convey street life and political protest, from anti-war demonstrations and gay pride marches to the effects of globalisation and urban deprivation. Taking as its central theme the cities of New York and Tokyo, William Klein + Daido Moriyama explores both artists’ celebrated depictions of modern urban life.

The exhibition is formed of two retrospectives side by side, bringing together over 300 works, including vintage prints, contact sheets, film stills, photographic installations and archival material. The influence of Klein’s seminal 1956 publication Life is Good & Good for You in New York, Trance Witness Revels, as well as his later books Tokyo 1964 and Rome: The City and Its People 1959, is traced through Moriyama’s radical depictions of post-war Tokyo in Sayonara Photography and The Hunter 1972. The juxtaposition of these artists not only demonstrates the visual affinity between their urgent, blurred and grainy style of photography, but also their shared desire to convey street life and political protest, from anti-war demonstrations and student protests to the effects of globalisation and urban deprivation.

This exhibition also considers the medium and dissemination of photography itself, exploring the central role of the photo-book in avant-garde photography and the pioneering use of graphic design within these publications. As well the issues of Provoke magazine in which Moriyama and his contemporaries showcased their work, the exhibition includes fashion photography from Klein’s work with Vogue and installations relating to his satirical films Mister Freedom and Who Are You Polly Maggoo? New ways of presenting photography are also demonstrated by Moriyama’s installation Polaroid/Polaroid 1997, which recreates his studio interior through a meticulous arrangement of Polaroid images.”

Press release from the Tate Modern website

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'William Klein + Daido Moriyama' exhibition banner

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William Klein + Daido Moriyama exhibition banner

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Daido Moriyama. 'Misawa' 1971

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Daido Moriyama
Misawa
1971
© Daido Moriyama

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Daido Moriyama. 'Tokyo' 2011

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Daido Moriyama
Tokyo
2011
Courtesy Daido Moriyama Photo Foundation
© Daido Moriyama

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Daido Moriyama. 'Another Country in New York' 1971

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Daido Moriyama
Another Country in New York
1971
Tokyo Polytechnic University
© Daido Moriyama

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Tate Modern
Bankside
London SE1 9TG

Opening hours:
Sunday – Thursday, 10.00 – 18.00
Friday – Saturday, 10.00 – 22.00

Tate Modern website

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16
Oct
11

Essay / review: ‘In camera and in public’ at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Exhibition dates:  16th September – 23rd October 2011

Curator: Naomi Cass

Artists: ASIO de-classified photos and footage, Denis Beaubois (France/Australia), Luc Delahaye (France), Cherine Fahd (Australia), Percy Grainger (Australia/USA), Bill Henson (Australia), Sonia Leber and David Chesworth (Australia), Walid Raad (Lebanon/USA), Kohei Yoshiyuki (Japan)

 

 

Persons Of Interest - ASIO surveillance 1949 -1980. 'Author Frank Hardy in the doorway of the Building Workers Industrial Union, 535 George St, Sydney, August 1955'

 

Persons Of Interest – ASIO surveillance 1949-1980
Author Frank Hardy in the doorway of the Building Workers Industrial Union, 535 George St, Sydney, August 1955
NAA A9626, 212

 

 

Un/aware and in re/pose: the self, the subject and the city

Keywords of essay: surveillance, surveillance photography, the gaze, the camera, photography, stolen images, voyeurism, scopophilia, public/private, disciplinary systems, facework, civil inattention, portrait, social history, persons of interest, the city, the self, subject, awareness, repose, reciprocity, the spectacle, the spectator.

 

 

“The paradox is the more we seek to fix our vision of the world and to control it the less sure we are as to who we are and what our place is in the world.”

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Marcus Bunyan 2011

 

“Stare. It is the way to educate your eye, and more. Stare, pry, listen, eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You are not here long.”

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Walker Evans

 

“Texts that testify do not simply report facts but, in different ways, encounter – and make us encounter – strangeness.”

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Shoshana Felman and Dori Laub 1

 

 

Curated by Naomi Cass as part of the Melbourne Festival, this is a brilliant exhibition at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne. The exhibition explores, “the fraught relationship between the camera and the subject: where the image is stolen, candid or where the unspoken contract between photographer and subject is broken in some way – sometimes to make art, sometimes to do something malevolent.”2 It examines the promiscuity of gazes in public/private space specifically looking at surveillance, voyeurism, desire, scopophilia, secret photography and self-reflexivity. It investigates the camera and its moral and physical relationship to the unsuspecting subject. Does the camera see something different if the subject is unaware? Is the viewer complicit in the process as they (repeatedly) stare at the photographs? Are we all implicated in a kind of “mass social surveillance” based on Foucault’s concept of the self-regulating disciplinary society, a society that is watched from a single, panoptic vantage point (that of the omnipresent camera lens) and through the agency of the watchers watching each other?3 More on this later in the writing.

 

To the left

A selection of photographs from the series The Sleepers by Cherine Fahd, A4 sized black and white photographs of homeless people, asleep on the grass in a park, taken in secret from a sixth floor apartment in Kings Cross, Sydney. Fahd “went to great pains to make sure her subjects were anonymous, unidentifiable, their faces turned away”4 resulting in photographs of corpse-like bodies on contextless backgrounds – wrapped, isolated, entwined, covered in shadow, the bodies disorientated in space and consequently disorientating the gaze of the viewer.

 

To the right

A selection of photographs from the Crowd Series (1980-82) by Bill Henson. Snapped in secret these black and white journalistic surveillance photographs (‘taken’ in an around Flinders Street railway station in Melbourne) have a brooding intensity and melancholic beauty. Henson uses a flattened perspective that is opposed to the principles of linear perspective in these photographs. Known as The Art of Describing5 and much used in Dutch still life painting of the 17th century to give equal weight to objects within the image plane, here Henson uses the technique to emphasise the mass and jostle of the crowd with their “waiting, solemn and compliant” people.

“When exhibiting the full series, Henson arranges the works into small groupings that create an overall effect of aberrant movement and fragmentation. From within these bustling clusters of images, individual faces emerge like spectres of humanity that will once again dissolve into the crowd … all apparently adrift in the flow of urban life. The people in these images have an anonymity that allows them to represent universal human experiences of alienation, mortality and fatigue.”6

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Henson states, “The great beauty in the subject comes, for me, from the haunted space, that unbridgeable gap – which separates the profound intimacy and solitude of our interior world from the ‘other’… The business of how a child’s small hand appearing between two adults at a street crossing can suggest both a vulnerability, great tenderness, and yet also contain within it all of the power that beauty commands, is endlessly fascinating to me.”7 His observation is astute but for me it is the un/awareness of the people in these photographs that are their beauty, their insertion into the crowd but their isolation from the crowd and from themselves. As Maggie Finch observes, it is “that feeling of being both alone and private in a crowd, thus free but also exposed.”8

In the sociologist Erving Goffman’s terms the photographs can be seen as examples of what he calls “civil inattention”9 which is a carefully monitored demonstration of what might be called polite estrangement, the “facework” as we glance at people in the crowd, holding the gaze of the other only briefly, then looking ahead as each passes the other.

“Civil inattention is the most basic type of facework commitment involved in encounters with strangers in circumstances of modernity. It involves not just the use of the face itself, but the subtle employment of bodily posture and positioning which gives off the message “you may trust me to be without hostile intent” – in the street, public buildings, trains or buses, or at ceremonial gatherings, parties, or other assemblies. Civil inattention is TRUST as ‘background noise’ – not as a random collection of sounds, but as carefully restrained and controlled social rhythms. It is characteristic of what Goffman calls “unfocused interaction.””10

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This is what I believe Henson’s photographs are about. Not so much the tenderness of the child’s hand but a fear of engagement with the ‘other’. As such they can be seen as image precursors to the absence/presence of contemporary communication and music technologies. How many times do people talk on their mobile phone or listen to iPods in crowds, on trams and trains, physically present but absenting themselves from interaction with other people. Here but not here; here and there. The body is immersed in absent presence, present and not present, conscious and not conscious, aware and yet not aware of the narratives of a ‘recipro/city failure’. A failure to engage with the light of place, the time of exposure and an attentiveness to the city.

As Susan Stewart insightfully observes,

“To walk in the city is to experience the disjuncture of partial vision/partial consciousness … The walkers of the city travel at different speeds, their steps like handwriting of a personal mobility. In the milling of the crowd is the choking of class relations, the interruption of speed, and the machine.”11

 

On a pedestal

Travelling in the city, in a machine (in this case a subway train) is the subject of the next body of work in the exhibition, represented by the book L’Autre (The Other) by French artist Luc Delahaye.12 Using a hidden camera Delahaye photographs the commuters faces in repose.

