Posts Tagged ‘japanese photographer

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

 

 

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08
Mar
15

Exhibition: ‘In Focus: Play’ at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 23rd December 2014 – 10th May 2015

 

The J. Paul Getty Museum always puts on the most interesting photography exhibitions. This looks to be no exception.

Marcus

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

 

 

Platt D. Babbitt. '[Scene at Niagara Falls]' c. 1855

 

Platt D. Babbitt (American, 1823-1879, active Niagara Falls, New York 1853-1870)
[Scene at Niagara Falls]
c. 1855
Whole plate daguerreotype
The J. Paul Getty Museum
CC This work is in the public domain

 

In the 1800s Prospect Point at Niagara Falls was a popular destination for travelers in search of a transcendent encounter with nature. The falls were revered as a sacred place that was recognized by the Catholic Church in 1861 as a “pilgrim shrine,” where the faithful could contemplate the landscape as an example of divine majesty. Two well-dressed couples are seen from behind as they stand on the shore downstream from the falls, gazing at its majestic splendor. The silhouetted forms – women wearing full skirts and bonnets and carrying umbrellas and men in stovepipe hats – are sharply outlined against the patch of shore and expansive, white foam. Platt D. Babbitt would customarily set up his camera in an open-sided pavilion and photograph groups of tourists admiring the falls without their knowledge, as he appears to have done here. Later he would sell the unsuspecting subjects their daguerreotype likenesses alongside the natural wonder.

 

Roger Fenton. 'The Billiard Room, Mentmore' c. 1858

 

Roger Fenton (English, 1819-1869)
The Billiard Room, Mentmore
c. 1858
Albumen silver print
Height: 303 mm (11.93 in). Width: 306 mm (12.05 in).
The J. Paul Getty Museum
CC This work is in the public domain

 

A group of fashionable men and women enjoy a game of billiards in a richly furnished salon. The recently completed billiards room, which was designed as a conservatory, is flooded with sunlight, illuminating the lavish interior and creating a dramatic pattern of light and shadows. Indoor photography was rare in the mid-1800s, but the abundance of light and Fenton’s skill with the wet-collodion process created a remarkably detailed portrait of the space and its inhabitants. Behind the woman standing in the doorway at the very far end of the salon, a marble bust, mantelpiece, and mirror can be seen in an adjacent room.

Mentmore House was a country residence of the wealthy Rothschild family, but little is known as to how Fenton came to photograph its interior or who the depicted individuals might be. Fenton accepted commissions to document several other country homes, and his surviving photographs of Mentmore House-both interior and exterior views-may have formed part of a commissioned album. Like Fenton’s Orientalist scenes, this image reveals a high degree of staging. Only one figure actually holds a cue stick, and several of the women wear hats that seem unusual for the indoor setting.

 

Camille Silvy. 'Group of their Royal Highnesses the Princess Clementine de Saxe Cobourg Gotha, her Sons and Daughter, the Duke d'Aumale, the Count d'Eu, the Duke d'Alencon, and the Duke de Penthievre [in England]' 1864

 

Camille Silvy (French, 1834-1910, active in London)
Group of their Royal Highnesses the Princess Clementine de Saxe Cobourg Gotha, her Sons and Daughter, the Duke d’Aumale, the Count d’Eu, the Duke d’Alencon, and the Duke de Penthievre [in England]
1864
Albumen silver print
10.2 x 17 cm (4 x 6 11/16 in.)

 

Camille Silvy. 'Group of their Royal Highnesses the Princess Clementine de Saxe Cobourg Gotha, her Sons and Daughter, the Duke d'Aumale, the Count d'Eu, the Duke d'Alencon, and the Duke de Penthievre [in England]' 1864

 

Camille Silvy (French, 1834-1910, active in London)
Group of their Royal Highnesses the Princess Clementine de Saxe Cobourg Gotha, her Sons and Daughter, the Duke d’Aumale, the Count d’Eu, the Duke d’Alencon, and the Duke de Penthievre [in England] (detail)
1864
Albumen silver print
10.2 x 17 cm (4 x 6 11/16 in.)

