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September 2011
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2011, Sep 27
Why do Japanese photographers not have websites?

Ari in New Zealand posted this response to my post about Yoshiko Fujita:

What is the deal with so many photographers over there not bothering with internet sites? If I had to take a guess I’d say it’s maybe because of all the small self-run galleries, so photographers can potentially get exposure that way where they couldn’t in other parts of the world. Or is it Jun Abe’s policy? But it does seem kind of weird by today’s standards.

I’ll take a quick stab at answering this question. The short answer, of course, is that “there are a few reasons.” In particular…

Communication. This is a combination of the language barrier, plus a different usage of social networks (which also has to do with the language barrier). More and more Japanese photographers are starting to use Facebook, which will help, especially if they can muster the courage to post with even the most minimal level of English. Some people have websites but you can’t find (let alone read) them. It’s shocking to me how many actually really good websites are out there, and even have an English version, but haven’t made the slightest effort to promote themselves to a foreign audience! Parapera and spacecadet.jp come to mind.

No interest, or awareness of reaching an online audience. A lot can actually be accomplished without a website here, just by meeting people. I don’t think it’s viewed as particularly unprofessional to not have a website, either. Apart from that, I think a lot of people might have never even considered reaching an audience outside of Japan. Whether this is a kind of psychological, self-defeating attitude or just simply not caring, I’m not sure. It’s strange to think of in today’s Tumblrized world, but I don’t know of too many Japanese photo students who have a good website. (I’m starting to look harder.)

The Japanese internet is different than the Western internet. Technically, of course, this is not true, but many people point to the fast development of cell phone technology in Japan as a reason that the terrestrial internet has lagged behind. Basically this story goes that, because Japanese people could surf a miniaturized version of the internet on their cellphones in the mid-90s, the development of the full-screen web experience was stunted. Compare the websites of Japan’s Bic Camera with B&H and you can see this in practice.

I’m sure there are some others, and this is a huge question which I can already see branching out to include other topics like social networks, etc. In any case, it’s definitely not a “policy” of Abe’s, I’m guessing the thought of creating a website has literally never crossed his mind. If I think of more stuff I’ll add it here, if anyone has any other thoughts let me know.


							

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The photography internet in Japan

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2011, Sep 21
Small interview with Yoshiko Fujita

[この記事は日本語でも見れます。]

One of the main reasons I enjoy the Higashikawa Photo Festival is that there are always many photography students and recent graudates walking around with their portfolios. It always seems like young women from Osaka have the best photos to show, and this year was no exception. (This can be explained by the quasi tradition of students from Osaka volunteering at Higashikawa. I’m going to try to find ways to look at photos by college students in Tokyo.)

This year I met a number of students of Jun Abe, a street photographer from Osaka who’s attracted some attention online, even without a website. None of the students had websites either, but Yoshiko Fujita did have some digital files of her work. She was kind enough to answer a few questions over email, and I’ve translated the results here.

All images © Yoshiko Fujita

Please introduce yourself.

Well, I was born in Hiroshima in 1985. I graduated from Kyoto University of Foreign studies in 2009, specializing in French. I graduated from Osaka Visual Arts’ photography program in 2011, and I’m currently a research student there, which means I only have one class a week.

So you’re out of school, in a way. What kind of work are you doing?

I’ve got some part time work at a newspaper scanning old negatives. It’s all related to newspaper articles, so I see photos of high school baseball games, railroads, stuff like that. Every once in a while I see a really nice snapshot, but still, I wouldn’t say I’m influenced by it or anything like that.

 

 

Do you have any photography-related goals or plans?

As for a goal, I guess someday I’d like to publish a photobook. For now I’m just going to keep on taking photos. Along with 3 other friends of mine from Osaka Visual Arts, I run a gallery in Osaka called Hatten Gallery. I’ll have a show up there from October 11-20.

What photographers do you often look at?

Martin Parr, Haruko Nakamura and Jun Abe. It’s not photography, but I also like Matisse and Dick Bruna.

 

 

Your teacher, Jun Abe, is becoming a bit more famous outside of Japan. How did you come to be his student, and what’s he like?

I met Abe-sensei when I entered school. My first year, he was the teacher assigned to my section’s class, and I signed up for his seminar my second year. Abe-sensei is always thinking of his students, he really cares about that. He’s dedicated to telling you things clearly, which is great. He likes films and manga, which I think might explain why he’s so quick on the draw with his camera—it’s really surprising how fast he is. At any rate, I respect him very much.

 

What kind of advice has he given you?

He told me that with my photos, I should aim for something between “real” and “airy.” I take a lot of photos of children, and he suggested to me that I aim to take these photos in the same way that any regular person would—you know, the way that their grandmother or grandfather might. He says that, much like discovering the world by looking at it in a unique way, I should try to photograph with the feeling of rescuing the world. I may be a fragile and highly sensitive person, but even so, I can take strong photographs.

Rescuing the world? Wow.

Yeah, I don’t always completely understand what he says. Anyway, I think it might have to do with taking a boring place and making it interesting.


							

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Interviews, Osaka, Yoshiko Fujita

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2011, Sep 17
Update: Famous Japanese Photographers at Big European Gallery

From September 10 to October 29, Jablonka Pasquer Projects in Cologne will be showing an exhibition featuring four Japanese photographers: Nobuyoshi Araki, Daido Moriyama, Yutaka Takanashi, Shomei Tomatsu.

Here’s my knee-jerk reaction to reading about this exhibit: this is exactly the kind of conservative, “Moriyama syndrome” show that major galleries or institutions put on when they want to “go Japanese.” All that’s missing is Hiroshi Sugimoto, just for good measure—SFMOMA actually did this a couple of years ago. There’s no attempt to draw some kind of link between the four dudes, just “here’s some famous Japanese photography—please buy some!”

