Posts Tagged ‘Japanese photography

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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08
Dec
17

In conversation: Marcus Bunyan and Elizabeth Gertsakis discuss his new work, ‘The Shape of Dreams’ (2013 – 2017)

December 2017

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017

 

Marcus Bunyan
Untitled from the series The Shape of Dreams 
2013 – 2017
Silver gelatin print
© Marcus Bunyan

 

 

In conversation

EG: Just saw your most recent Art Blart and your work. It’s very beautiful. Congratulations. At first I didn’t know whose they were. Then I went through them one by one, and only after responding to them ‘unknown’ I saw it was your work. SO BEAUTIFUL, so potent and yet, within the ambivalence and questioning there was space for great stillness and contemplation. Powerful and so poetic. The one of the children, close up is dazzling, but so are the open fields, mountains, roadways and minute images of flight.

MB: Thank you so much Elizabeth. Yes, my work would you believe. I can now believe after 4 years hard work. A poem to the uncertainty of human dreams. It’s a conceptual series in the vein of my hero Minor White – contemplative, poetic as always with me, but with an edge under the poetry as you so correctly observe EG – you are caught in the dream in the end image, suspended in time and space, in your imagination. You are always so spot on with your observations.

EG: Your own tendency is also closely linked to language and ideas?

MB: This is very true. The basis for all my work is body, time, space, environment and their link to language and ideas… and how conceptual work can be spiritual as well.

EG: I’m with you on that one, and political as well.

MB: Indeed – all my work, including this series, is very anti-war.

EG: What is unseen, invisible in these images is definitely the dark quiet hole of hell that war is. Or at least those that invest in it.

MB: The key image in this regard is the one of the explosion.

EG: But the ones of the distant and misdirected aerial machines also…

MB: Indeed, and the second one, where all the men are looking away while the cloud expands in the background.

EG: Yes, the casual indifference and banality of it.

MB: You have it perfectly Elizabeth!

EG: But the children, oh those children, and the innocent implacability of the natural world.

MB: To find these images on Ebay and then spend four years of my life cleaning and saving them was an incredible experience. It was almost like I was breathing these images as I was saving them, looking into each one and being immersed in them. Thus, the art demands contemplation from the viewer in order to begin to understand its resonances.

.
Many thankx to Elizabeth Gertsakis for her wisdom, knowledge, friendship and advice throughout the year. These observations of my work mean a great deal to me.

SEE THE FULL SEQUENCE INCLUDING SIZE AND SPACING OF IMAGES (ENLARGE AND USE SCROLL BAR)

SEE THE FULL IMAGES

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017

 

Marcus Bunyan
Untitled from the series The Shape of Dreams
2013 – 2017
Silver gelatin print
© Marcus Bunyan

 

 

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06
Dec
17

New work: ‘The Shape of Dreams’ 2013 – 2017 by Marcus Bunyan

December 2017

 

CLICK ON AND ENLARGE THE IMAGES BELOW TO SEE THE FULL SEQUENCE AND SPACING OF THE IMAGES

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017 (detail)

Marcus Bunyan. 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017 (detail)

Marcus Bunyan. 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017 (detail)

 

Marcus Bunyan
The Shape of Dreams 
(detail of sequence)
2013 – 2017
Digital photographs
42 images in the series
© Marcus Bunyan

 

The form of formlessness
The shape of dreams

 

 

A Christmas present to myself… my most complex and enigmatic sequence to date.

Shot in Japan, all of the images come from two 1950s photography albums, one of which has a large drawing of a USAF bomber on it’s cover. The images were almost lost they were so dirty, scratched and deteriorated. It has taken me four long years to scan, digitally clean and restore the images, heightening the colour already present in the original photographs.

Sometimes the work flowed, sometimes it was like pulling teeth. Many times I nearly gave up, asking myself why I was spending my life cleaning dirt and scratches from these images. The only answer is… that I wanted to use these images so that they told a different story.

Then to sequence the work in such a way that there is an enigmatic quality, a mystery in that narrative journey. Part auteur, part cinema – a poem to the uncertainty of human dreams.

Marcus

PLEASE GO TO MY WEBSITE TO SEE THE THUMBNAILS AND LARGER IMAGES

 

A selection of individual images from the sequence

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017

 

Marcus Bunyan
Untitled from the series The Shape of Dreams
2013 – 2017
Silver gelatin print
© Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Sequencing The Shape of Dreams 2013 – 2017

Sequencing The Shape of Dreams at a cafe table in Richmond, Melbourne, Victoria in July 2017 with my friend.

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Sequenceing 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017' 2017

Marcus Bunyan. 'Sequenceing 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017' 2017

Marcus Bunyan. 'Sequenceing 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017' 2017

 

Marcus Bunyan
Sequenceing ‘The Shape of Dreams’ 2013 – 2017
July 2017

 

 

Marcus Bunyan website

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20
Jul
17

Exhibition: ‘Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition’ as part of the NGV Festival of Photography at NGV Australia, Melbourne Part 1

Exhibition dates: 31st March – 30th July 2017

 

Individual art works from the NGV collection (in artist alphabetical order) appearing in Patrick Pound: The Great Exhibition at NGV Australia

 

” … from an air guitar to Being and nothingness … “

 

Part 1 of this bumper posting. More to follow.

My hand is progressing slowly. A return to part-time work in the next couple of weeks, for which I will be grateful. It has been tough road dealing with this injury.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the National Gallery of Victoria for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Antoine-Louis Barye (France 1796-1875) 'Walking lion' c. 1840

 

Antoine-Louis Barye (France 1796-1875)
Walking lion
Lion qui marche
c. 1840, cast 1900
Bronze
National Gallery of Victoria
Felton Bequest, 1927

 

Antoine-Louis Barye (France 1796-1875) 'Walking tiger' c. 1841

 

Antoine-Louis Barye (France 1796-1875)
Walking tiger
Tigre qui marche
c. 1841, cast 1900
Bronze
National Gallery of Victoria
Felton Bequest, 1927

 

John Armstrong (England 1893-1973) 'Invocation' 1938

 

John Armstrong (England 1893-1973)
Invocation
1938
Tempera on plywood
National Gallery of Victoria
Purchased with funds donated by Ian Hicks AM and Dorothy Hicks, 2006

 

 

Invocation is one of a series of paintings, which John Armstrong begun in the 1930’s as a direct statement against the rise of Fascism in Europe. John Armstrong observed Fascism in Italy at first hand and became an active left wing campaigner against the proliferation of nuclear weapons. He was commissioned as an official war artist, designing a cover for a leaflet in the 1945 election campaign and contributed occasional articles and poetry to left wing journals. In his painting Victory, he imagined the result of a nuclear holocaust, which attracted the attention at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 1958.