 

Herman F. Nielson. 'View of Niagara Falls in Winter' c. 1885

 

Herman F. Nielson (American, active Niagara Falls, New York 1883 – early 1900s)
View of Niagara Falls in Winter
c. 1885
Gelatin silver print
19.1 x 24.3 cm (7 1/2 x 9 9/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Man Ray. '[Marcel Duchamp and Raoul de Roussy de Sales Playing Chess]' 1925

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
[Marcel Duchamp and Raoul de Roussy de Sales Playing Chess]
1925
Gelatin silver print
16.7 x 22.5 cm (6 9/16 x 8 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Man Ray Trust ARS-ADAGP

 

Weegee (Arthur Fellig). '[Summer, The Lower East Side, New York City]' Summer 1937

 

Weegee (Arthur Fellig) (American, born Austria, 1899-1968)
[Summer, The Lower East Side, New York City]
Summer 1937
Gelatin silver print 26.5 x 33.3 cm (10 7/16 x 13 1/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© International Center of Photography

 

André Kertész. '[Underwater Swimmer]' Negative 1917; print 1970s

 

André Kertész (American, born Hungary, 1894-1985)
[Underwater Swimmer]
Negative 1917; print 1970s
Gelatin silver print 17 x 24.7 cm (6 11/16 x 9 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Estate of André Kertész

 

 

“In Focus: Play, on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center from December 23, 2014 through May 10, 2015, presents photographs that explore how notions of leisure and play have been represented over the course of the medium’s history. The nearly thirty works from the Museum’s permanent collection highlight a wide range of amusing activities, from quiet games like chess to more boisterous forms of recreation like skateboarding and visits to amusement parks and circuses. All of the photographs included in the exhibition illustrate the many ways people have chosen to spend their free time. The images also demonstrate inventive and improvised approaches, like unusual vantage points and jarring juxtapositions that photographers have employed to help capture the spontaneity of playfulness.

Organized by assistant curator Arpad Kovacs in the Department of Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum, this exhibition spans almost 175 years of the medium’s history and features the work of a variety of well-known and lesser-known photographers, including Diane Arbus, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Imogene Cunningham, Larry Fink, T. Lux Feininger, Roger Fenton, Andre Kertész, Man Ray, Alexander Rodchenko, Masato Seto, Camille Silvy, and Weegee, among others.

“Capturing our everyday lives has been one of photography’s central themes ever since its invention in the mid-nineteenth century,” says Timothy Potts, Director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “So it is no surprise that images of people playing games and having fun is a rich seam within the history of photography that this exhibition and accompanying book bring to life brilliantly. This is photography at its entertaining and uplifting best.”

The introduction of photography in 1839 coincided with a bourgeoning culture of leisure. Changes in working and living conditions brought on by the Industrial Revolution created an unprecedented amount of free time for large numbers of people in Europe and the United States. In the 1850s, photographic studios began to capitalize on the development and growth of the tourism industry, promoting recreation as a photographic subject. Technological advancements in film and camera equipment during the early twentieth century facilitated the recording of dynamic activities such as sports and visits to amusement parks. Domestic and public spaces alike became sites where people performed for the camera and documented a break from daily routines.

During the nineteenth century, the eminent photographer Roger Fenton, who was widely recognized for visually documenting the Crimean War (1853-56), also photographed intimate scenes that reflected casual pastimes. Included in the exhibition is his photograph from 1858 entitled, The Billiard Room, Mentmore House, in which a group of six people act out a scene of domestic amusement in a billiard room lined with a row of large windows.

The desire for pictures of everyday life flourished during the early twentieth-century. The illustrated press, which had grown in popularity in the United States and Europe since the 1920s, was especially interested in photographs of recreation and leisure. Photojournalists often searched for high-impact images that could tell compelling or amusing stories. Weegee (Arthur Fellig), a well-known tabloid photographer, kept his camera focused on New York City’s neighborhoods. In the photograph Summer, Lower East Side, New York City, 1937, he recorded the ecstatic faces of boys and girls cooling off in the water from an open fire hydrant as they briefly co-opted a street for their own delight.