“I stole these photographs between ’95 and ’97 in the Paris metro. ‘Stole’ because it is against the law to take them, it’s forbidden. The law states that everyone owns their own image. But our image, this worthless alias of ourselves, is everywhere without us knowing it. How and why can it be said to belong to us? But more importantly, there’s another rule, that non-aggression pact we all subscribe to: the prohibition against looking at others. Apart from the odd illicit glance, you keep staring at the wall. We are very much alone in these public places and there’s violence in this calm acceptance of a closed world.”13

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This is another example of Goffman’s civil inattention as Delahaye stares into the distance and feigns absence long enough to get his stolen photograph (much like Walker Evans earlier photographs of people on the New York subway photographed with Evans’s camera concealed inside his overcoat).14 Here the photographs are much closer cropped than Evans’, allowing the viewer no escape from staring at the stolen faces. The faces seen in repose remind me of the composite portraits of criminals and the diseased, Specimens of Composite Portraiture c. 1883 by Sir Francis Galton, remembering that one of the earliest scientific functions of the camera was to document the likenesses of criminals, degenerates and other aberrant beings. We must also remember that, as Geoffrey Batchen suggests, “we are so used to the idea that we are always being watched that we might have turned our whole lives into “a grand, impenetrable pose” because we assume the camera eye is always present.”15

In the physiognomy of these faces the viewer is asked to assess a person’s character or personality from their outer appearance. While the viewer may be complicit in this task we must also remember that the photographer who stole these photographs has also re/posed these faces, choosing which people to secretly photograph and culling images that did not meet his conceptual project. We find no smiling or laughing faces in the book, no context is given (the photographs being tightly cropped on the body and face) and the phatic image, the one that grabs us has been manipulated, reposed and restaged for our edification. While the subject may be unaware of being photographed and their face may be in repose, this repose is as much a cultural construct as if they had known their photograph was being taken.

As John Berger and Jean Mohr write,

“The photographer choses the events he photographs. This choice can be thought of as a cultural construction. The space for this construction is, as it were, cleared by his rejection of what he did not choose to photograph.”16

 

On the wall in front

Series of images from Persons of Interest: ASIO surveillance photographs 1949-1980 taken in secret to record the state’s purported enemies (ASIO is the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, Australia’s national security service, which is responsible for the protection of the country and its citizens from espionage, sabotage, acts of foreign interference, politically-motivated violence, attacks on the Australian defence system, and terrorism). The photographs were not taken as art and served a purely utilitarian purpose, that of recording and documenting the conversations and movements of persons of interest to the powers that be. “The camera can’t change the world, but there’s an idea that it can protect us – hence surveillance, which promises to watch over us, and watch out for us, rather than merely watch.”17

According to Haydn Keenan, director of the documentary Persons of Interest “Surveillance secretly records an image of someone so that the recorder so that the recorder can have advantage over the subject. Sometimes it’s political, sometimes social, but the very essence of surveillance is the secret theft of the image.”18 Keenan goes on to identify four types of photographic surveillance:

  1. Photographs taken by ASIO agents who are known to the person of interest. These are particularly disconcerting because they are the kind of intimate photographs that you would see in a family album
  2. ASIO photographer taking photographs in public, at demos and public meetings, always happening to get the person of interest “in the frame” so to speak.
  3. Long lens photographs taken by setting up an observation post and then sitting down and waiting.
  4. Photographs taken by what was called a ‘butterbox’ – a camera concealed in another object like a briefcase.19

.
There are thousands of these images, photographs of people in the wrong place at the wrong time. The closely cropped black and white photographs have an intimacy and anonymity to them. They build up a mental image of the changing face of what the State saw as threat: Aboriginal land rights, gay rights, women’s liberation, anti-Vietnam demonstrations, youth culture, Communism – and now terrorism. These photographs evince an inherent suspicion about social issues and they had the power to dramatically alter lives (through the loss of work or home, through imprisonment). “Yet what ASIO didn’t realise is that they were constructing an invaluable social history of Australian dissent as they gradually confused subversion with dissent.”20 The eye of the beholder cast a dark shadow but one that would not remain private forever.

 

Around the corner

The largest series of the exhibition, The Park by Japanese photographer Kohei Yoshiyuki (1971-1979), features twenty-five luscious A3 sized black and white photographs with deep blacks, framed in thin white, wood frames. The photographs were taken in Japanese parks at night where fornicating couples use public space as private space. In most cases the couples were not aware they were being observed by voyeurs and if they were, “with exhibitionist complicity, they fornicate to an audience of peeping Toms.”21 What they were definitely not aware of was that they were being photographed. As Amelia Groom observes, “The levels of complicity, performativity and victimisation of the subjects remains ambiguous.”22

These informal, grainy, infra-red flash photographs, “were first published in 1972 in the popular ‘secret camera’ genre magazine Shukan Shincho and were not initially considered as art photography … however they also sit within a broad tradition of voyeurism in Japanese art.”23 Starting in mid-distance the photographs eventually close right in on the subject matter, tightly composed on the mass of hands going everywhere, the flash over exposing various elements of the infra-red composition. The photographs are most effective when the viewer does not see the object of desire, but is positioned behind the voyeur who is hidden behind the hedge, looking. The viewpoint of the erotic act is denied, is out of shot/sight. We are literally “lined up right behind Yoshiyuki in the chain of voyeurism”24 imbibing the camera’s active, desiring masculine gaze. “Looking at Yoshiyuki’s images induces an uneasiness that has something to do with seeing the seer looking while seeing ourselves being seen looking.”25 The photographs are multiply voyeuristic, implicating the watchers, the photographer and us.26 But they implicate us only as part of a larger cultural signification.

Penny Modra in The Sunday Age M magazine observes of these photographs that, “you are a peeping Tom peeping at peeping Toms peeping at people.”27 I believe it is more than that. The definition of “peeping” is that of stealing a quick glance; to peer through a small aperture or from behind something (peering through a small aperture number is quite an appropriate metaphor since we are dealing with the photographic lens). While this may be true of the act of photography itself it is not true of the process of photography that took place to get the photographer to the point of exposure. Yoshiyuki himself “assembled the story of his association with the park voyeurs and details how the series was shot after spending six months getting to know those observers in the shrubbery.”28 Much as Diane Arbus befriended the subjects in her photographs, Yoshiyuki, rather than having a furtive glance of desire, planned his series using the all seeing narrative eye trained on its target over several months. He positions his subject squarely in his line of sight. And while a voyeur “can be defined as a person who observes without participation, a powerless or passive spectator … a photographer, contemplating a nude or any sexual subject is also a voyeur, but someone with a camera, or the means to distribute a photograph, is not entirely passive or powerless.”29 This power can be seen in the fame that the series has bought the photographer, his infamous series now heralded around the world.

 

At the centre

Black and white ‘snapshot’ photographs from the series Lust Branch by Percy Grainger, printed between 1933 and 1942, that document his sadomasochistic sexual practices including ‘self beating’ which he believed were intrinsic to his creativity. The envelope containing some of the photographs was marked “Private Matters: Do Not Open Until 10 (ten) Years After My Death.” The archive has the quality of forensic records as it documents, in a quasi-scientific Victorian tradition, evidence of his proclivities, his normalcy. The dark 4″ x 5″ brown-toned photographs show Grainger posing in a domestic setting (in Kansas) with a chair and also show the use of a suspended mirror to document his fustigations. Robert Nelson states that the shock of these images isn’t the flagellantism itself but that we’re looking at it. “The transgression isn’t the perversity but the breach of privacy the composer orchestrated: he lashed himself not only with a whip but a camera.”30 Personally I don’t register this shock as S/M practices have regularly been part of my life. What I find more disquieting is people who try to define what is normal and what should be recorded or not and by whom and who gets to see them.

I vividly remember going to the Minor White archive at Princeton University and seeing photographs of erect penises taken by White (who was gay) and thinking why I hadn’t seen these photographs before. The shock was not of seeing them but the fact that they were still hidden and had never been reproduced. Similarly, at The Kinsey Institute there are colour photographs of 1950s physique magazine body builders having full on sex, never to be seen in public. Also at the Kinsey are erotic photographs by the gay George Platt Lynes, taken for his own pleasure but never exhibited in public.31 Lynes had to resort to sending his erotic work to an early German pornographic magazine to get the photographs published. Taking these photographs is not a breach of privacy but an expression of normalcy, freedom and creativity.

