At the same time that Yuhki Touyama’s exhibit is up at 35 Minutes, her photos will also be displayed halfway around the world in America. I have no idea if anyone in Indiana reads this blog, but her work will be part of a show of four female Japanese photographers up from February 3 to March 31 at Bloomington’s Pictura Gallery.
I’m excited to announce a show coming up at 35 Minutes: Yu Ukai and Yuhki Touyama’s first collaboration, just called “Exhibit #1.” Touyama and Ukai are two excellent young photographers, and if all goes well they will be holding monthly, experimental exhibits at 35 Minutes. There is an opening party on Friday, February 3rd, more information is below.
鵜飼悠 頭山ゆう紀 展 1
Yu Ukai Yuhki Touyama #1
Fri February 3 – Sun February 5
Sat, Sun 12-7pm
Nakano-ku Kamitakada 5-47-8
A few weeks ago I wrote a post responding to A.D. Coleman’s talk “Dinosaur Bones.” At the time, I sent it over to Coleman to see what he would think of it; I figured that he probably wasn’t going to get too many responses that engaged him, and that he might like to read what I wrote. As it turns out, he enjoyed the post, and proposed that we continue to talk about the issues brought up in “Dinosaur Bones” through a kind of loose online correspondence. I agreed, and Coleman’s first article “Letters to a Young Critic (1)” went up online a couple of days ago.
I do have a small reservation about being cast as the “young critic.” I don’t want to be treated merely as a foil for A.D. Coleman’s eminent brilliance, though I do trust that Coleman is not approaching the dialogue in that way. (The subject line of my original email to Coleman did include the words “young critic,” so I probably brought it upon myself!) A quick look back at the history of “young” correspondents does not bode particularly well: as of today, there is no Wikipedia entry for Franz Kappus, Rilke’s “Young Poet.” Jean Beaufret, the addressee of Heidegger’s “Letter on Humanism,” has a pretty nice one though. Perhaps the greatest danger is that by “young” you will read “immature,” which has its own Kantian implications that are really not important to discuss here. You understand what I am saying.
Coleman has started out the exchange by talking concretely about the way that critics make a living. He’s shared some figures of the income he’s made over his career: roughly $20,000 in 1995 and roughly $7,000 in 2011. (I’m assuming that there is a more or less even decline between those years.) He also calculates the amount of money he’s made from the donation box on his blog, divides it by the number of posts, and comes up with a figure of $7 per post. Ouch! Of course, this is not a helpful way to examine blogging, because the form is not just limited to what Coleman says he posts online, namely “lengthy, deliberated essays, written to the same standards as the work I’ve published in print.” Blog posts can be written in 10 minutes or less, and it’s often those posts that get the most attention—for better or worse.
What’s the value of a blog post? I wouldn’t look at it strictly in terms of money. A friend of mine in San Francisco had a video Tumblr whose tagline read: “New media existentialism. Fake it until you make it.” She’s now the online video editor at The Atlantic. Is each post she made on that blog worth a fraction of her new salary? Probably not, but that activity has value as a whole, in the same way that this blog is the resume that got me a job at American Photo.
This may appear to have an only tangential relation to the problem of making a living as a photo critic, though I think it helps set the stage of online media, where bloggers can be called up directly to the big leagues without any seasoning. Still, as Daniel Campbell Blight noted in the comments of the last post, this discussion is “too general.” That’s probably true! There are a lot of concepts being tossed around here—photo criticism, photo theory, bloggers, online writing, offline writing—but I’m happy to sift through the mess and see what comes out of it.
If you haven’t seen it already, Ken Iseki’s blog “my new notebook” is becoming one of the best resources for information about Japanese photography culture online. Iseki-san started off writing exclusively in Japanese, but lately has posted all in English. I think there’s a great lack of information about photography in Japanese, so I kind of hope that he continues to write in both languages, although I know that can be pretty difficult.
久しぶりに日本語で書きますが、井関ケンさんのブログ「my new notebook」は本当に成長されています。井関さんは優しく日本の写真文化を紹介する。実は、日本で「写真についてブログ」というサイトはあまりない気がしますよね。だからこのブログはとても重要だと思います。井関さんは以前日本語しか書かなかったけど、最近は英語ばかり。井関さん、是非日本語を使ってください！
A very smart photo editor at the New Yorker paired up Haruto Hoshi to take Jake Adelstein’s photos to go along with a longer piece about Adelstein’s crime reporting in Tokyo. I’m very curious to know how this came about, and I’ll be sure to ask Hoshi when I visit his show, which is currently up at Shinjuku’s Third District Gallery until the 22nd of this month.
[This was posted to LPV Magazine a few days ago, with a whole bunch of images to illustrate some of the books I’m talking about.]