Tourist destinations with sweeping vistas, like Niagara Falls and Yosemite Valley, had been attracting photographers continuously since the 1850s. In a 1980 photograph from his Sightseer series, Roger Minick comments on the phenomenon of taking in the sights through visual juxtaposition. A tourist, seen from behind, obstructs the famous view of Yosemite Valley from Inspiration Point, a spot that is practically synonymous with photography. The woman wears a souvenir headscarf illustrated with views of the valley, underscoring the commodification of nature that pervades modern life.

In the 1990s, the photographer Lauren Greenfield began an ambitious project documenting various subcultures in Los Angeles. These works examine the social pecking order and rites of passage associated with youth culture. In her photograph “Free Sex” Party Crew Party, East Los Angeles, 1993, one gets a glimpse into the potential dangers associated with these wild demonstrations of unrestricted freedom and machismo.

“The photographs chosen for this exhibition demonstrate the wide range of approaches photographers have employed to capture people at play, along with a variety of sites that have traditionally signaled leisure and entertainment,” said Kovacs. “Visiting a museum would be included on that list of leisure-time activities. I can’t think of a better way to spend an afternoon.”

In Focus: Play is on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center beginning December 23, 2014, through May 10, 2015.”

Press release from the J. Paul Getty Museum

 

Unknown photographer. '[Barnum and Bailey Circus Tent in Paris, France]' 1901-1902

 

Unknown photographer
[Barnum and Bailey Circus Tent in Paris, France]
1901-1902
Gelatin silver print
22.2 x 58.1 cm (8 3/4 x 22 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Max Yavno. 'Card Players, Los Angeles, California' 1949

 

Max Yavno (American, 1911-1985)
Card Players, Los Angeles, California
1949
Gelatin silver print
26.5 x 27.9 cm
© 1988 Center for Creative Photography, The University of Arizona Foundation

 

Joe Schwartz. 'East L.A. Skateboarders' 1950s

 

Joe Schwartz (American, 1913-2013)
East L.A. Skateboarders
1950s
Toned gelatin silver print
30.2 x 39 cm (11 7/8 x 15 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Joe Schwartz

 

Bill Owens (American, born 1938) 'Untitled (Swimming Pool)' 1973 or before

 

Bill Owens (American, born 1938)
Untitled (Swimming Pool)
1973 or before
Gelatin silver print
17.1 x 21.5 cm (6 3/4 x 8 7/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Robert Harshorn Shimshak and Marion Brenner
© Bill Owens

 

Hiromi Tsuchida (Japanese, born 1939) 'Counting Grains of Sand, Tsuruga' Negative 1985; print May 15, 1990

 

Hiromi Tsuchida (Japanese, born 1939)
Counting Grains of Sand, Tsuruga
Negative 1985; print May 15, 1990
Gelatin silver print
28.1 x 42.5 cm (11 1/16 x 16 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Hiromi Tsuchida

 

Roger Minick (American, born 1944) 'Woman with Scarf at Inspiration Point, Yosemite National Park' 1980

 

Roger Minick (American, born 1944)
Woman with Scarf at Inspiration Point, Yosemite National Park
1980
Chromogenic print
38.1 x 43.5 cm (15 x 17 1/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Roger Minick

 

Lauren Greenfield (American, born 1966) '"Free Sex" Party Crew Party, East Los Angeles' 1993

 

Lauren Greenfield (American, born 1966)
“Free Sex” Party Crew Party, East Los Angeles
1993
Dye destruction print
32.4 x 48.9 cm (12 3/4 x 19 1/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Allison Amon & Lisa Mehling
© Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE

 

 

Masato Seto. 'picnic #32' 2005

 

Masato Seto (Japanese, born Thailand, 1953)
picnic #32
2005
From the series picnic
Silver-dye bleach print
43.2 x 55 cm
© Masato Seto

 

Photographer Masato Seto’s series picnic, produced between 1996 and 2005, takes a particularly intimate approach. Seto’s photographs get inside Tokyo’s private pockets of outdoor space, a highly coveted respite from the busy thrum of the Japanese urban lifestyle. They give us a glimpse of the hard-won leisure of local couples escaping the cramped quarters of high-rise living for the scarce green space of public parks.

The couples’ reactions to the camera’s intrusion range from shielding their faces to outright defiance, to simple staring curiosity. We feel like we’ve caught them in the act of doing something that we shouldn’t see. Representing one family, couple, or individual at a time, Seto situates his subjects in a detached reality of their own. He creates what critic Hiro Koike referred to as “invisible rooms” – plots of grass often defined by the customary plastic sheet – in which intimate moments have been openly displayed and captured.