Text from the Leicester Galleries website

 

Eugène Atget (France 1857-1927) 'Eclipse' 1911, printed 1956- early 1970s

 

Eugène Atget (France 1857-1927)
Eclipse
1911, printed 1956- early 1970s
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Victoria
Purchased, 1978

 

 

Surrogates and the Surreal

Atget’s photograph Pendant l’éclipse (During the eclipse) was featured on the cover of the seventh issue of the Parisian Surrealists’ publication La Révolution surréaliste, with the caption Les Dernières Conversions (The last converts), in June 1926. The picture was uncredited, as were the two additional photographs reproduced inside. Although Atget firmly resisted the association, his work – in particular his photographs of shop windows, mannequins, and the street fairs around Paris – had captured the attention of artists with decidedly avant-garde inclinations, such as Man Ray and Tristan Tzara. Man Ray lived on the same street as Atget, and the young American photographer Berenice Abbott (working as Man Ray’s studio assistant) learned of the French photographer and made his acquaintance in the mid-1920s – a relationship that ultimately brought the contents of Atget’s studio at the time of his death (in 1927) to The Museum of Modern Art almost forty years later.

Text from Art Blart posting Eugène Atget: “Documents pour artistes” at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), New York

 

Pierre Bonnard (France 1867-1947) 'Siesta' 1900

 

Pierre Bonnard (France 1867-1947)
Siesta
La Sieste
1900
Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Victoria
Felton Bequest, 1949

 

Eugène Boudin (France 1824-98) 'Low tide at Trouville' 1894

 

Eugène Boudin (France 1824-98)
Low tide at Trouville
Trouville, Mareé basse
1894
Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Victoria
Felton Bequest, 1939

 

John Brack (Australia 1920-99) 'Self-portrait' 1955

 

John Brack (Australia 1920-99)
Self-portrait
1955
Melbourne, Victoria
Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Victoria
Purchased with the assistance of the National Gallery Women’s Association, 2000

 

 

Striking in its candour, with its subject stripped of vanity and dressed in early-morning attire, Self portrait is a piercing study of a man engaged in the intimacy of shaving. Although images of women at their toilette have been frequently depicted by both male and female Australian artists, it is unusual for men to be shown or to show themselves in this context. Modest in scale, Brack’s image is conceived in a complex yet subtle colour scheme, applied with clarity and precision. ~ Geoffrey Smith

 

Britains Ltd, London manufacturer (England 1860-1997) 'Milk float and horse' c. 1950

 

Britains Ltd, London manufacturer (England 1860-1997)
Milk float and horse
no. 45F from the Model home farm series 1921-61
c. 1950
Painted lead alloy
National Gallery of Victoria
Presented by Miss Lucy Kerley and her nephew John Kerley, 1982

 

Jacques Callot (France 1592-1635) 'The firing squad' 1633

 

Jacques Callot (France 1592-1635)
The firing squad
L’Arquebusade
Plate 12 from Les Misères et les malheurs de la guerre
(The miseries and misfortunes of war) series
1633
Etching, 2nd of 3 states
National Gallery of Victoria
Purchased, 1950

 

Paul Caponigro (born United States 1932) 'Nahant, Massachusetts' 1965

 

Paul Caponigro (born United States 1932)
Nahant, Massachusetts
1965
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Victoria
Purchased with the assistance of the National Gallery Society of Victoria, 1977

 

Jean Charles Cazin (France 1841-1901, lived in England 1871-75) 'The rainbow' late 1880s

 

Jean Charles Cazin (France 1841-1901, lived in England 1871-75)
The rainbow
L’Arc-en-ciel
late 1880s
Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Victoria
Felton Bequest, 1913

 

Marshall Claxton (England 1813-81, lived in Australia 1850-54) 'An emigrant's thoughts of home' 1859

 

Marshall Claxton (England 1813-81, lived in Australia 1850-54)
An emigrant’s thoughts of home
1859
Oil on cardboard
National Gallery of Victoria
Presented by the National Gallery Women’s Association, 1974

 

 

Marshall Claxton’s painting An emigrant’s thoughts of home (1859) belongs to a clutch of works, both fine and popular, both pictorial and literary, that for an Australasian audience are perhaps the most resonant of the many products of Victorian culture. Emigration, a social and political phenomenon for mid-nineteenth-century Britain, and the essential lubricant of British imperialism, inspired a profusion of paintings, prints, novels, plays, poems, essays and letters that speak eloquently about the realities and myths of Victorian Britain and its role in the world, engaging concepts of the family, womanhood, the artist’s role and function and, indeed, the meaning of life. ~ Pamela Gerrish Nunn

 

Olive Cotton (Australia 1911-2003) 'Teacup ballet' 1935, printed 1992

 

Olive Cotton (Australia 1911-2003)
Teacup ballet
1935, printed 1992
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Victoria
Purchased from Admission Funds, 1992

 

 

Among Cotton’s most famous photographs, Teacup ballet has very humble origins. It was taken after hours in the Dupain studio and used a set of cheap cups and saucers Cotton had earlier bought from a Woolworths store for use around the studio. As she later recounted: ‘Their angular handles suggested to me the position of “arms akimbo” and that led to the idea of a dance pattern’. The picture uses a range of formal devices that became common to Cotton’s work, especially the strong backlighting used to create dramatic tonal contrasts and shadows. The picture achieved instant success, and was selected for exhibition in the London Salon of Photography for 1935.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

Olive Cotton (Australia 1911-2003) 'The sleeper' 1939, printed 1992

 

Olive Cotton (Australia 1911-2003)
The sleeper
1939, printed 1992
Gelatin silver photograph, ed. 4/25
National Gallery of Victoria
Purchased from Admission Funds, 1992

 

 

The sleeper 1939, Olive Cotton’s graceful study of her friend Olga Sharp resting while on a bush picnic, made around the same time as Max Dupain’s Sunbaker, presents a different take upon the enjoyment of life in Australia. The woman is relaxed, nestled within the environment. The mood is one of secluded reverie.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

Edward Curtis (United States 1868-1952) 'Kalóqutsuis - Qágyuhl' 1914, printed 1915

 

 

Edward Curtis (United States 1868-1952)
Kalóqutsuis – Qágyuhl
1914, printed 1915
Photogravure
National Gallery of Victoria
Gift of Ms Christine Godden, 1991

 

 

Not only was he one of the greatest ethnographic photographers of all time (as well as being an ethnographer recording more than 10,000 songs on a primitive wax cylinder, and writing down vocabularies and pronunciation guides for 75 languages) … he was also an aesthetic photographer. Looking at his photographs you can feel that he adhered to the principles of the nature and appreciation of beauty situated within the environment of the Native American cultures and peoples. He had a connection to the people and to the places he was photographing…

Curtis created a body of work unparrallleled in the annals of photography – an ethnographic study of an extant civilisation before it vanished (or so they thought at the time). Such a project stretched over thirty years, producing 45-50 thousand negatives “many of them on glass and some as large as fourteen by seventeen inches” of which 2,200 original photographs appeared in his magnum opus, The North American Indian…

While all great photographers have both technical skill and creative ability it is the dedication of this artist to his task over so many years that sets him apart. That dedication is critically coupled with his innate ability to capture the “spirit” of the Native American cultures and peoples, their humanity.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Frances Derham (Australia 1894-1987) 'Building the bridge' 1929

 

Frances Derham (Australia 1894-1987)
Building the bridge
1929
Colour linocut on Japanese paper
National Gallery of Victoria
Gift of Mr Richard Hodgson Derham, 1988