To be fair, Priska Pasquer is heavily invested in Japanese photography, and they recently gave the excellent Lieko Shiga a solo show. From a business perspective, I can also understand why it is necessary to put on a big boring show: this stuff will sell more than an up and coming artist. Yet I feel little sympathy at the moment. This exhibit only perpetuates the idea that “Japanese photography” is equal to “the work of men breathing around 1970.”


							

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Daido Moriyama, Exhibits outside of Japan, Nobuyoshi Araki, Shomei Tomatsu, Yutaka Takanashi

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2011, Sep 14
Taishi Hirokawa’s “Still Crazy” now available as an iPad app

Event after giving a huge recommendation to Taishi Hirokawa’s “Still Crazy: Nuclear Power Plants As Seen In Japanese Landscapes” in my summer exhibit roundup, I completely forgot about the show and missed out. Quite a bummer, especially because I later heard that Hirokawa was there hanging out at the show.

“Still Crazy” is a 1994 book which shows a crisp landscape photograph of each of Japan’s nuclear power plants—obviously a highly relevant work given all that’s happened recently, and the resurgence of anti-nuclear protests. The book is still available in Japan for the original retail price of about 5000 yen, but now it’s been released as a 600 yen iPad app. (The iTunes link is here.)

via Ken Iseki, there are some more pictures of the app on his blog. (Japanese)


							

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3/11 Earthquake, Apps, Hirokawa Taishi

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2011, Sep 09
Chim↑Pom, “100 Kiai”

This is a video made by the art collective Chim↑Pom, called “100 Kiai” (“100 Cheers”). It was originally shown in May 2011, as part of an exhibit at Mujin-to Productions called “Real Times.” To make the work shown in “Real Times,” the Chim↑Pom members traveled to the area around the Fukushima reactor.

“100 Kiai” was produced with a number of young guys living in Soma, an area about 50km away from the reactor. As I understand it, one or two of the Chim↑Pom members had just met/seduced these guys and made the video with them soon after. As much as it is obviously important to document what happened (and what is still very much a reality) in Fukushima and Tohoku, I can’t help but be skeptical about a lot of the photographs coming out of the region—are they really helping people? But just showing up in person like this and creating a positive interaction out of thin air is powerful on its own. Its quality as “an artwork” is secondary to the outpouring of catharsis at the end of the video, which you couldn’t convince me is faked in any way.

While probably not as daring as Russia’s Voina, Chim↑Pom are still one of the most radical art groups in Japan. Part of “Real Times” was a video documenting how they altered an extremely famous mural by Taro Okamoto which hangs in Shibuya station; they were later arrested for the “defacement.” This full PBS report has a lot more information to offer, including the text of a nice interview and full clips of the other video pieces in “Real Times.”


							

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3/11 Earthquake

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2011, Sep 08
Hamburger Eyes Auction happening now

So much radness is available through the Hamburger Eyes EYELAND AUCTIONS store on eBay. It’s a fundraising auction, I really encourage you to support! All of the following things are available, plus lots more, you can click on the image and go right to its eBay page.

© Alex Martinez

 

© Andrea Sonnenberg

 

© Ted Pushinsky

 

© Michael Jang

							

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Hamburger Eyes

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2011, Sep 07
ROLLS Tohoku in Stockholm

This summer, Stockholm’s Fotografiska exhibited the ROLLS TOHOKU project. I don’t want to bore you any more with why I think these photos are by far the “best” to come out of the tsunami so far, I’ll just say that my opinion hasn’t changed.

I think the contact sheet style works well here, to convey as much information as possible. (It also gets the curators out of having to make aesthetic choices, which is a good thing.) The spotlighting seems a little too dramatic, but whatever, ROLLS in Europe yall. I wonder what people thought of it.

This exhibit was coordinated by Marc Feustel of eyecurious fame. It was a proper internet effort though: John Sypal posted the link to ROLLS on Facebook after seeing it on Tumblr, then I emailed it to Marc, who sweet talked the Swedes into making the show happen. Magic.

I’ll continue to try to find out what’s happening with ROLLS and update here if there’s anything.

The following photos are © Michael Björnlycke:


							

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Exhibits outside of Japan, ROLLS TOHOKU

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2011, Sep 05
Three articles of note

Bryan Formals interviews Mike Peters: If you spent too much time on the internet, you could be forgiven for thinking that the average age of a present-day photographer is 26. In this long but extremely readable interview, Mike Peters (who can casually say “it wasn’t until I was in my forties that I really became comfortable in my own skin”) explains why he’ll continue to work at his own pace.

Brian Ashbee, “Art Bollocks”: This 1999 essay hits all the right notes as it dismantles the way critics have come to write about art. Convenient artspeak generator included.

Wired Magazine interviews Fred Ritchin: I haven’t read any of Fred Ritchin’s books but it seems like he might be one of the only people working on photography theory. This interview
condenses his ideas into a very readable form.


							

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2011, Sep 04
Hiroh Kikai

If you don’t already know Hiroh Kikai’s work, or just want to see a bunch of it in one place, check out this blog post with a whole bunch of his black and white portraits. His show at Tokyo’s Metropolitan Museum of Photography is up now until October 2.


							

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Hiroh Kikai

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2011, Sep 02
Two videos of ERIC shooting in China

ERIC is a photographer born in Hong Kong who’s been living in Japan for quite some time. His excellent book “Good Luck China“ was published by Akaaka. Here’s a couple of videos of him shooting in China.


							

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China, ERIC, Videos

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