Melissa Abraham, “An Intimate View of Tokyo,” on The Getty Iris blog, August 5, 2014 [Online] Cited 03/03/2015

 

T. Lux Feininger (American, born Germany 1910-2011) 'Am Strand (On the Beach)' c. 1929

 

T. Lux Feininger (American, born Germany 1910-2011)
Am Strand (On the Beach)
c. 1929
Gelatin silver print 23.8 x 17.8 cm (9 3/8 x 7 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Estate of T. Lux Feininger

 

Brassaï. 'Kiss on the Swing' 1935-37

 

Brassaï (French, born Hungary, 1899 – 1984)
Kiss on the Swing
1935-37
Gelatin silver print
29.7 x 23.3 cm
© Estate Brassaï-RMN

 

Imogen Cunningham. 'Self-Portrait with Grandchildren in Funhouse' 1955

 

Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976)
Self-Portrait with Grandchildren in Funhouse
1955
Gelatin silver print
22.2 x 18.5 cm (8 3/4 x 7 5/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Imogen Cunningham Trust

 

 

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 – 9 pm
Monday closed

The J. Paul Getty Museum website

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03
Jun
14

Exhibition: ‘Hiroshi Sugimoto: Past Tense’ at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 4th February – 8th June 2014

 

I loved Sugimoto’s time lapse movie screens, where the exact length of a movie was captured by the open lens of the camera, the substance of time and space evidenced by a seemingly empty screen. There was something wonderfully poetic and transformational about that gesture, about the notion of compressing the narrative, reality and action of a movie into a single frame of light: “the ‘annihilation of time and space’ as a particular moment in a dynamic cycle of rupture and recuperation enables a deliberate focus on the process of transition.”1 The process of transition in the flow of space and time.

Sugimoto’s art since that ground breaking body of work has been a bit of a let down. Where the movie theatres photographs were transubstantiationalist, the three series presented here – Dioramas (1975-1994), Portraits (1999) and his newest series, Photogenic Drawings (2008-present) play, if that is the right word, with the re/animation of death. The stuffed animals, the wax figures, the redrawing of William Henry Fox Talbot photogenic drawings, the redrawing of a light already been, just seem DEAD to me – a kind of double death or even triple death – the death of the animal/the death of the photograph, the unreality (the undead) of the wax figures and their death in the photograph, the death of the plant, their capture not once but twice by the death of the photograph. We know exactly what Sugimoto is doing, but the images are stilted and lifeless and I am not convinced by them.

The diorama images are just OK – almost good undergraduate work but nothing more. My problem with the waxworks images and the pencil of nature is “other images”. We all know Cindy Sherman and her images of historical figures, and we know the work of William Henry Fox Talbot. Somehow these earlier images crowd Sugimoto’s work in a way that doesn’t often happen. Winogrand never crowded Friedlander or vice versa – and you can think of many other examples where comparing is actually beneficial… but not here.

I’m not saying Sugimoto is derivative but because of these other works, they don’t have much room to move. Indeed, they hardly move at all. They are so frozen in attitude that all the daring transcendence of light, the light! of space time travel, the transition from one state to another, has been lost. The Flame of Recognition (Edward Weston) – has gone.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

1. McQuire, Scott. The Media City. London: Sage Publications, 2008, p. 14.

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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.

 

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (*1948) 'Sam Eric, Pennsylvania' 1978

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (*1948)
Sam Eric, Pennsylvania
1978
Gelatin silver print
42.5 x 54.5 cm
Private collection, Frankfurt
© Hiroshi Sugimoto / Courtesy The Pace Gallery

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948) 'Polar Bear' 1976

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948)
Polar Bear
1976
Gelatin silver print
42.1 x 54.6 cm (16 9/16 x 21 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948) 'Wapiti' 1980

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948)
Wapiti
1980
Gelatin silver print
34.9 x 58.7 cm (13 3/4 x 23 1/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948) 'Sable Antelope' 1994