 

Kerry Dundas (born Australia 1931, lived in Europe 1958-67) 'A girl is carried away under arrest' 1961-63

 

Kerry Dundas (born Australia 1931, lived in Europe 1958-67)
A girl is carried away under arrest
from the Youth against the Bomb series
1961-63
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Victoria
Purchased, 1971

 

Max Dupain (1911-1992) 'Bondi' 1939

 

Max Dupain (1911-1992)
Bondi
1939
Gelatin silver photograph
30.3 × 29.5 cm
National Gallery of Victoria
Purchased with the assistance of the Visual Arts Board, 1976

 

Walker Evans (United States 1903-75) 'Hitchhikers, near Vicksburg, Mississippi' 1936, printed c. 1975

 

Walker Evans (United States 1903-75)
Hitchhikers, near Vicksburg, Mississippi
1936, printed c. 1975
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Victoria
Purchased, 1975

 

Walker Evans (United States 1903-75) 'Auto dump, near Easton, Pennsylvania' 1935, printed c. 1975

 

Walker Evans (United States 1903-75)
Auto dump, near Easton, Pennsylvania
1935, printed c. 1975
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Victoria
Purchased, 1975

 

William Frater (born Scotland 1890, arrived Australia 1913, died 1974) 'The blue nude' c. 1934

 

William Frater (born Scotland 1890, arrived Australia 1913, died 1974)
The blue nude
c. 1934
Oil on canvas on cardboard
National Gallery of Victoria
Gift of Mrs Lina Bryans, 1969

 

 

His contribution to art in Australia was, however, as a painter who introduced Post-Impressionist principles and challenged the notion that art was an imitation of nature.

Frater’s oeuvre developed between 1915 and 1920 towards a simplification of design, an interplay of massed lights and shadows, and sonorous low-keyed colour that reflected his interest in the classical seventeenth century painters in interaction with the analytical tonal theory of Max Meldrum. Notable examples of his predominantly figure and portrait paintings are ‘The artist’s wife reading’ (1915) and ‘Portrait of artist’s wife’ (1919). An experimental Colourist phase followed in the next decade. His first solo exhibition was held in May 1923 at the Athenaeum, Melbourne, and he exhibited with the Twenty Melbourne Painters from the late 1920s, and the Contemporary Group of Melbourne in the 1930s.

His approach in the 1930s was markedly indebted to Cézanne, especially in the portraits which predominated until his retirement… Frater gave aggressive leadership to the small group of modernists in the 1920s. His example, teaching, lecturing and crusty style of polemic did much to disrupt the academic style as the arbiter of pictorial values and to pioneer a change of taste in the community.

Text from the Australian Dictionary of Biography website

 

Emmanuel Frémiet (France 1824 - 1910) 'Gorilla carrying off a woman' 1887

 

Emmanuel Frémiet (France 1824 – 1910)
Gorilla carrying off a woman
Gorille enlevant une femme
1887
Bronze
National Gallery of Victoria
Gift of the artist, 1907

 

Lee Friedlander (born United States 1934) 'Hillcrest, New York' 1970, printed c. 1977

 

Lee Friedlander (born United States 1934)
Hillcrest, New York
1970, printed c. 1977
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Victoria
Purchased, 1977

 

Lee Friedlander (born United States 1934) 'Mount Rushmore' 1969, printed c. 1977

 

 

Lee Friedlander (born United States 1934)
Mount Rushmore
1969, printed c. 1977
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Victoria
Purchased, 1977

 

 

The ‘tourist gaze’

As Grundberg notes, Friedlander’s terse depiction shows both the sight and the tourists themselves, being brought into existence through the effects of looking, reflecting, framing and imaging. These, he adds, are all linked to the general project of culturally appropriating the natural world. ‘Natural site has become acculturated sight’ (Grundberg 1990: 15).

As the image makes clear, the ‘sight’ or the ‘site’ is a ‘seeing’ without a subject, for it pre-exists the arrival and activity of any individual tourist-photographer, who, once located there, is framed as much as framing. The sight is not so much an object to be viewers an already structured condition of seeing, a situation which places the sightseer even as he or she freely choose to look or shoot.

The effects of photography’s presence in the tourist system merely completed a process under way before photography’s birth. As tourists, even at the moment of photographing, even if touring cameraless, we are not so much looking as looking at images, or looking for images. Tourism provides us less with experience than with events to be seen, Or rather, events to look at. The privileging of the visual grants us separation from our own experience… We look on or look in through the distancing arrangements of the camera or through eyes educated to see with the same ontological remoteness. The world of the tourist is ‘over there’, in the past-present, in the exotic-ordinary. It is framed off, the object of imaging or description, in some spectacular distance, or set back as performance (Greenwood in Smith 1989).

Peter Osborne. Traveling Light: Photography, Travel and Visual Culture. Manchester University Press, 2000, pp. 81-82.

 

Barbara Hepworth (England 1903-75) 'Eidos' 1947

 

Barbara Hepworth (England 1903-75)
Eidos
1947
Stone, synthetic polymer paint
National Gallery of Victoria
Purchased with the assistance of the Samuel E. Wills Bequest to commemorate the retirement of Dr E. Westbrook, Director of Arts for Victoria, 1981

 

 

Eidos a Greek term meaning “form” “essence”, “type” or “species”. The early Greek concept of form precedes attested philosophical usage and is represented by a number of words mainly having to do with vision, sight, and appearance. The words, εἶδος (eidos) and ἰδέα (idea) come from the Indo-European root *weid-, “see”. Eidos (though not idea) is already attested in texts of the Homeric era, the earliest Greek literature. This transliteration and the translation tradition of German and Latin lead to the expression “theory of Ideas.” The word is however not the English “idea,” which is a mental concept only.

The meaning of the term εἶδος (eidos), “visible form”, and related terms μορφή (morphē), “shape”, and φαινόμενα (phainomena), “appearances”, from φαίνω (phainō), “shine”, Indo-European *bhā-, remained stable over the centuries until the beginning of philosophy, when they became equivocal, acquiring additional specialised philosophic meanings. (Theory of Forms Wikipedia)

 

Lewis Hine (United States 1874-1940) 'Sam Pine, 8 year old truant newsboy who lives at 717 West California Street' 1917

 

Lewis Hine (United States 1874-1940)
Sam Pine, 8 year old truant newsboy who lives at 717 West California Street
1917
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Victoria
Purchased, 1980

 

David Hockney (born England 1937, worked in United States 1964-68, 1975- ) 'Reclining figure' 1975

 

David Hockney (born England 1937, worked in United States 1964-68, 1975- )
Reclining figure
1975
Etching and liftground etching, ed. 38/75
National Gallery of Victoria
Gift of Margaret Toll, 2006

 

Edmond-François Aman-Jean (France 1860-1936) 'Woman resting' c. 1904

 

Edmond-François Aman-Jean (France 1860-1936)
Woman resting
La Femme couchée
c. 1904
Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Victoria
Felton Bequest, 1905

 

Max Klinger (Germany 1857-1920) 'Cast of artist's hands' 1920

 