 

In conclusion

“The idea of a photographic ‘gaze’ relates to a specific way of looking, and being looked at through the camera, and implies a certain psychological relationship of power and control.”32 Foucault’s analysis of the gaze as a means of surveillance, which is predatory and controlling, used to classify and discipline, allows the camera and mirror to be equated as tools of self-reflection and surveillance, where the double (created through self-reflection and surveillance) can be alienated from the self, taken away (like a photograph) for closer examination.33 Victor Burgin in his seminal 1977 essay Looking at photographs “argues that the ‘recording eye’ of the camera sets it apart from the subject at which it looks. The camera creates an ordering device which ‘depicts a scene and the gaze of the spectator, an object and a viewing subject.’“34 The camera’s gaze is not passive, it is active; it imparts its own subjectivity forming a triangular relationship between the object being photographed, camera and photographer. It has its own reality.

In a society where we are living in the age of ubiquitous networked photography35 the borders between public and private are collapsing. The idea that the gazer is able to see but not be seen; in essence, that the looking is anonymous36 is becoming a fallacy. Everything, even the watcher, becomes visible (after an ever shorter time). The separation that takes place between the looker and the looked-at is disappearing; we all know we are being watched even as we watch (and post) ourselves. “The act of seeing and the thing seen, the seer and the spectacle … are [becoming] one.”37

I would suggest that there is no fixed definition of private and public. For example even after people sign out from Facebook the sites they visit are still tracked.38 Anything that you post on Facebook, the music you like – if you just listen to it, Facebook takes it to mean that you approve of it and distributes it too your friends. Similarly with CCTV, ASIO images, mobile phone images, what is thought of as an invasion of privacy is eventually made public through FOI, leaking, teenage girls posting online (Ricky Nixon) etc … As noted earlier someone with a camera, or the means to distribute a photograph, is not entirely passive or powerless.

Even as the photographer “lifts” the object of his attention with his machine, the camera, he “takes” a picture, “and in so doing he makes a claim for that object or that composition, and a claim for his act of seeing in the first place … transposing a particular and emphatically personal point of view”39 and making a claim for the very act of seeing itself. The thing itself (the object photographed) and the way the photographer looks at it cannot be separated. In other words, in constant oscillation, we stand behind but also in front of the metaphorical camera: “I am nothing; I see all.”40

We know that we are being monitored and so we conform; even if no one is there, even if we cannot see the guard (as in Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon prison) we suspect we are being watched and so self regulate our behaviour. “And yet, our contemporary society … has ironically embraced surveillance … This is most apparent in social media where millions of people regularly upload their most intimate moments via webcam … we happily embrace the mechanisms devised to control us and turn them into a kind of freefall celebration.”41

“It is though the millions of people, artists or not, who produce and publish images of themselves, their friends, surroundings and ideas in a sort of mass social surveillance (while often being tracked by the devices they are using) are implicated … in surveillance as a source of entertainment and personal gratification.”42

Surveillance, sousveillance as the sight of (perverse) resistance.

.
These contradictory, constantly shifting contemporary information and image flows tends to erode the moral authority of any social order, patriarchal or otherwise, opening up an expanded and abstracted terrain of becoming. Images exceed, incorporate or reverse the values that are presumed to reside within them.43 These phatic images, for that is what they are – targeted images that force you to look and hold your attention – “produce a ‘message-intensification’ within the visual image that accentuates pictorial detail while simultaneously forcing image context and location to recede or disappear. The phatic image is at once technically-mediated, manipulable, intensified and perhaps most importantly for [Paul] Virilio de-localized.”44 This can be observed in bodies of work in this exhibition: most have no image context or defined location while intensifying their message through close-up details. All have been circulated around the world for consumption. Vision is everywhere and nowhere at one and the same time.

The person who gazes is not unfamiliar with the world upon which he looks; he understands the image as seen from without as another would see it, in the midst of the visible.45 No longer is the image seen or considered from a certain spot. That vision is decentred by the networks of signifiers that come to me from the social milieu …

“The viewing subject does not stand at the center of the perceptual horizon, and cannot command the chains and series of signifiers passing across the visual domain. Vision unfolds to the side of, in tangent to, the field of the other. And to that form of seeing Lacan gives a name: seeing on the field of the other, seeing under the Gaze.”46

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While the self and environment are under constant surveillance in an attempt to resemble the truth, to re-assemble the referentiality of the image, it is not the breakdown of an already existing web of visuality (the disciplinary gaze of surveillance) but the wilful amending of its intent that opens up new terrains of becoming. In the public city it is the publicity of the image that will continue to thwart the controlling eye. We are all actors in a performative space, transforming the gaze and collapsing its vision into the tactile worlds of virtual reality (Ron Burnett), “engaging with ideas of pose, of masquerade, of performance, of witness and record as they transact across increasingly contingent boundaries of private and public, fact and artifice,”47 to question who we become in the necessarily public register of the photographic – the public register of memory and history.48

Each enframing of reality opens up the possibility of new discourses. The paradox is the more we seek to fix our vision of the world and to control it the less sure we are as to who we are and what our place is in the world. Does the painting emerge from the figure or the figure from the painting?

Does the image/reality emerge from the image …

.
Dr Marcus Bunyan

Word count: 3,870

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Many thank to the CCP and Naomi Cass for allowing me to publish the text and photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. Text © Centre for Contemporary Photography 2011.

 