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948)
Sable Antelope
1994
Gelatin silver print
42.4 x 54.1 cm (16 11/16 x 21 5/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948) 'Manatee' 1994

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948)
Manatee
1994
Gelatin silver print
42.2 x 54.1 cm (16 5/8 x 21 5/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948) 'Birds of Japan' 1994

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948)
Birds of Japan
1994
Gelatin silver print
38.7 x 58.4 cm (15 1/4 x 23 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948) 'Cheetah' 1980

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948)
Cheetah
1980
Gelatin silver print
36.5 x 58.7 cm (14 3/8 x 23 1/8 in.)
Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948) 'White Rhinoceros' 1980

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948)
White Rhinoceros
1980
Gelatin Silver Print
34.1 x 58.6 cm (13 7/16 x 23 1/16 in.)
Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

 

“Since the mid-1970s, Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948) has used photography to investigate how history pervades the present. Featuring photographs of habitat dioramas, wax portraits, and early photographic negatives, Hiroshi Sugimoto: Past Tense, on view February 4 – June 8, 2014 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, brings together three separate bodies of work that present objects of historical and cultural significance in the collections of various museums. By photographing subjects that reimagine or replicate moments from the distant past and diverse geographical locations, Sugimoto critiques the medium’s presumed capacity to portray history with accuracy.

“This exhibition presents work that inventively reframes objects from the collections of a variety of museums, including from our extensive holdings of prints from the early days of photography,” explains Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “Mr. Sugimoto has generously donated eighteen prints from his recent Photogenic Drawings series, which reprise a selection of important experiments by William Henry Fox Talbot that are in the Getty Museum’s collection.”

Sugimoto’s meticulously crafted prints are the result of a rigorous working method that includes extensive preparatory research, the use of a large-format view camera, and long exposures. Each of his projects is rooted in a sustained exploration of a singular motif and often carried out over many years. The exhibition will present a selection of prints from three bodies of work, Dioramas (1975-1994), Portraits (1999) and, his newest series, Photogenic Drawings (2008-present).

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Dioramas 

The diorama was first introduced in Paris in 1822 by the stage designer Jacques Louis Mandé Daguerre (French, 1787-1851), who later developed the daguerreotype photographic process. Situated in a darkened room, the first diorama consisted of a large painted scene on a semi-transparent curtain that was illuminated by the opening and closing of skylights and the constant shifting or dimming of lamps to create the impression of movement. In the early 20th century, habitat dioramas in natural history museums became popular, staging creatures in their faithfully replicated “natural” environments.

Sugimoto first encountered elaborate animal dioramas at the American Museum of Natural History after moving to New York in 1974, and began to focus his camera on individual scenes shortly thereafter. Omitting the educational text surrounding each display, the works heighten the illusion that animals such as manatees, wapiti, and sea lions were photographed in their natural habitats. While each photograph appears to be a candid moment captured by an experienced nature photographer, the subjects are – in actuality – depicted in poses they hold indefinitely.

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Wax Portraits 

While waxworks have a long history, contemporary wax museums can be traced to the French sculptor Marie Grosholz (French, 1761-1850), who achieved success in the Parisian entertainment market by creating waxworks of popular politicians and cultural figures. After moving to London in 1802, she established a commercial enterprise under the name Madame Tussaud, specializing in the production and display of full-length wax figures modeled after commissioned portraits.

Posed against pitch-black backdrops and framed by the camera in a manner suggesting old master portrait-painting traditions, each of Sugimoto’s subjects was captured with a nine-minute exposure that illuminates the finely modeled expressions and the sumptuous costumes. These life-size photographs record likenesses that have been distilled through multiple reproductions of the original sitter. The source material for the wax figures of Henry VIII and his wives is based on 16th-century panel paintings, while the portrait of Queen Victoria’s likeness is taken from a photograph of her from the 1890s, around the time of her Diamond Jubilee celebration.

“Hiroshi Sugimoto’s photographic practice is deeply rooted in a tradition of image making that was developed and perfected during the 19th century,” explains Arpad Kovacs, assistant curator in the Department of Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum and curator of the exhibition. “By employing century-old techniques and turning his lens to subjects and compositions that recreate or simulate moments from the past, Sugimoto intimately connects himself to the historical moments depicted.”