Max Klinger (Germany 1857-1920)
Cast of artist’s hands
1920
plaster
National Gallery of Victoria
Gift of Mrs Marcelle Osins, 1994

 

Fred Kruger (born Germany 1831, arrived Australia 1860, died) 'Coast scene, Mordialloc Creek, near Cheltenham' c. 1871

 

Fred Kruger (born Germany 1831, arrived Australia 1860, died)
Coast scene, Mordialloc Creek, near Cheltenham
c. 1871
Albumen silver photograph
National Gallery of Victoria
Gift of Mrs Beryl M. Curl, 1979

 

 

The best of the landscape photographs have nothing to do with Arcadian, pastoral life at all. For me, Kruger’s photographs only start to come alive when he is photographing gum trees against the sky. Anyone who has tried to photograph the Australian bush knows how difficult it is to evince a “feeling” for the bush and Kruger achieves this magnificently in a series of photographs of gum trees in semi-cleared land, such as Bush scene near Highton (c. 1879). These open ‘parklike’ landscapes are not sublime nor do they picture the spread of colonisation but isolate the gum trees against the sky. They rely on the thing itself to speak to the viewer, not a constructed posturing or placement of figures to achieve a sterile mise-en-scène.

Dr Marcus Bunyan from a posting on the NGV exhibition Fred Kruger: Intimate Landscapes.

 

Kusakabe Kimbei (Japan 1841-1934) 'No title (Couple with a cabinet photograph and ghost in background)' 1880s

 

Kusakabe Kimbei (Japan 1841-1934)
No title (Couple with a cabinet photograph and ghost in background)
1880s
Albumen silver photograph, colour dyes
National Gallery of Victoria
Purchased, 2004

 

 

Kimbei Kusakabe arrived in Yokohama in 1856 and became Felice Beato’s pupil, hand-coloring his photographs until 1863. In 1881, he opened his own studio and promptly became one of the most prosperous and influential photographers of his generation, rivalling the Western artists that had until then dominated the market. With his coloured portraits, everyday scenes and landscapes, he is the purveyor of souvenir images for Westerners visiting Japan. Kimbei Kusakabe depicted men in serene social and economic contexts while women – his favourite subjects – were represented in romantic portraits as well as domestic and cultural scenes. The young mysterious and submissive geisha was particularly appealing to Western audiences and the Japanese photographer helped establish their visual identity as icons of feminine beauty and social etiquette. Kimbei Kusakabe’s rare images are a rich resource for the comprehension of a Japan that has now disappeared. (Text from The Red List website)

Kusakabe Kimbei worked with Felice Beato and Baron Raimund von Stillfried as a photographic colourist and assistant before opening his own workshop in Yokohama in 1881, in the Benten-dōri quarter, and from 1889 operating in the Honmachi quarter. He also opened a branch in the Ginza quarter of Tokyo. Around 1885, he acquired the negatives of Felice Beato and of Stillfried, as well as those of Uchida Kuichi. Kusakabe also acquired some of Ueno Hikoma’s negatives of Nagasaki. He stopped working as a photographer in 1912-1913. (Wikipedia)

 

Dorothea Lange (United States 1895-1965) 'Towards Los Angeles, California' 1936, printed c. 1975

 

Dorothea Lange (United States 1895-1965)
Towards Los Angeles, California
1936, printed c. 1975
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Victoria
Purchased, 1975

 

Dorothea Lange (United States 1895-1965) 'Ditched, stalled and stranded, San Joaquin Valley, California' 1935, printed c. 1975

 

Dorothea Lange (United States 1895-1965)
Ditched, stalled and stranded, San Joaquin Valley, California
1935, printed c. 1975
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Victoria
Purchased, 1975

 

Russell Lee (United States 1903-86) 'Interlude, after watching the Fourth of July Parade, Vale, Oregon' 1941, printed c. 1975

 

Russell Lee (United States 1903-86)
Interlude, after watching the Fourth of July Parade, Vale, Oregon
1941, printed c. 1975
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Victoria
Purchased, 1975

 

José López (born Cuba 1941, lived in United States c. 1961-92, died United States 1992) Luis Medina (born Cuba 1942, lived in United States 1961-85, died United States 1985) 'Boy asleep by the beach' 1976

 

José López (born Cuba 1941, lived in United States c. 1961-92, died United States 1992)
Luis Medina (born Cuba 1942, lived in United States 1961-85, died United States 1985)
Boy asleep by the beach
1976
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Victoria
Purchased, 1978

 

Ruth Maddison (born Australia 1945) 'No title (Woman collecting a Christmas present from the car)' 1977-78

 

Ruth Maddison (born Australia 1945)
No title (Woman collecting a Christmas present from the car)
from the Christmas Holidays with Bob’s Family, Mermaid Beach, Queensland series
1977-78, printed 1979
Gelatin silver photograph, coloured pencils and fibretipped pen, ed. 1/5
National Gallery of Victoria
Purchased, 1980

 

 

This was a very hands on process, an observation confirmed by artist Ruth Maddison. “The process was like hand watering your garden, an intense exchange and engagement with the object. When I started I was completely untrained, but I loved the process. I just experimented in order to understand what medium does what on what paper surface. There was the beauty of its object and its physicality. I just loved the object.” Her series Christmas holiday with Bob’s family, Mermaid Beach, Queensland (1977/78, below), photographed over Christmas Day and several days afterwards, evidences this magical transformation. Vernacular photographs of a typical Australia Christmas holiday become something else, transformed into beautiful, atypical representations of family, friendship, celebration and life.

Dr Marcus Bunyan commenting on the National Gallery of Australia exhibition Colour My World: Handcoloured Australia Photography.

 

Henri Matisse (France 1869-1954) 'Reclining nude on a pink couch' 1919

 

Henri Matisse (France 1869-1954)
Reclining nude on a pink couch
Nu couché sur canapé rose
1919
Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Victoria
Felton Bequest, 1952

 

Amedeo Modigliani (born Italy 1884, lived in France 1906-20, died France 1920) 'Nude resting' c. 1916-19

 

Amedeo Modigliani (born Italy 1884, lived in France 1906-20, died France 1920)
Nude resting
c. 1916-19
Pencil on buff paper; laid down
National Gallery of Victoria
Felton Bequest, 1948

 

László Moholy-Nagy (born Hungary 1895, lived in Germany 1920-34, lived in United States 1935-37, United States 1937-46, died United States) 'Helsinki' 1927, printed 1973

 

László Moholy-Nagy (born Hungary 1895, lived in Germany 1920-34, lived in United States 1935-37, United States 1937-46, died United States)
Helsinki
1927, printed 1973
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Victoria
Purchased, 1975

 

David Moore (Australia 1927-2003) 'Migrants arriving in Sydney' 1966

 

David Moore (Australia 1927-2003)
Migrants arriving in Sydney
1966
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Victoria
Purchased, 1991

 

 

In this evocative image Moore condenses the anticipation and apprehension of immigrants into a tight frame as they arrive in Australia to begin a new life. The generational mix suggests family reconnections or individual courage as each face displays a different emotion.