Endnotes

  1. Felman, Shoshana and Laub, Dori. Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History. London: Routledge, 1992, p. 5 quoted in  Fisher, Jean. “Witness for the Prosecution: The Writings of Coco Fusco,” in Fusco, Coco. The Bodies That Were Not Ours. London: Routledge, 2001, pp. 227-228
  2. Stephens, Andrew. “Who’s watching you?” in The Saturday Age. 23rd September 2011 [Online] Cited 14/10/2011
  3. Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Translated from the French by Alan Sheridan. New York: Pantheon Books, 1977 cited in McDonald, Helen. “It’s Rude to Stare,” Footnote 9 in Radok, Stephanie (ed.,). Artlink: Art & Surveillance. South Australia: Artlink, Vol. 31, No. 3, 2011, p. 25
  4. Stephens, Op. cit.,
  5. See Alpers, Svetlana. The Art of Describing: Dutch Art in the Seventeenth Century. University Of Chicago Press, 1984
  6. AnonBILL HENSON: early work from the MGA collection. Education Resource. A Monash Gallery of Art Travelling Exhibition [Online] Cited 14/10/2011. No longer available online
  7. Henson, Bill quoted in the exhibition catalogue. First published as a pdf for the exhibition In camera and in public. Curated by Naomi Cass. Centre for Contemporary Photography, 16 September – 23 October 2011
  8. Stephens, Op. cit.,
  9. See  Goffman, E. Behaviour in Public Places. New York: Free Press, 1963
  10. Giddens, Anthony. The Consequences of Modernity. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1991, pp. 82-83
  11. Stewart, Susan. On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection. Durham: Duke University Press, 1993, p. 2. Prologue
  12. Delahaye, Luc. L’Autre. Phaidon Press, 1999
  13. Delahaye, Luc quoted in the exhibition catalogue. First published as a pdf for the exhibition In camera and in public. Curated by Naomi Cass. Centre for Contemporary Photography, 16 September – 23 October 2011
  14. Morrison, Blake. “Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance and the Camera,” on the The Guardian website 22nd May 2011 [Online] Cited 14/10/2011
  15. Stephens, Op. cit.,
  16. Berger, John and Mohr, Jean. Another Way of Telling. New York: Pantheon Books, 1982, pp. 92-93
  17. Morrison, Op. cit.,
  18. Keenan, Haydn. “A Job for the Dogs,” in Radok, Stephanie (ed.,). Artlink: Art & Surveillance. South Australia: Artlink, Vol. 31, No. 3, 2011, p. 18
  19. Ibid.,
  20. Keenan, Haydn quoted in the exhibition catalogue. First published as a pdf for the exhibition In camera and in public. Curated by Naomi Cass. Centre for Contemporary Photography, 16 September – 23 October 2011
  21. Nelson, Robert. “Snapped in the moment – forever,” in The Age newspaper. Wednesday, October 5th 2011, p. 19
  22. Groom, Amelia. “Seeing Darkness,” in Kohei Yoshiyuki: The Park. Institute of Modern Art pamphlet for the exhibition
  23. Cass, Naomi quoted in the exhibition catalogue. First published as a pdf for the exhibition In camera and in public. Curated by Naomi Cass. Centre for Contemporary Photography, 16 September – 23 October 2011
  24. Groom, Op. cit.,
  25. Ibid.,
  26. Goldberg, Vicky. “Voyeurism Exposed,” on Artnet magazine website. 2010 [Online] Cited 14/10/2011
  27. Modra, Penny. The Sunday Age M magazine. September 25th, 2011
  28. Gefter, Philip. “Sex in the Park, and its Sneaky Spectators,” in The New York Times, 23rd September 2007 cited in Lida, Shihoko. “Gaze without Subjectivity: Kohei Yoshiyuki and Yoko Asakai,” Footnote 4 in Radok, Stephanie (ed.,). Artlink: Art & Surveillance. South Australia: Artlink, Vol. 31, No. 3, 2011, p. 28
  29. Goldberg, Op. cit.,
  30. Nelson, Op cit.,
  31. See Bunyan, Marcus, “Thesis Notes II – Research Notes and Papers: Research Notes on the Photographs from the Collection at The Minor White Archive and The Kinsey Insitute,” in Pressing the Flesh: Sex, Body Image and the Gay Male. 2001 [Online] Cited 14/10/2011. Click on the menu on the left hand side
  32. Finch, Maggie. Looking at Looking. Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 2011, p. 2
  33. Ibid.,
  34. Burgin, Victor, “Looking at photographs,” in Burgin, Victor (ed.,). Thinking Photography. London: Macmillan Education, 1987, p. 146 quoted in Finch, Maggie. Looking at Looking. Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 2011, p. 3
  35. Palmer, Daniel and Whyte, Jessica. “‘No credible photographic interest’: photographic restrictions and surveillance in a time of terror,” in Philosophy of Photography Vol. 1, No. 2, 2010, p. 182
  36. Mulvey, Laura. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings in Braudy, Leo and Cohen, Marshall (eds.,). New York: Oxford UP, 1999, pp. 833-44 cited in Boen, Ashley. “The Male Pornographic Gaze,” on Boen, Ashley. Cultures of the Camera: The Male Gaze website [Online] Cited 15/10/2011. No longer available online
  37. Parrington, Vernon Louis. Main Currents in American Thought 1927-1930. New York: Harcourt Brace and Co., 1930 quoted in Blinder, Caroline. “”The Transparent Eyeball”: On Emerson and Walker Evans,” Footnote 11 in Mosaic: a Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature. Winnipeg: Dec 2004. Vol. 37, Iss. 4; pg. 149, 15 pgs
  38. Bloomberg. “Facebook in tracking suit,” in The Age newspaper. Monday, October 3rd 2011, p. 3
  39. Blinder, Caroline. “”The Transparent Eyeball”: On Emerson and Walker Evans,” Footnote 11 in Mosaic : a Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature. Winnipeg: Dec 2004. Vol. 37, Iss. 4; pg. 149, 15 pgs
  40. Ibid.,
  41. Marsh, Anne. “Surveillance Art: Genre and Political Action,” in Radok, Stephanie (ed.,). Artlink: Art & Surveillance. South Australia: Artlink, Vol. 31, No. 3, 2011, p. 57
  42. King, Natalie and Fraser, Virginia. “People Who Love To Watch,” in Radok, Stephanie (ed.,). Artlink: Art & Surveillance. South Australia: Artlink, Vol. 31, No. 3, 2011, p. 15
  43. Lumby, Catharine. “Nothing Personal: Sex, Gender and Identity in The Media Age,” in Matthews, Jill (ed.,). Sex in Public: Australian Sexual Cultures. St. Leonards: Allen and Unwin, 1997, pp. 14-15
  44. Virilio, Paul. “A topographical amnesia,” in The Vision Machine. London: British Film Institute, 1994 cited in Thumlert, Kurt. Intervisuality, Visual Culture, and Education. [Online] Cited 10/10/2011. No longer available online
  45. Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. Le Visible et l’invisible. Paris: 1964, p. 177 (trans. by Alphonso Lingis, Evanston, 1968, p. 134) quoted in Damisch, Hubert. The Origin of Perspective. (trans. John Goodman). Cambridge, MA.: MIT Press, 1994, pp. 34-35
  46. Foster, Hal (ed.,). Vision and Visuality. Bay Press, Seattle: Dia Art Foundation Discussions in Contemporary Culture, Number 2, 1988, p. 94
  47. French, Blair. “The Things That Bill Sees,” catalogue essay from the exhibition Perfect Strangers. Canberra: Canberra Contemporary Art Space, 2000, np.
  48. Ibid.,

 

 

Cherine Fahd. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Sleepers' 2005-2008

 

Cherine Fahd (Australian, b. 1974)
Untitled
From the series The Sleepers
2005 – 2008
Lightjet print
28.5 × 40.2 cm
Courtesy the artist

 

Cherine Fahd. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Sleepers' 2005-2008

 

Cherine Fahd (Australian, b. 1974)
Untitled
From the series The Sleepers
2005 – 2008
Lightjet print
28.5 × 40.2 cm
Courtesy the artist

 

 

In 2003 I began photographing people I didn’t know in the streets of Paris, working in a conventional street photography style. I became a prowler searching for photographic opportunities in the faces and gestures of total strangers, fascinated with capturing private moments within the public realm.

In 2005 I was living on the sixth floor of an apartment in Kings Cross, Sydney, below was a park unadorned by play equipment or even a bench. From my window I could see homeless people asleep on the grass in the middle of the day. What struck me most were their bodies resting in dappled light and gesturing in ways usually saved for private moments. The drape of their clothes and the quality of light reminded me of so many paintings I had seen.

So The Sleepers began. I photographed people asleep in the park with my mini DV camera, which allowed me to zoom in and capture detail but also allowed for a grainy image reminiscent of surveillance footage. In the sleeping posture – curled up or lying flat – people generally covered their faces, ensuring their anonymity. I liked this aspect of the work. Although I was photographing them unawares, I wasn’t really intruding if I couldn’t see their faces. Oddly, I have stopped working in this candid way. I wasn’t sure why at the time. In retrospect I understand that it became too difficult because audiences became obsessed with whether I had permission to photograph people. I never considered asking anyone if I could take their photo. It would have defeated the whole point. People change when they know there is a camera present, better to let them be.

The moral dilemmas engulfing candid photography are not something I am interested in addressing in my work. I would much rather ponder whether their faces, or their bodies, or their gestures are cues to something more mysterious, spiritual and human.

Cherine Fahd 2011 text from the exhibition catalogue

 

Kohei Yoshiyuki. 'Untitled' 1971 From the series 'The Park'

 

Kohei Yoshiyuki (Japanese, b. 1946)
Untitled
1971
From the series The Park
Gelatin Silver Print
© Kohei Yoshiyuki, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

 

Kohei Yoshiyuki. 'Untitled' 1971 From the series 'The Park'

 

Kohei Yoshiyuki (Japanese, b. 1946)
Untitled
1971
From the series The Park
Gelatin Silver Print
© Kohei Yoshiyuki, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

 

Yosi Milo Gallery Kohei Yoshiyuki artist
Untitled 1971, 1972, 1973, 1979 from the series The Park
Edition various of 10
25 gelatin silver prints
40.64 – 50.8 cm
Courtesy the artist and Yossi Milo Gallery, New York
Kohei Yoshiyuki: The Park is presented in association with the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane

 

 

Kohei Yoshiyuki’s now infamous documentation of voyeurism features confronting photographs of public space clandestinely used as private space at night: Japanese parks where, in the absence of privacy, young people perform intimate acts while being watched by onlookers.

During the 1970s, young commercial photographer Kohei Yoshiyuki (a pseudonym; his real name remains unknown) frequented Tokyo’s Shinjuku, Yoyogi and Aoyama parks at night with a 35mm camera, infrared film and a flash. Photographed over a decade, the series was exhibited at the Komai Gallery in Tokyo in 1979 where the images were printed life-size and exhibited in the dark while visitors used hand held torches to view the photographs. These prints were subsequently destroyed.1

Images from The Park were first published in 1972 in the popular ‘secret camera’ genre magazine Shukan Shincho and were not initially considered as art photography.2 However, Yoshiyuki’s series also sits within a broad tradition of voyeurism in Japanese art, including eighteenth and nineteenth century erotic ukiyo-e prints and in cinema.

