I would characterize a lot of my blogging from last year as a report of getting my bearings in Tokyo; hence the posts about stores, galleries and other things “on the ground.” At this point, I’m more interested in writing about the work that’s being produced here, and the culture supporting it. Above all, I want to think about the dialog between Japanese photography and foreign (especially Western) countries, and to add something productive to this conversation.
Anyone who visits Japan in general, and Tokyo in particular, will be struck by the level of photographic activity here: it bears repeating that the sheer number of photo magazines, camera stores, photography-focused galleries and bookstores, not to mention photographers, is impressive on its own. Yet for all of this activity—happening at “street level,” let’s say—very little of it is transmitted* abroad.
When I went back to San Francisco around New Year’s, I spoke to someone who works with Japanese photography in a professional capacity. This person said that they got most of their information about photography in Japan by hearing about or seeing exhibits in America. This seems obviously problematic: reaching an American gallery requires a level of backing available only to a few photographers. It shouldn’t be that hard for Japanese photographers to reach an American (or British or…) audience, especially when so much compelling work is being produced here.
This blog is not a crusade on behalf of Japanese photography as if it were a greatly neglected photographic tradition. Foreign audiences are already quite familiar with at least a few Japanese photographers—usually men born before 1940. These names (Moriyama, Araki, Tomatsu, Hosoe, Kimura, etc) shouldn’t be ignored, but I would like to move forward positively from this base. Let’s keep our eyes open.
*I have no special knowledge of Japanese culture, and no interest in speaking about the “Japanese-ness” of anything. The farther I can distance myself from any kind of cultural “translation” the better. Whatever I write here is going to be distorted by my own experience in Japan, but I want to focus on presenting things as clearly as possible—“transmit” instead of “interpret.” For armchair cultural analysis you can read pretty much any other blog about Japan! (edit: tokyo damage report and mutantfrog travelogue are exceptionally good though)