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Photogenic Drawings 

In the early 1830s, William Henry Fox Talbot (English, 1800-1877) began trying to create pictures without the aid of a pencil. After coating small pieces of writing paper with a salt solution and silver nitrate, he successfully captured the outlines of leaves and lace placed on the paper and exposed to sunlight. He continued his experiments with a camera obscura, placing a sheet of paper in this precursor to the camera to produce the first negatives, with highlights and shadows reversed. Talbot called the results of these experiments photogenic drawings.

In 2007, Hiroshi Sugimoto visited the J. Paul Getty Museum to study the earliest photographs in the collection. After photographing some of Talbot’s photogenic drawing negatives, he produced large-scale prints and colored them with toning agents during the processing to replicate the often-bright hues of the original sheets. The scale of the enlarged prints reveals the fibers of the original writing paper, which create subtle and delicate patterns embedded in the images.

The artist’s gift of eighteen gelatin silver prints from his Photogenic Drawings series significantly enhances the Museum’s holdings of work by Sugimoto. His photographic practice, rooted in a serial approach and primarily concerned with the medium’s relationship to the passage of time, has long been an important source of influence for a younger generation of artists. The prints greatly enhance the Getty Museum’s growing collection of contemporary photographs.

Hiroshi Sugimoto: Past Tense is on view February 4 – June 8, 2014 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center. The exhibition will run concurrently in the Center for Photographs with A Royal Passion: Queen Victoria and Photography, an exhibition featuring rare private and public photographs from the Victoria era.”

Press release from the J. Paul Getty Museum website

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948) 'Henry VIII' 1999

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948)
Henry VIII
1999
Gelatin silver print
148.9 x 119.1 cm (58 5/8 x 46 7/8 in.)
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Commissioned by Deutsche Bank AG in consultation with the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation for the Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin
© Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948) 'Queen Victoria' 1999

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948)
Queen Victoria
1999
Gelatin silver print
148.9 x 119.1 cm (58 5/8 x 46 7/8 in.)
Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948) 'Anne Boleyn' 1999

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948)
Anne Boleyn
1999
Gelatin silver print
148.9 x 119.1 cm (58 5/8 x 46 7/8 in.)
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Commissioned by Deutsche Bank AG in consultation with the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation for the Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin
© Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948) 'Asplenium Halleri, Grande Chartreuse 1821 - Cardamine Pratensis, April 1839' 2008

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948)
Asplenium Halleri, Grande Chartreuse 1821 – Cardamine Pratensis, April 1839
2008
Toned gelatin silver print
93.7 x 74.9 cm (36 7/8 x 29 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles,
Gift of the Artist
© Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948) 'Roofline of Lacock Abbey, circa 1835-1839' 2008

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948)
Roofline of Lacock Abbey, circa 1835-1839
2008
Gelatin silver print
93.7 x 74.9 cm (36 7/8 x 29 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of the Artist
© Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948) 'Bust of Venus, November 26, 1840' 2009

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948)
Bust of Venus, November 26, 1840
2009
Gelatin silver print
93.7 x 74.9 cm (36 7/8 x 29 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of the Artist
© Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948) 'A Stem of Delicate Leaves of an Umbrellifer, circa 1843-1846' 2009

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948)
A Stem of Delicate Leaves of an Umbrellifer, circa 1843-1846
2009
Gelatin silver print
93.7 x 74.9 cm (36 7/8 x 29 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of the Artist
© Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948) 'Arrangement of Botanical Specimens, 1839' 2008

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948)
Arrangement of Botanical Specimens, 1839
2008
Toned gelatin silver print
93.7 x 74.9 cm (36 7/8 x 29 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of the Artist
© Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948) 'Nicolaas Henneman, circa 1841' 2008

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948)
Nicolaas Henneman, circa 1841
2008
Toned gelatin silver print
93.7 x 74.9 cm (36 7/8 x 29 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of the Artist
© Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948) 'Bust of Patroclus, September 8, 1841' 2009

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948)
Bust of Patroclus, September 8, 1841
2009
Toned gelatin silver print
93.7 x 74.9 cm (36 7/8 x 29 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of the Artist
© Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

 

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 – 9 pm
Monday closed

The J. Paul Getty Museum website

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Études’ 1994

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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