In 1980 Yoshiyuki published a further selection and, in 1989, he wrote about the process of getting to know the park voyeurs. In 2006 Yoshiyuki was included in Martin Parr’s publication The Photobook: A History: Volume 2 as an unknown innovator, prompting Yossi Milo Gallery to track down the reclusive artist and convince him to reprint the remaining negatives for what became a highly successful exhibition in 2007.

Of the relationship between couples and voyeur Yoshiyuki wrote: ‘The couples were not aware of the voyeurs in most cases. The voyeurs try to look at the couple from a distance … then slowly approach toward the couple behind the bushes, and from the blind spots of the couple they try to come as close as possible, and finally peep from a very close distance. But sometimes there are the voyeurs who try to touch … and gradually escalating – then trouble would happen.’3

Naomi Cass text from the exhibition catalogue

 

  1. Amelia Groom. ‘Seeing Darkness’, in Kohei Yoshiyuki: The Park exhibition catalogue, IMA, Brisbane, July 2011
  2. Shihoko Iida, ‘Gaze without subjectivity’, Artlink: Art and Surveillance, 31: 3, 2011, p. 28
  3. Philip Gefter, ‘Sex in the Park, and its Sneaky Spectators’, The New York Times, 23 Sept 2007

 

Luc Delahaye. 'Untitled' from the series 'L'Autre' 1995/1997

 

Luc Delahaye (French, b. 1962)
Untitled
1995/1997
From the series L’Autre
Courtesy the artist and Galerie Nathalie Obadia

 

 

I stole these photographs between ’95 and ’97 in the Paris metro. ‘Stole’ because it is against the law to take them, it’s forbidden. The law states that everyone owns their own image. But our image, this worthless alias of ourselves, is everywhere without us knowing it. How and why can it be said to belong to us? But more importantly, there’s another rule, that non-aggression pact we all subscribe to: the prohibition against looking at others. Apart from the odd illicit glance, you keep staring at the wall. We are very much alone in these public places and there’s violence in this calm acceptance of a closed world.

I am sitting in front of someone to record his image, the form of evidence, but just like him I too stare into the distance and feign absence. I try to be like him. It’s all a sham, a necessary lie lasting long enough to take a picture. If to look is to be free, the same holds true for photographing: I hold my breath and let the shutter go.

Luc Delahaye, from L’Autre, Phaidon Press, London, 1999 text from the exhibition catalogue

 

Luc Delahaye. 'Untitled' from the series 'L'Autre' 1995/1997

 

Luc Delahaye (French, b. 1962)
Untitled
1995/1997
From the series L’Autre
Courtesy the artist and Galerie Nathalie Obadia

 

 

To photograph people is to violate them, by seeing them as they never see themselves, by having knowledge of them that they can never have; it turns people into objects that can be symbolically possessed. Just as a camera is a sublimation of the gun, to photograph someone is a subliminal murder – a soft murder, appropriate to a sad, frightened time.

.
Susan Sontag On Photography 1977

 

 

In camera and in pubic is about the relationship between camera and subject when this is fraught in some way, in particular, where the subject is not aware of being photographed, where the contract between photographer and subject has been broken.

Candid photography has been critical in the development of art and evidential photography, in revealing aspects of our history and society which have been hidden, ignored, lied about or simply abandoned. Candid photography has delivered some of the most widely regarded, potent and treasured images.

However, the camera is merely a technical device and some would even say a dumb device, which can be, and is used for contradictory and malicious ends. Candid photography has also hurt, harmed and destroyed people. There are more images in the world than ever before, and image sharing technologies in the hands of those with subversive, destructive or immature desires. Paradoxically, on one hand there is greater access to unmediated information of all genres through the internet but also a counter move of public disquiet about candid photography. Many well-regarded, indeed renowned photographers will no longer photograph at the beach, by a pubic pool, at a junior sports match, on the street. The context for photography has changed.

This exhibition looks at the physical and moral proximity of camera to subject in both historical and contemporary work by Cherine Fahd, Bill Henson, Luc Delahaye, Sonia Leber and David Chesworth, Kohei Yoshiyuki, Denis Beaubois, Percy Grainger, Walid Raad and declassified ASIO images from the late 1940s to the 1980s.

In viewing In camera… it is sobering to consider where the photographer is positioned, to viscerally experience the proximity of camera to unsuspecting subject because, importantly, the exhibition moves from candid photography taken with the sole intention of making art (Henson, Fahd, Delahaye, Leber and Chesworth, Raad and Yoshiyuki) through to the intention of surveillance. Not surprisingly, on first view, even the declassified ASIO images are compelling and beautiful.

Of the artists, the viewer might well ask, have you obtained permission to photograph? But as we all know the unprepared body and face reveals quite a different story than the figure composed for the camera. It is the non-composed figure which is the lifeblood of much art and photography.

Surveillance is in part the subject of work by Denis Beaubois, Walid Raad and to some extent in Leber and Chesworth’s multi-media work. Certainly Beaubois, Leber and Chesworth consider the role of architectural space and the all-seeing eye of the state and in the latter, the eye of god within the panopticon of the domed cathedral. Walid Raad puts the tedium of surveillance in perspective when his fictional operative repeatedly forgoes his designated work to relish the setting sun.

In camera and in public exploits the form of CCP’s nautilus galleries and reflects the progress of the camera turned towards an unsuspecting subject until Gallery 4 where, in the hand of Percy Grainger, the camera is turned towards himself, in an astonishing series of vintage photographs, possibly created for display in the Grainger Museum. ‘In camera’ and in public, indeed. In 1941 Grainger wrote, “Most museums, most cultural endeavours, suffer from being subjected to too much taste, too much elimination, too much selection, too much specialisation! What we want (in museums and cultural records) is all-sidedness, side lights, crossreferences.”

We all love to stare, to linger, to see what we might have missed, and with advancing technologies, to see what is unavailable to the naked human eye, and here lies the problem. In looking at these images, are we implicated in an act of transgression?”

Text Naomi Cass September 2011 from the exhibition catalogue

 

Denis Beaubois. 'In the event of Amnesia the city will recall…' 1996-1997

 

Denis Beaubois (Mauritius, b. 1970)
In the event of Amnesia the city will recall…
1996-1997
DVD
9 mins 30 secs
Courtesy the artist

 

 

This work explores the relationship between the individual and the metropolis. Twelve sites were selected around the city of Sydney where surveillance cameras are prominently placed, the locations were mapped out and the stage for this work was created. A daily pilgrimage was made to the sites for a period of three days. No permission was sought for the use of these sites. The performer arrived unannounced and carried out his actions. Upon arrival the performer attempted to engage with the electronic eye. The performer’s actions were directed to the camera, which adopted the role of audience.

The primary audience was the surveillance camera (or those who monitor them). Their willingness to observe is not based upon the longing for entertainment. It stems from a necessity to assess and monitor designated terrain. Imbued with a watchdog consciousness, the primary audience scans the field for suspects, clues and leads. Like many audiences, it assesses the scene and attempts to pre-empt the plot. However this audience is extremely discerning and, ultimately, by assessing and reacting to the event it also adopts the role of performer.

Within this metropolis the walls do not have ears but are equipped with eyes. The city must understand the movements of those who dwell within its domain. To successfully achieve this it must be capable of reading its inhabitants. What can be read can be controlled in theory. Yet the city’s eyes are not content following the narrative provided by its inhabitants. The city weaves its own text within the surface narrative. A paranoid fiction based on foresight.

Denis Beaubois 1997 text from the exhibition catalogue

 

Denis Beaubois. 'In the event of Amnesia the city will recall…' 1996-1997

 

Denis Beaubois (Mauritius, b. 1970)
In the event of Amnesia the city will recall…
1996-1997
DVD
9 mins 30 secs
Courtesy the artist

 

 

In camera and in public represents a very different approach to this year’s Festival theme of protest and revolution. Taking a look at society through the lens of the state, the street photographer, the artist and the eye of the voyeur, this exhibition curated by Naomi Cass examines the abandonment of the contract between photographer and subject.

Ranging from candid street photography through to surveillance photography, In camera explores the camera and its relationship to the subject, unaware of being photographed. From images taken in public spaces, including a series of striking faces taken on the Paris metro, the exhibition proceeds to the grainy anxiety of declassified ASIO photos from the 1960s.

Kohei Yoshiyuki’s now infamous documentation of voyeurism, The Park (1970-1979), features confronting photographs of public space clandestinely used as private space at night: Japanese parks where, in the absence of privacy, young people perform intimate acts while being watched by onlookers.

At the heart of CCP galleries are Percy Grainger’s extraordinary naked self-portraits from his so-called ‘lust branch’ collection, hand printed by Grainger between 1933 and 1942. Here the camera is turned on himself, in camera.