Moore’s first colour image Faces mirroring their expectations of life in the land down under, passengers crowd the rail of the liner Galileo Galilei in Sydney Harbour was published in National Geographic in 1967.1 In that photograph the figures are positioned less formally and look cheerful. But it is this second image, probably taken seconds later, which Moore printed in black-and-white, that has become symbolic of national identity as it represents a time when Australia’s rapidly developing industrialised economy addressed its labour shortage through immigration. The strength of the horizontal composition of cropped figures underpinned by the ship’s rail is dramatised by the central figure raising her hand – an ambiguous gesture either reaching for a future or reconnecting with family. The complexity of the subject and the narrative the image implies ensured its public success, which resulted in a deconstruction of the original title, ‘European migrants’, by the passengers, four of whom it later emerged were Sydneysiders returning from holiday, alongside two migrants from Egypt and Lebanon.2 Unintentionally Moore’s iconic image has become an ‘historical fiction’, yet the passengers continue to represent an evolving Australian identity in relation to immigration.

1. Max Dupain and associates: http://www.mdaa.com.au/people/moore-05.php. Accessed 17.06.2006
2. Thomas D & Sayers A 2000, From face to face: portraits by David Moore, Chapter & Verse, Sydney

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007

From a posting on the exhibition The Photograph and Australia at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

 

Henry Moore (England 1898-1986) 'Reclining figure distorted - Sectional line' 1979

 

Henry Moore (England 1898-1986)
Reclining figure distorted – Sectional line
1979
Chalk, charcoal, wax crayon, ballpoint pen and watercolour over pencil
National Gallery of Victoria
Gift of Ginny Green, Sandra Bardas OAM family, Vicki Vidor OAM and Bindy Koadlow in memory of their parents Loti Smorgon AO and Victor Smorgon AC through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program, 2014

 

William De Morgan (designer, England 1839-1917) 'Startled tigers, dish' c. 1880

 

William De Morgan & Co., London (manufacturer, England 1872-1911)
William De Morgan (designer, England 1839-1917)
Startled tigers, dish
c. 1880
Earthenware
National Gallery of Victoria
Felton Bequest, 1980

 

Helen Ogilvie (Australia 1902-93) '(Four figures seated at a table listening to a phonograph through earpieces)' c. 1947

 

Helen Ogilvie (Australia 1902-93)
(Four figures seated at a table listening to a phonograph through earpieces)
Illustration to Flinders Lane: recollections of Alfred Felton by Russell Grimwade. Melbourne University Press,Carlton, 1947
c. 1947
Wood-engraving on Japanese paper, proof
National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

“What interested me I think were the English wood engravers. I would have seen them in reproductions in books … I think it appealed to me as an artistic expression because it was done so directly with the hand. I know that when a painter is painting the hand is connected with the brain. But with wood engraving it seemed to me it was almost more so. And I got very worked up about it, but I had no way of learning … I know how I got started. Eric Thake was the man who said to me, “I’ll show you how to use your tool.”‘

from Anne Ryan, ‘Australian etchings and engravings 1880s-1930s from the Gallery’s collection’, AGNSW, Sydney 2007

 

John Perceval (Australia 1923-2000) 'Lover's walk in the corn, summer, England' 1964

 

John Perceval (Australia 1923-2000)
Lover’s walk in the corn, summer, England
1964
Oil and toy mouse on canvas
National Gallery of Victoria
Presented through The Art Foundation of Victoria by Fingal Pastoral Property Limited, Fellow, 1997

 

Peter Peryer (born New Zealand 1941) 'Seeing' 1989

 

Peter Peryer (born New Zealand 1941)
Seeing
1989
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Victoria
Purchased, 1996

 

G. B. Poletto (Italy 1915-88) 'No title (Ava Gardner in wardrobe still for On the beach: Street)' 1957

 

G. B. Poletto (Italy 1915-88)
No title (Ava Gardner in wardrobe still for On the beach: Street)
1957
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Victoria
Purchased, 2003

 

David Potts (Australia 1926-2012, lived in England 1950-55) 'Cat show, London' 1953

 

David Potts (Australia 1926-2012, lived in England 1950-55)
Cat show, London
1953
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Victoria
Purchased through the KODAK (Australasia) Pty Ltd Fund, 1975

 

August Sander (Germany 1876-1964) 'Itinerant basket makers' 1929

 

August Sander (Germany 1876-1964)
Itinerant basket makers
from the People of the Twentieth Century project
1929, printed 1973
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Victoria
Purchased, 1974

 

 

Nomadism

In the literature on nomadism, there is considerable disagreement over the range of societies that should be designated as “nomadic,” but there is some consensus that at least three categories of mobile peoples should be recognised. The first category, to which many wish to restrict the term “nomadic,” is that of pastoral nomads… The second broad category of nomads is that of hunter-gatherers, whose mode of subsistence sets them apart from both pastoralists and sedentary farmers…

The third basic category is that of Gypsies, itinerant basket-makers, tinkers, weavers, mimes, magicians, musicians, horse dealers, nostrum traders, carnival people, circus performers, and so on. Characterised the variously as “service nomads,” “economic nomads,” “commercial nomads,” “craftsman nomads,” “non-food producing nomads,” “floating industrial populations,” “peripatetic tribes,” “peripatetic peoples” or plain “peripatetics,” these are spatially mobile peoples who primarily exploit resources in the social environment. They exploit what Berland and Salo call a distinct peripatetic niche: “the regular demand for specialised goods and/or services that more sedentary or pastoral communities cannot, or will not, support on a permanent basis.”

Ronald Bogue. Deleuze’s Way: Essays in Transverse Ethics and Aesthetics. London and New York: Routledge, 2007, pp. 114-115.

 

Ben Shahn (born Lithuania 1898, lived in United States c. 1925-69, died United States 1969) 'A deputy with a gun on his hip during the September 1935 strike in Morgantown, West Virginia' 1935, printed c. 1975

 

Ben Shahn (born Lithuania 1898, lived in United States c. 1925-69, died United States 1969)
A deputy with a gun on his hip during the September 1935 strike in Morgantown, West Virginia
1935, printed c. 1975
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Victoria
Purchased, 1975

 

Athol Shmith (Australia 1914-90) 'Misses Mary and Rae Plotkin, bridesmaids at the wedding of Mrs Edith Sheezel' 1940

 

Athol Shmith (Australia 1914-90)
Misses Mary and Rae Plotkin, bridesmaids at the wedding of Mrs Edith Sheezel
1940
Hand-coloured gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Victoria
Gift of Mary Lipshut through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gift’s Program, 2012

 

Baron Raimund von Stillfried (Austria 1839-1911, lived throughout Europe and Asia 1871-1910) 'No title (Tattooed bettōs, porters)' c. 1875, printed c. 1877-80

 

Baron Raimund von Stillfried (Austria 1839-1911, lived throughout Europe and Asia 1871-1910)
No title (Tattooed bettōs, porters)
c. 1875, printed c. 1877-80
Albumen silver photograph, colour dyes
National Gallery of Victoria
Purchased through the NGV Foundation with the assistance of The Herald & Weekly Times Limited, Fellow, 2001

 

 

“There are two employments which I have mentioned among those of domestic servants because they would be so classed by us, but which in Japan rank among the trades. The jinrikisha man and the groom belong, as a rule, to a certain class at the bottom of the social ladder, and no samurai would think of entering either of these occupations, except under stress of severest poverty. The bettōs, or grooms, are a hereditary class and a regular guild, and have a reputation, among both Japanese and foreigners, as a betting, gambling, cheating, good-for-nothing lot. An honest bettō is a rare phenomenon.”