Cherine Fahd offers frank photographs of daytime sleeping bodies in a Kings Cross park taken from her 6th floor apartment, while Bill Henson captures hauntingly beautiful crowd scenes during the 1980s. Sonia Leber and David Chesworth secretly film from the dome of St Pauls Cathedral, London and Walid Raad impersonates a fictional operative who failing in his surveillance task, repeatedly films the sunset.

Finally, Denis Beaubois, with a playful and performative video, seeks a kind of revenge of the subject, through his attempts to engage with a number of surveillance cameras, inviting the camera to respond to pleas earnestly delivered on cue cards.”

Press release from the CCP website

 

Bill Henson. 'Untitled 1980/82'

 

Bill Henson (Australian, b. 1955)
Untitled 1980/82
Gelatin silver chlorobromide print
From a series of 220
57.5 × 53.4 cm
Courtesy the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney

 

 

Bill Henson (Australian, b. 1955)
Untitled 1980/82
Gelatin silver chlorobromide print
from a series of 220
57.5 × 53.4 cm
courtesy the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney

 

 

The great beauty in the subject comes, for me, from the haunted space, that unbridgeable gap – which separates the profound intimacy and solitude of our interior world from the ‘other’ and in trying to show, in this case through envisioning the crowd, how an awesome, unassailable, even monumental, beauty and grace might attend the undulating, fluid mass of a wall of people as they move toward you.

It is the contradictory nature of life and the way in which this can be suggested in art which first drew me to photograph crowds – much as this underpins my interest in any art form…

The business of how a child’s small hand appearing between two adults at a street crossing can suggest both a vulnerability, great tenderness, and yet also contain within it all of the power that beauty commands, is endlessly fascinating to me.

Bill Henson 2011 text from the exhibition catalogue

 

Persons Of Interest - ASIO surveillance 1949-1980 'Writer Frank Hardy, St Kilda, July 1964'

 

Persons Of Interest – ASIO surveillance 1949-1980
Writer Frank Hardy, St Kilda, July 1964
NAA 9626, 212

 

Persons Of Interest - ASIO surveillance 1949 -1980. 'Eddie Mabo, CPA district conference, Townsville, September 1965'

 

Persons Of Interest – ASIO surveillance 1949-1980
Eddie Mabo, CPA district conference, Townsville, September 1965
NAA A9626, 162

 

Persons Of Interest – ASIO surveillance 1949-1980
Curated by Haydn Keenan
Selected surveillance images from a forthcoming documentary series from Smart Street Films

 

 

I discovered these images as part of my research for our documentary series Persons Of Interest which will be screened on SBS early next year. They are part of a massive archive of pictures secretly recorded by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) from 1949 onwards.

These images are not art. Unlike art these pictures have the power to alter lives dramatically. Be photographed at the wrong place and you’ll find it hard to get a job, when you do you’ll get the sack soon after. Appear in these images and your career will go nowhere without explanation. The eye of the beholder will cast a shadow you will not see until thirty years later when you get access to your file.

The photos create a strange world of frozen youth, high hopes and issues that were seen as subversive then but are now so integrated into the mainstream that they need explanation for Gen Y. ASIO was created to hunt down and eliminate a Soviet spy ring operating in Canberra in the late 1940s. Most of the members of the spy ring were connected with or were members of the Communist Party of Australia. For the next forty years ASIO followed everything the Party did.

The purpose of photographic surveillance is to identify Persons Of Interest in a definitive manner and to record their associations and contacts thereby building a network. Surveillance would occur during demonstrations, May Day marches and at political meetings. It would also occur at specific locations and everyone entering or leaving the location would be recorded. Each person in a photograph with an ASIO file would have an identifying number marked on the image next to them.

I have thousands of these images and what I have noticed is that one builds up a mental image of the changing face of what the State saw as a threat. What starts as the hunt for Communist spies gradually evolves into suspicion about social issues like Aboriginal land rights, youth culture, Women’s Liberation, anti Vietnam, Apartheid – even amateur actors at New Theatre were thoroughly photographed. There’s even a file on the Mother’s Club at Gardenvale Primary School. The absurdity is evident in hindsight. Yet what ASIO didn’t realise is that they were constructing an invaluable social history of Australian dissent as they gradually confused subversion with dissent.

They recorded many people, especially in the 1960s filled with youthful exuberance, high in hope and action. These people were questioning the central values of a society their parents had created. Here they are frozen in the malevolent eye of the security services. Whilst it’s invasive, seedy and incompetent, even they can’t diminish sunlit youth.

Haydn Keenan 2011 text from the exhibition catalogue

 

 

Percy Grainger (Australian, 1882-1961)
Private Matters: Do not open until 10 (ten) years after my death
1955-1956
Envelope
25.1 x 32 cm
Courtesy the Grainger Museum, The University of Melbourne

 

 

Internationally renowned Australian pianist and composer Percy Grainger (1882-1961) built new sounds by modifying old instruments. He built electronic instruments from recycled materials; he built new words, new types of garments and previously unforged links between folk and classical music. He also built the Past-Horde-House, his term for museum, in which he curated his life.

In these photographs, hand printed between 1933 and 1942, Percy Grainer turns the camera on himself (and to a lesser degree his wife Ella) to document his sexual practices, which he believed were intrinsic to his being and his creativity. These works form part of what Grainer called the ‘lust branch’ of his Museum.

Grainger was a sadomasochist and wrote to his partners and friends quite openly about his thoughts on sex, including what he called ‘self beating’. However when in 1956 Sir Eugene Goossens, British composer and Sydney Symphony Orchestra conductor was detained for bringing pornography into the country, and was subsequently destroyed by the scandal, Grainger, like a number of prominent Australian artists, either left the country or outwardly restrained their behaviour. Consequently, Grainger sealed his ‘lust branch’ of the Museum, a selection of books, whips and photographs related to sadomasochistic behaviour in a travelling trunk, and left the instruction: Not to be opened until 10 (ten) years after my death (exhibited). Contained within the accompanying envelope is a kind of manifesto in the form of a letter, the pages of which are carefully bound together by hand, in which he writes, ‘The photographs of myself whipped by myself in Kansas City and the various photographs of my wife whipped by me show that my flagellantism was not make-believe or puerility, but had the element of drasticness in it. Nevertheless my flagellantism was never inhuman or uncontrolled.’

While Grainger was the subject of intense, international media scrutiny, marketing and photography, to document their sadomasochistic practices Grainger had to teach himself photography. The archive he left has the quality of forensic records, consistent with the quasi scientific method he practiced in other aspects of his life. Exhibited is Grainger’s self-printed, hand-made album, Photo-skills Guide in which he makes technical observations, similarly evident in and on other ‘lust branch’ photographs.

Grainger considered his sexual expression integral to all aspects of his life, indeed for Grainger sexuality was inseparable from his renowned life as a pianist and composer. It is probable that the ‘lust branch’ images were designed for display in the Museum, in a more enlightened period. In 1941 Grainger wrote, ‘I have a bottomless hunger for truth … life is innocent, yet full of meaning. Destroy nothing, forget nothing … say all. Trust life, trust mankind. As long as the picture of truth is placed in the right frame (art, science, history) it will offend none.’

Naomi Cass 2011 text from the exhibition catalogue

 

 

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29
Jun
11

Exhibition: ‘Eikoh Hosoe – Theatre of Memory’ at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Exhibition dates: 12th May – 7th August 2011

 

Many thankx to Susanne Briggs for her help and for AGNSW for allowing me to publish the text and photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Eikoh Hosoe. 'Kazuo Ohno' 1980

 

Eikoh Hosoe (Japanese, b. 1933)
Kazuo Ohno
1980
© Eikoh Hosoe/Courtesy Studio Equis
Gelatin silver print

 

 

“The camera is generally assumed to be unable to depict that which is not visible to the eye. And yet the photographer who wields it well can depict what lies unseen in his memory.”

.
Eikoh Hosoe

 

 

This exhibition brings together four seminal series by Eikoh Hosoe, a leading figure in modern Japanese photography. Taken over five decades, The butterfly dream 1960-2005, Kamaitachi 1965-68 and Ukiyo-e projections 2002-03 are driven by Hosoe’s longstanding fascination for the revolutionary dance movement butoh and for its charismatic founders, Tatsumi Hijikata and Kazuo Ohno. Together these series epitomise his unique style, which combines photography with elements of theatre, dance, film and traditional Japanese art, and uses mythology, metaphor and symbolism. Using the latest digital technology, Hosoe prints his photographs on washi paper, mounting them in the traditional Japanese manner as scrolls and folding screens, thereby suggesting a new way of ‘reading’ his series as a continuous narrative. Hosoe’s interest in examining the beauty and strength of the human body is best seen in his acclaimed series of extremely abstract nudes, Embrace 1969-70. The models are butoh dancers associated with Hijikata.