Alice Mabel Bacon. Japanese Girls and Women. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company The Riverside Press, 1891, p. 319.

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (born Japan 1948, lived in United States and Japan 1976- ) 'Winnetka Drive-In, Paramount' 1993

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (born Japan 1948, lived in United States and Japan 1976- )
Winnetka Drive-In, Paramount
1993
Gelatin silver photograph, ed. 8/25
National Gallery of Victoria
Bowness Family Fund for Contemporary Photography, 2009

 

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto’s famous series Theaters is represented in the exhibition by the work Winnetka Drive-In, Paramount (1993) where  Sugimoto “photographs auditoriums of American movie theaters, and drive-in movies, during showings. The exposure time used for the photograph corresponds with the projection time of the film. This allows him to save the duration of the entire film in a single shot. What remains visible of the film’s time-compressed, individual images is the bright screen of the movie theater, which illuminates the architecture of the space. That its content retreats into the background makes the actual film a piece of information, manifesting itself in the (movie theater) space. As a result, instead of a content-related event, film presents itself here as the relationship between time and spatial perception.”3

If we think of the camera lens as being fully open, like an eye without blinking, for the duration of the length of the film then the shutter of the lens has to be set on “B” for Bulb which allows for long exposure times under the direct control of the photographer. “The term bulb is a reference to old-style pneumatically actuated shutters; squeezing an air bulb would open the shutter and releasing the bulb would close it… It appears that when instantaneous shutters were introduced, they included a B setting so that the familiar bulb behaviour could be duplicated with a cable release.”4 In other words light waves, reflecting from the surface of objects, are controlled by the photographer over an indefinite period (not the short “snap” of the freeze frame / the decisive moment), accumulating light from thousands of years in the past through the lens of the camera onto the focal plane, coalescing into a single image, controlled and constructed by the photographer.

Dr Marcus Bunyan from a review of the NGV exhibition Light Works (2012)

3. Kellein, Thomas and Sugimoto, Hiroshi. Time Exposed. Thames & Hudson, First edition, 1995, p. 91, quoted on the Media Art Net website. [Online] Cited 08/09/2012.
4. Anon. “Bulb (photography),” on the Wikipedia website. Nd. [Online] Cited 08/09/2012.

 

James Thomas (England 1854-1921, lived in Italy 1889-1906) 'Thyrsis' 1914

 

James Thomas (England 1854-1921, lived in Italy 1889-1906)
Thyrsis
1914
Bronze, patina
National Gallery of Victoria
Felton Bequest, 1915

 

Joseph Turner (active in Australia 1856- 1880s) 'No title (Laying the foundation stone of the Geelong clock tower)' 1856

 

Joseph Turner (active in Australia 1856- 1880s)
No title (Laying the foundation stone of the Geelong clock tower)
1856
Daguerreotype leather, wood, silk, gilt metal and glass (case)
National Gallery of Victoria
Purchased, 1974

 

 

Market Square was a town square located in the centre of Geelong, Victoria, Australia. Consisting of eight acres (2.9 hectares) of land, the area was reserved by Governor Sir George Gipps as a town square during the initial surveying of Geelong. The area later became a produce market, before being progressively built upon. Today the Market Square Shopping Centre occupies the site, having been opened in 1985 by the City of Geelong…

A clock tower was built in the centre of the square in 1856. It was the idea of the second mayor of Geelong James Austin, who offered to pay for a clock tower in Geelong to mark his term as mayor. The clock was featured in The Illustrated London News in March 1855. Components for the clock arrived in Geelong on November 13, 1855 from England, but the location for the clock had yet to be decided. Suggestions of high ground at top of Moorabool, Yarra or Gheringhap Streets were put forward at the time, the indecision lasting into early 1856. In July 1857 a decision was made, and the foundation stone was finally laid in the Market Square…

The clock tower remained until October 1923 when it was demolished to make way for the CML Building. There was a public outcry, and no one was willing to demolish it. However, it was deemed too impractical to move intact, and was brought down by steel cables attached to traction engine. The site of the clock tower is marked by a plaque in the Market Square Shopping Centre.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

William Wegman (born United States 1943) 'Horned hound' 1991

 

William Wegman (born United States 1943)
Horned hound
1991
Polaroid photograph
National Gallery of Victoria
Purchased, 1992

 

 

The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia
Federation Square
Corner of Russell and 
Flinders Streets, Melbourne

Opening hours:
10am – 5pm
Closed Mondays

National Gallery of Victoria 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

.
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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21
Apr
16

Exhibition: ‘Provoke: Between Protest and Performance – Photography in Japan 1960 – 1975’ at the Albertina, Vienna

Exhibition dates: 29th January – 8th May 2016

 

I absolutely love Japanese photography from this period.

Subjective photographs with a gutsy pictorial language: rough, grainy, and blurred intimations of a postwar reality mated with “the search for a new Japanese identity.” An identity (pop!) art with a elemental, chthonic twist – containing a dark sensuality – producing images that pull no punches. Wonderful stuff.

Marcus

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

 

The Japanese photo magazine Provoke, which ran for three issues in 1968 and 1969, is viewed as a one-of-a-kind agglomeration of post-war artistic efforts. In the world’s first-ever exhibition on this topic, the Albertina examines the complex genesis of this magazine and thereby presents a representative cross-section of photographic trends present in Japan between the 1960s and 1970s.

With around 200 objects, this showing unites works by Japan’s most influential photographers including Daidō Moriyama, Yutaka Takanashi, Shomei Tomatsu, and Nobuyoshi Araki. In light of the massive protest movements active in Japan during this period, their photographs arose at a historical turning point between societal collapse and the search for a new Japanese identity. These images thus represent both an expression of this political transformation and the renewal of prevalent aesthetic norms.

This exhibition is a coproduction between Albertina, Fotomuseum Winterthur, Le Bal (Paris), and Art Institute of Chicago.

 

 

Daido Moriyama, Takuma Nakahira, Okada Takahiko, Yukata Takanashi, Kōji Taki. 'Provoke 3' cover, 1969

 

Daido Moriyama, Takuma Nakahira, Okada Takahiko, Yukata Takanashi, Kōji Taki
Provoke 3 cover
1969
© Nakahira Gen/Moriyama Daido/Takahiko Okada/Takanashi Yukata/Taki Koji

 

 

The three numbers of Provoke were printed in small editions of only one thousand copies each. Takuma Nakahira, Yutaka Takanashi, Kōji Taki, and Takahiko Okada founded the magazine; Daidō Moriyama joined the group with the magazine’s second issue. While the first two numbers were dedicated to the subjects Summer 1968 and Eros, the last issue had no focal theme.

The photographers of Provoke worked spontaneously and dynamically, often without looking through the viewfinder of their small-format cameras. This made for a rough, grainy, and blurred (“are,” “bure,” “boke”) pictorial language influenced by Ed van der Elsken and William Klein. This language broke with traditional photography defined by sophisticated compositions, perfect tonal values, and the vintage print. The tonal quality of pictures reproduced through printing differed from that of traditional photographic prints, and the pictures were regarded as independent works in their own right. Contrary to the objectives of the traditional matter-of-fact documentary photography, they mirrored their authors’ subjective experience of Japan’s postwar reality. The manifesto in the first Provoke issue defined photography as an autonomous medium independent of spoken language and aimed at “provoking” thoughts and ideas. The title of the magazine Provoke: Provocative Materials for Thought expresses this intention. (Wall text)

 

Takuma Nakahira (1938-2015) | For a Language to Come

The photographer, theorist, and critic Takuma Nakahira and Kōji Taki were responsible for the discursive orientation of Provoke. Nakahira’s works rejected the rules of photojournalism and its claim of rendering facts in a generally valid, objective way. They were also critical of the visual mass media which increasingly pervaded the everyday life of Japan’s consumerist society. According to Nakahira, the media, having lost all relation to reality through the information explosion, were only concerned with presenting a virtual reality. Nakahira did not regard the photograph as an artist photographer’s means of expression but as a mere mechanical document of his subjective perception.

It is the relationship between photography and language which is central for Nakahira’s photography. This is not only evident in Provoke but also in his book For a Language to Come published in 1970. This volume assembles a non-linear and unhierarchical sequence of snapshots evoking imaginary, post-apocalyptic sceneries which not least reveal the photographer’s skepsis about the US consumerist culture spreading throughout Japan. (Wall text)

 

Three Waves of Protest Books

The protest books can be divided into three groups. From the 1960s, mainly collective publishing projects highlighted social unrest such as mass demonstrations and strikes organized by the trade unions against the ratification of the Security Treaty. The trade union publication Rope Ladder and Iron Helmet, for example, documents the occupation of a publishing house by its employees. The second wave saw primarily individual publications by various photographers such as Kazuo Kitai’s book Resistance. It depicts the students’ activities, and its rough and grainy pictorial language became important for Provoke. The third wave of protest books, generally designed by students and published from 1967 on, focused on violent street fights in Tokyo directed against the Vietnam War. The collectively produced volume Sanrizuka – The Hokusō Plateau on Fire. Document 1966-71 deals with the protests against the construction of the airport in Sanrizuka, in which students joined forces with the local farmers. (Wall text)

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Provoke: Between Protest and Performance - Photography in Japan 1960 - 1975' at the Albertina, Vienna

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Provoke: Between Protest and Performance - Photography in Japan 1960 - 1975' at the Albertina, Vienna

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Provoke: Between Protest and Performance - Photography in Japan 1960 - 1975' at the Albertina, Vienna

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Provoke: Between Protest and Performance - Photography in Japan 1960 - 1975' at the Albertina, Vienna

 

Installation photographs of the exhibition Provoke: Between Protest and Performance – Photography in Japan 1960 – 1975 at the Albertina, Vienna

 

Shōmei Tōmatsu. 'Blood and Rose, Tokyo, 1969' 1969

 

Shōmei Tōmatsu
Blood and Rose, Tokyo, 1969
1969
Gelatin silver print
Albertina, Vienna; permanent loan of the Austrian Ludwig Foundation for Art and Science
© Shōmei Tōmatsu Estate, courtesy | PRISKA PASQUER, Cologne

 

 

Shōmei Tōmatsu (1930-2012)

Shōmei Tōmatsu is seen as a key figure for Provoke. He photographed the sociopolitical changes in Japan from the 1950s on, depicting US military bases, the consequences of dropping a nuclear bomb on Nagasaki, and the student protests in a new, symbolic documentary style. The pictures’ subjective approach revolutionized traditional documentary and reportage photography, which strove to convey a comprehensible story and a clear social message. The strategies developed by Tōmatsu are to be found in the Provoke artists’ works in a pointed form.

Tōmatsu also supported the Provoke photographers as an exhibition organizer and editor. Together with Takuma Nakahira and Kōji Taki, he prepared the first major exhibition of Japanese photography in 1968, which was to stimulate the founders of the magazine to explore the medium. Tōmatsu and Nakahira edited the photo galleries I am a King in the magazine Gendai no me (The Contemporary Eye), which for the first time assembled works by the photographers who would form the Provoke group. (Wall text)

 

Eikoh Hosoe. '"Kamaitachi" #31' 1968

 

Eikoh Hosoe
“Kamaitachi” #31
1968
Gelatin silver print
Albertina, Vienna – permanent loan of the Austrian Ludwig Foundation for Art and Science
© Eikoh Hosoe/Taka Ishii Gallery

 

 

Performance

Pictures taken in the context of performances breach the boundary between photographic documentation and live action and emphasize performative aspects of the medium like the brief act of pictorial production and the materiality of the picture. For his series Kamaitachi, Eikō Hosoe portrayed the butoh and performance artist Tatsumi Hijikata from 1965 on. The performer incorporated the demon Kamaitachi in scenes specifically staged for the camera, visualizing the photographer’s memories of World War II. As Hosoe used his camera in a very dynamic way, the shooting may be seen as a happening involving two artists.

Competing with Provoke, Nobuyoshi Araki produced a number of Xerox photography books from 1970 on. Araki and his assistants xeroxed photographs and sent the copies bound between black covers to colleagues and friends. The production process resembling a happening, the use of technically inadequate means, and the preference of copies over the original defied classical photography in ways to be found in the Provoke magazines.

Also inspired by Provoke, Jirō Takamatsu turned to conceptual photography. For Photograph of Photograph he employed a photographer to take pictures of pictures from his family albums. The snapshot-like pictorial language manifesting itself in reflections and random image sections defamiliarizes the album pictures. Like in Daidō Moriyama’s series Accident, processes connected with the production of prints become a visible element of work that questions the supposed factuality of the medium. (Wall text)

 

Anonym (Bild 1) 'Protest Surrounding the Construction of Narita Airport' c. 1969

 

Anonym (Bild 1)
Protest Surrounding the Construction of Narita Airport
c. 1969
Gelatin silver print
Collection of the Art Institute of Chicago © AIC

 

 

Protest

In the 1960s and early 1970s, Japan was shaken by massive, partly violent waves of protests. The key event was the ratification of the Security Treaty between Japan and the United States in 1960. Japan’s role as a military base for the war against Vietnam, the construction of Narita Airport in Sanrizuka, and the neoliberal activities of big concerns also led to protests. The years between 1960 and 1975 saw the publication of about eighty publications on the protests and the assessment of Japan’s recent history, particularly the US nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, connected with it.

Published by artist photographers, student associations, trade unions, and professional photo journalists, the protest books were produced in different ways. They were aimed at spreading information and mobilizing people for further protests. The strategies of subversive self-representation were characterized by an innovative design: appeal-like combinations of texts and images, suggestive sequences, dynamic croppings, and an interplay of inferior materials and sophisticated layouts.