For over fifty years, internationally acclaimed Japanese photographer Eikoh Hosoe has been producing cutting edge works demonstrating a unique mastery of the photographic medium. Early on in his career he abandoned the documentary style prevalent in the post-war years and produced photographs that breathed a sense of experimentation and freedom into photography. By calling on mythology, metaphor and symbolism he created images that broke the bounds of traditional photography. Hosoe developed a unique style situated at the crossroads of several different art forms, combining photography with elements of theatre, dance, film and traditional Japanese art.

From the early days of his career Hosoe’s destiny became linked to butoh, the revolutionary performance movement formed in post-war Japan. His close relationship to Tatsumi Hijikata and Kazuo Ohno, the two pivotal figures of butoh dance, forms the basis for his seminal series such as Kamaitachi, Embrace, The butterfly dream and Ukiyo-e projections, included in this exhibition.

This exhibition also highlights Hosoe’s extraordinary creativity and mastery of photographic printing techniques. Having experimented with both film-based and digital techniques to develop new methods of photographic expression, in recent years, he has started to use digital printing technologies on Japanese handmade paper (washi) and mounts his works in the form of traditional Japanese scrolls and screens. These ‘photo-scrolls’ provide a fascinating new reading of Hosoe’s work and underline his commitment to push the boundaries of photographic expression.

Hosoe gained recognition in the late 1950s when he began to develop his close-ups of the human body. Embrace, a series of black-and-white, abstract nude photographs, encapsulates Hosoe’s strive for originality in this photographic genre.

Through the novelist, Yukio Mishima, Hosoe was to meet Tatsumi Hijikata, one of the founders of Butoh dance. After seeing Hijikata’s performance, adapted from the novel Kinjiki (Forbidden Colours) by Mishima in a small Tokyo theatre, Hosoe was inspired and began photographing the Butoh dancer, a collaboration which continued for many years and culminated in the series Kamaitachi (1965-1968). This series, shot on various locations in the rural Tohoku region, integrated elements of dance, theatre and documentary into a cinematic work that aimed to recreate and dramatise Hosoe’s childhood memories.

Hosoe’s association with Butoh also led him to photograph the renowned Butoh performer, Kazuo Ohno. Released in 2006 in celebration of Ohno’s 100th birthday, the series The butterfly dream is a poignant visual documentary of Ohno’s artistic development over 46 years. While they retain the drama intrinsic to Butoh, Hosoe’s photographs of Ohno focus in on details of Ohno’s body, the curve of a wrist or a facial expression caught between agony and ecstasy.

Hosoe’s latest colour work, Ukiyo-e Projections, revisits his early work by linking it into ukiyo-e and Butoh dance. This series was born when he found out that the experimental Asbestos Dance Studio, founded by Hijikata and his wife, was to close in 2003 after forty years of activity. Upon hearing about the closure, Hosoe felt the need to pay a photographic tribute “to express gratitude for all that it had produced.” Ukiyo-e Projections was completed on stage at the Studio during a series of sessions in 2002 and 2003. For this series Hosoe created what he calls a “photographic theatre,” projecting a mixture of his own photographs with ukiyo-e prints on to the white-painted bodies of young Butoh dancers. The series explores many of the themes that recur in his work: sexuality, the human form and movement.

Eikoh Hosoe: Theatre of Memory highlights Hosoe’s mastery of photography through his four seminal series, Embrace, Kamaitachi, The Butterfly Dream and Ukiyo-e Projections, showing Hosoe’s sensibility for theatre, performance and the human body. It further demonstrates his creativity and mastery of photographic printing techniques. Throughout his career Hosoe, a master printer, has experimented with both film-based and digital techniques to develop new methods of photographic expression. In recent years, he has combined new printing technologies with Japanese washi paper to present his work on traditionally made silk screens and scrolls.

This is the first solo exhibition of Hosoe’s works in Australia. Hosoe, 77, is currently completing a new series of works on the sculpture of Auguste Rodin. The exhibition Eikoh Hosoe – Theatre of memory is realised in collaboration with Studio Equis, France.

Text from the Art Gallery of New South Wales website

.

Eikoh Hosoe. 'Kazuo Ohno' 1994 from the series 'The butterfly dream' 1960-2005

 

Eikoh Hosoe (Japanese, b. 1933)
Kazuo Ohno
1994
from the series The butterfly dream 1960-2005
© Eikoh Hosoe/Courtesy Studio Equis

 

Eikoh Hosoe. 'Kazuo Ohno' 1996

 

Eikoh Hosoe (Japanese, b. 1933)
Kazuo Ohno
1996
© Eikoh Hosoe/Courtesy Studio Equis

 

 

The Butterfly Dream

The butterfly dream – a collection of photographs taken over a period of 46 years – represents Hosoe’s homage to the charismatic butoh dancer Kazuo Ohno. It was published as a book, which was released on 27 October 2006 in celebration of Ohno’s 100th birthday.

Originally an instructor in physical education and performer of modern dance, Ohno befriended Tatsumi Hijikata in the 1950s and became a pivotal fi gure in the development of the butoh performance movement. Ohno’s poetic dance style stems from his belief in the transcendental nature of human experience, that the human body has a memory of sensations and knows no limits of self-expression.

Following closely his friend’s extremely long and successful career – Ohno continued to perform late into his 90s – Hosoe has captured some of the most poignant and magical moments in the history of butoh. In honour of Ohno’s long-held conviction in the importance of achieving freedom of body and mind, Hosoe named his photographic exploration of Ohno’s unique art after the famous Daoist allegory in which the philosopher Zhuangzi dreamt he was a butterfly, but once awake, wondered if he was a man dreaming to be a butterfly or a butterfly dreaming to be Zhuangzi.

 

Kamaitachi

Eikoh Hosoe’s long association with the revolutionary performance movement butoh came about through his encounter in 1959 with one of its founders, Tatsumi Hijikata. Hosoe collaborated with Hijikata on several series including Kamaitachi, which is acknowledged as the finest illustration of Hosoe’s hybrid photographic style, combining performance and documentary with a dramatic, virile aesthetic that embodies the founding principles of Hijikata’s ankoku butoh or ‘dance of darkness’.

The dramatic and intense energy that Hijikata generated with his dance not only captured Hosoe’s imagination but also opened up new ways for the young photographer to approach themes such as sexuality, gender and the human body.

Driven by the desire to re-enact his childhood memories when he was evacuated from Tokyo during World War Two, Hosoe had Hijikata perform kamaitachi, the legendary weasel-like demon that haunted the rice paddies in the extremely sparse, rural landscape of the Tohoku region from where they both came. Fusing reality (Hijikata interacting with the landscape and village people) and performance, Hosoe’s ‘subjective documentary’ series opened new ground in Japanese post-war photography.

 

Eikoh Hosoe. 'Kamaitachi #8' 1965

 

Eikoh Hosoe (Japanese, b. 1933)
Kamaitachi #8
1965
Gelatin silver print
© Eikoh Hosoe/Courtesy Studio Equis

 

 

Kamaitachi: Toward a Vacuum’s Nest

Shuzo Takiguchi

“When we are photographed, our bodies and souls become the victims of sacrifice in a ritual that strips our shadows away. The Eskimo, believed that their spirits resided in their shadows and that shamans had the power to steal them. Sir James George Frazer’s Golden Bough is not the only work to recount the dazzling drama of fate, or of life and death, that unfolds between man and his shadow.

Like life, death comes and goes – perhaps for a short time, perhaps longer. Narcissus’s story will continue to dominate our lives in ways that will become increasingly complicated over time; however, the camera (or, according to villagers in Sikkim, “the evil eye in a box”) seems to have reduced us, in one fell swoop, to the physics of light and shade. The objective lens seems opened to all of Nature, where all roads lead. The fact is, however, that it turns upside down once in the darkness and then is transformed into Nature.

To what extent were Katsu Kaishu,1 Baudelaire, and other luminaries of the early modern era who posed before the camera – tenuously sustained by their recognition of Nature amid a strange confusion of affectation and narcissism – aware of the evil lurking in the lens? Whatever the case, we will eventually see that, like the naked eye, the lens exists always “in its savage state.”2 We are seldom aware of the bizarre fact (or perhaps we just accept it as a self-evident truth) that both the thieves of shadows (photographers) and the thieves’ victims (subjects) are human beings.

I find it almost impossible to believe that the camera could truly capture, for example, the desire of a bird in flight at a certain moment or at any moment. All too often, the photographer unknowingly loses sight of reality, and the reality runs or rolls away, just outside the frame. Or, surprisingly, reality may be there in a corner of the image, invisible and therefore completely unnoticed. And so here I am reminded of Man Ray’s trenchant modern maxim: “Photography is not art.”

Before we even look at the Kamaitachi images, I want to stress the importance of distinguishing them from the generic concept referred to as staged photography. They are strictly, categorically, different from posed photographs of modern narcissists. If Hosoe had not met Tatsumi Hijikata, the phenomenal butoh master, he could not have created this extraordinary series. Hijikata is a man who – metaphorically speaking – can transmogrify in an instant into a phantasmagorical bird. This is not even theatrical photography, but rather a rare instance in which the camera obscura becomes a theater. And it is the paradoxical existence of the camera – which can photograph a vast void when we mean to capture a concrete object – that proves to be a stroke of luck for Hijikata, the master of movement.

Like the lens, Hijikata is a unique dancer, always aware that the “eye exists in its savage state.” 3 His “dance experience” is never a matter of leaping across a stage, pretending to be a swan: if a bird is what he has in mind, Hijikata becomes a raven. The raven plunges to the ground far below the stage. Then it runs, if it wants to run, or flies, if it wants to fly. For Hijikata, hasn’t the paradoxical vacuum dwelling in the camera become a divine machine at a certain moment? Then, voluntarily or involuntarily, we may reach the lights of purgatory, for which we have yearned, beyond the millennia of human history.

At the very least, I see here an inevitable force striving to preserve the relationship between photographer and subject. In all likelihood, no other work approaches the original meaning of the term “happening” (however simplified it may be in this case) as closely as this one. Tatsumi Hijikata uses his dance artistry to abruptly penetrate the center of the vacuum between time and space, and he descends to the ground closest to the place where we were born.

He has arrived at the vacuum’s nest, the home of kamaitachi, the “sickle-weasel.”

Today it would seem that the kamaitachi belong to legend and mythology. What are kamaitachi? Memories from my childhood flood back to me: my father was a country doctor, and several times I saw farmers, claiming to have been bitten by a kamaitachi, carried to the threshold of our house. Those were frightening moments, smelling of blood, like the first bolt of lightning streaking across a dark sky. I heard the farmers say they were attacked out of the blue, under a rice-drying rack or an ancient persimmon tree. But no one bore a grudge against that invisible weasel. In fact, a family of actual weasels made their home in the loft of the thatched shed behind our house. Every once in a while, I would see them dart across a field, always taking the shortest path and then disappearing. They lived among people but avoided them. The rumour was that the disreputable little creatures were so wary and agile that they never took the same path twice. I wonder whatever happened to them. One book defines kamaitachi as a laceration from the localized vacuum created by a dust devil. No one really knows the truth. The days of kamaitachi are long gone.

Was kamaitachi a spirit of the soil, a phantom that appeared only to farmers? If so, that invisible flying blade must have been incredibly sharp to leap through the sky and pierce flesh.

It is hard to say whether Tatsumi Hijikata is a spirit of the soil or the air; however, even before we can contemplate the question, he approaches the ground almost vertically and rushes like a gale into a farming village. This village is in a rice-growing district, where Japan’s most inconsistent and absurd social reality anomalously persists. Hijikata appears suddenly, like a hawk diving to the ground – or a kidnapper from heaven.

The god of the rice fields smiles on this scene. A faint trace of that smile is on the kagura theatrical dance mask, but it isn’t the embarrassed smile replayed endlessly on television. It is a smile that could exist among demons, a smile that was present even on a footpath between barren rice fields during a terrible famine, a startling but comical smile from the realm of the unconscious.

At a precise moment, our dancer and photographer approach a timeworn village – their footsteps only faintly audible – and they capture a brief moment in the empty village, where zinnias and other flowers bloom, coated with white soil dust. The entire village, mesmerized like a haunted house, enthrals them.

Is he a hawk that has just landed – or a leaping weasel? It is foolish to ask. It is our dancer who would be wounded. The villagers gaze at him innocently, as though he reminds them of a long-forgotten priest. They smile, without knowing why, at the arrival of the oblivious fool. Their smiles become the same smile of the footpath between rice fields. It is a smile that borders on terror.

A girl smiles like a shrine maiden whom the gods have endowed with evil and innocence in perfect balance. Were the girls born fairies? Sooner or later they will experience the orgasm of life and death. Then they will depart. Will they return to the earth or to the sky? No one knows which path they will take.

In any case, two contradictory, endless journeys await them.

Hairy vacuum! Bloody vacuum! Biting vacuum! You must continue to exist on this earth!

The desire for the heavens will inexorably lead to a desire for the bowels of the earth. Then the excrescence will head for the huge void, and vice versa. The cosmic metamorphosis that this phenomenon seeks will occur, extremely and tangibly. The vacuum theater, too, is part of the evolution.

To arrive at the source of the phantom of ecstasy, we must dig deeper and deeper, day by day.

And the witness is an instantaneous flash.”

by Shuzo Takiguchi
Translated by Connie Prener

 

  1. Officer credited with the modernisation of Japan’s navy (1823-1899)
  2. Allusion to Andre Breton’s Le Surréalisme et la peinture
  3. Ibid.,

 

Eikoh Hosoe. 'Embrace #52' 1970

 

Eikoh Hosoe (Japanese, b. 1933)
Embrace #52
1970
Gelatin silver print
© Eikoh Hosoe/Courtesy Studio Equis

 

 

Embrace

First published as a book in 1971, Embrace represents a return to the study of the human body that Hosoe undertook in earlier series such as Man and woman (1959) or Ordeal by roses (1963). In this new body of work, however, he abandoned the strong contrast and dramatic, baroque visual aesthetic in favour of the purity of the human form. Showing abstract fragments of male and female nudes in intimate placement, the series is not merely about eroticism or the dialogue of rivalry between the opposite sexes but is also a celebration of the pure beauty of the human body.

By depersonalising the bodies of his models, Hosoe attempted to reach a universal expression of corporeality. The extreme abstraction of these images focuses the attention on the flesh, which, according to Hosoe’s belief, is the essence of human beings.

The author Yukio Mishima comments on this series: ‘The viscosity which is associated with sex – those earthly odours and temperatures of soft and indeterminately formed internal organs – has been painstakingly removed from these photographs. To me this is a series filled with a hard, athletic beauty. First and foremost, it is about form.’

 

Ukiyo-e Projections

When Hosoe heard the news that the Asbestos Dance Studio, founded by Tatsumi Hijikata and his wife Akiko Motofuji, was to close in April 2003 after 40 years of activity, he felt the need to pay tribute to the achievements of this experimental studio. With the help of Hijikata’s widow, he organised a series of performances in 2002 and 2003, in which the dancers were asked to coordinate their movements in accordance with images from his own work, as well as from 19th-century Japanese paintings and woodblock prints projected on their naked, white-painted bodies.

The result of this ‘photographic theatre’ was stunning: a mysterious four-dimensional space transcending ordinary space and time was created as the two-dimensional images were projected on the three-dimensional bodies. The idea to use shunga – the erotic woodblock prints by noted ukiyo-e artists such as Utamaro, Hokusai and others – stemmed from Hosoe’s conviction that Hijikata’s archaic, ecstatic dance style had its roots in this particular art genre of the Edo period (1603-1868).

Exploring many of the themes that recur in Hosoe’s work – sexuality, the human form, movement and the passage of time – this series epitomises his unique approach in synthesising photography with various forms of visual and performance arts.

 

Eikoh Hosoe. 'Ukiyo-e Projections #2-36' 2003

 

Eikoh Hosoe (Japanese, b. 1933)
Ukiyo-e Projections #2-36
2003
© Eikoh Hosoe/Courtesy Studio Equis

 

 

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Sleep/Wound’ 1995-96


Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: 'Sleep/Wound' 1995-96 *PLEASE NOTE THIS POSTING CONTAINS PHOTOGRAPHS OF MALE NUDITY - IF YOU DO NOT LIKE PLEASE DO NOT LOOK, FAIR WARNING HAS BEEN GIVEN*

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