Though the members of Provoke, excepting Moriyama, were active politically, they held the opinion that the possibilities of protest photography had been exhausted and that it could not bring about political change. Nevertheless, Provoke followed the models developed by it. The most striking feature next to layout and printing techniques is the protest photographers’ abstract and blurry aesthetic resulting from technical shortcomings. (Wall text)

 

Anonym (Bild 2) 'Protest Surrounding the Construction of Narita Airport' c. 1969

 

Anonym (Bild 2)
Protest Surrounding the Construction of Narita Airport
c. 1969
Gelatin silver print
Collection of the Art Institute of Chicago © AIC

 

 

“The Japanese photo magazine Provoke, which ran for three issues in 1968 and 1969, is regarded as a highlight of post-war photography. The Albertina, in the world’s first-ever exhibition on this topic, is taking a close look at this publication’s creators and its long genesis. The presentation encompasses a representative cross-section of Japanese photographic trends during the 1960s and 1970s. With around 200 objects, the exhibition Provoke unites works by Japan’s most influential photographers – including Daidō Moriyama, Yutaka Takanashi, Shōmei Tōmatsu, and Nobuyoshi Araki. Before the backdrop of the massive protest activities in Japan during this period, they created their images out of an awareness of being at a historical turning point between societal collapse and the search for a new Japanese identity. These works thus represent both an expression of this political transformation and a renewal of prevalent aesthetic norms.

This exhibition places Provoke in a historical context, focussing on the dialogue between the group’s photography in particular and contemporary protest photography and performance art in general.

Photography is examined as a document of – and/or a call to – protest against injustice: the period around 1960 saw numerous books published in connection with the first great wave of protests in Japan against renewal of the alliance with the USA. A few of them document the demonstrations themselves, while others deal with related themes – above all with the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The years during which Provoke was published saw these protests, which were staged employing great creativity, give rise to a captivating visual world of resistance to the illegal actions of large corporations and the despotism of the neoliberal Japanese state.

As the 1960s wore on, the protest movements intensified, leading to a flood of photo volumes and prints. The makers of Provoke – critic Kōji Taki, author Takuma Nakahira, critic and photographer Takuma Nakahira, and photographers Yutaka Takanashi and Daidō Moriyama – were of the opinion that journalistic photography had exhausted itself and that it was impossible to effect long-term change through direct political action. But even so, in their texts and their photos, they oriented themselves on the aesthetic strategies to which Japan’s protest photography had given rise: their works feature strikingly innovative graphic design that employs image sequences, pithy text/image combinations, dynamic outtakes, and the interplay of specifically chosen cheap materials (rough paper, low-resolution printing) with fold-outs and unusual formats.

The exhibition concludes by examining the Japanese photography of its chosen period as a variant of performance art and/or as documentation of live actions: Daidō Moriyama, Takuma Nakahira, and Nobuyoshi Araki are among those photographers who, around 1970, developed great interest in portraying darkroom work or other processes connected to the production of photographic prints as visible and active components of photographic creativity. They were preceded in their efforts by dance performers such as Tatsumi Hijikata, who worked with filmmakers and photographers, as well as by groups like the Hi-Red Center, which blurred the distinctions between photographic documentation and live actions in which photography and other media played a role.

But such influences worked both ways: directly inspired by the activities of the photographers of Provoke, Hi-Red Center member Jiro Takamatsu and Koji Enokura turned to photographic conceptual art in the early 1970s.”

Press release from the Albertina

 

Shōmei Tōmatsu. 'Editor, Takuma Nakahira, Shinjuku, Tokyo, 1964' 1964

 

Shōmei Tōmatsu
Editor, Takuma Nakahira, Shinjuku, Tokyo, 1964
1964
Gelatin silver print
Collection of the Art Institute of Chicago
© Shōmei Tōmatsu Estate – INTERFACE

 

Yutaka Takanashi. 'The Beatles' 1965

 

Yutaka Takanashi
The Beatles
1965
From the series Tokyoites
Gelatin silver print
Albertina, Vienna
© Takanashi Yutaka

 

 

Yutaka Takanashi (b. 1935) | Towards the City

From the mid-1960s, Yutaka Takanashi focused on the urban change of the metropolis. Tokyo’s massive expansion, the modernization of its infrastructure, and its ruthless industrialization were captured in spontaneous pictures often shot from a driving car. Unlike his Provoke colleagues’ works, Takanashi’s photographs are easier to read, less pessimistic, and show a stronger affinity to classical documentary photography. He composed all his pictures by looking through the viewfinder.

In close collaboration with the book designer Kōhei Sugiura, Takanashi published the artist book Toshi e (Towards the City). Embedded in a cardboard box, its two volumes comprise a number of different, partly overlapping work groups: while the smaller one, titled Tokyo-jin (Tokyoites) contains pictures of the city’s inhabitants from 1966, the larger one explores Tokyo’s new topography, documenting its outlying districts. Shot in the Provoke era, the pictures’ blurriness and apparent exposure mistakes testify to the group’s influence. (Wall text)

 

Yutaka Takanashi. 'Ohne Titel (Toshi-e)' 1969

 

Yutaka Takanashi
Ohne Titel (Toshi-e)
1969
Gelatin silver print
© Takanashi Yutaka/Taka Ishii Gallery

 

Yutaka Takanashi. 'Untitled (Tatsumi Hijikata)' 1969

 

Yutaka Takanashi
Untitled (Tatsumi Hijikata)
1969
Gelatin silver print
© Takanashi Yutaka / Taka Ishii Gallery
© Keio University Art Center / Courtesy of Butoh Laboratory Japan

 

Daidō Moriyama. 'Untitled' from the series 'Akushidento (Accident)' 1969

 

Daidō Moriyama
Untitled, from the series Akushidento (Accident)
1969
Gelatin silver print
© Daidō Moriyama / Shadai Gallery, Tokyo Polytechnic University

 

 

Daidō Moriyama (geb. 1938) | Accident

Daidō Moriyama’s series Accident interlinks sociopolitical subjects, references to Western art, and media-analytical considerations. Against the background of Japan’s strengthening consumerist culture, Moriyama, inspired by Andy Warhol’s pop art pictures, relied on everyday mass media. Next to demonstrations and pop culture motifs, Moriyama, alluding to Warhol’s work Silver Car Crash of 1963, photographed police posters that campaigned for safe driving with deterrent pictures of car accidents. Reflections on the material and blurs resulting from the pictures’ enlargement emphasize the reproduction process. Moriyama questions the illusionary nature of photography and underlines their material quality. Regarding contents, the series investigates the conflict between the US consumerist culture’s attraction and the quest for a Japanese identity. (Wall text)

 

 

Albertina
Albertinaplatz 1
1010 Vienna, Austria
T: +43 (0)1 534 83-0

Opening hours:
Daily 10 am – 6 pm
Wednesday 10 am – 9 pm

Albertina 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

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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.

 

 

“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

 

 

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

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

The J. Paul Getty Museum website

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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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