At the 2010 edition of the Higashikawa Photo Festival, I met a photographer named Iino. We were both getting drunk at the annual barbeque, where everyone gets together and eats a bunch of free food. Iino was a fun guy, and as we talked he showed me a project he was working on, a series of portraits in which he was always shaking hands with his subject. The people in these photographs represented a real cross-section of Japan: there were nerds, punks, disabled people, salarymen, children and foreigners. Some people seemed a little surprised or uncomfortable to be photographed in this way, but the mood was light. With a laugh, he said he wasn’t going to stop until he’d taken a thousand of these portraits–a latter-day, unserious August Sander! He pulled out his cheap SLR, took my picture as we laughed together, and then we talked a little more before wandering on. I want to bring up Iino to introduce my thoughts about 2011 because it seems to me that his project represents a kind of photograph that we’re not seeing so much in Japan anymore. To put it simply, I’m wondering if Japanese photographers are losing interest in people.
The March 11 earthquake and its effects will necessarily loom over any attempt to think about Japan’s 2011. These effects are not going away anytime soon, even if it’s entirely too easy for Tokyoites to forget about what’s happening up North. For their part, photographers have made an effort to show people what’s happening in Tohoku, but I’m not sure that much of the work being produced so far is all that useful to anyone. I think it’s possible that my general disappointment with post-3/11 photographs so far could be linked to a broader turn away from representing people in Japanese photography.
I don’t want to go down the path of “the old days were so much better,” but if you look at photographers like Hiromi Tsuchida and Kazuo Kitai, their primary interest was other people–and I think this was not so much because of something “beautiful” or “interesting” in the people themselves, but because they could produce some kind of effect by showing these people to an audience. Tsuchida’s “Counting Grains of Sand” is an easy example of what I’m talking about. The book examines crowds in 1980s (“bubble”-era) Japan, building up from groups of just a few people to a fairly dramatic conclusion, in which hundreds of faces are packed into the frame. Outside of Hiroh Kikai, it’s hard to think of prominent and contemporary Japanese photographers who are equally interested in people; Kikai himself is probably more respected outside of Japan anyway.
A newer type of photography, represented by Rinko Kawauchi and Masafumi Sanai, favors abstract, object-based explorations. I like this work: I recently found a used copy of Sanai’s “Ikiteru” the other day, and I think it’s very good. But I don’t think this type of photography is well-suited to deal with something like a natural disaster which is affecting hundreds of thousands of people. I haven’t been moved by his recent work, but I really respect Daido Moriyama for saying in this video [skip to the 50 minute mark] that, from the beginning, he decided absolutely to not shoot any earthquake-related photographs, because it wouldn’t make any sense for him personally. What a sensible thing to say! Meanwhile the amateur shooters at ROLLS TOHOKU have been showing up most professionals, for the simple reason that they are able to show us people in a natural way.
Asahi Camera Magazine published a special magazine of post-3/11 photography, and it sums up the weak response. The photographs mostly show objects and houses, to varying degrees of poignancy. I can’t understand why these photographs are all that we’re seeing. I want to know what people are doing!
Hirokawa Taishi’s series of family portraits is the one exception here. His portraits of families living in evacuation centers are the most powerful photographs in this magazine. Perhaps it makes sense that a guy who had thought for years about the ‘craziness’ of nuclear reactors in Japan would come up with a good response.
I am still convinced that the most useful photographs to come out of this disaster will not even be taken for years, because the scale of the destruction is so big. I want to know how relocated families are integrating into their new communities, whether or not people are rebuilding their homes next to the coast, how long people will be living next to rubble. Is photography even the right way to find these things out?
A few months ago, I had a small job shooting some event photos. I got to the place, saw Iino on the other side of the crowd. He was shooting for a newspaper, but I caught up with him later and asked him how the project was going. He said something to the effect of, “after the earthquake, it’s not a good time to be taking those photos, is it?” I told him that, given everything that’s happened, it might actually be the perfect time, but it didn’t look like that was going to change his mind.
After American Photo posted a “Best Photo Books of 2011” list, intrepid blogger Ken Iseki posted a comment noting that there were no Japanese books listed. True indeed. So, in a long-awaited Street Level Japan x eyecurious collaboration, we’ve collected a bunch of “best photobooks of 2011” lists… FROM JAPAN. Hope you enjoy.
NOTE: It can be difficult to acquire some of these books if you’re outside of Japan. I’ve added links wherever possible, although in most cases there will be no easy English-language way to track them down. As always Japan Exposures is the fall-back option to acquire anything. If you’re looking for something small and self-published from Japan, Parapera is an extremely good option.
Maybe my favorite book of the year. Bright colors, geisha and yakuza draw you in, but Usui is very conscious about playing with Japanese culture and history. I will definitely introduce this work in more detail in 2012.
Color photos of Spain in the 1970s that Kitai dug up from his basement. Simple and excellent. I posted a few photos here and they were later picked up by a blogger in Spain who wrote some very nice things about them.
A criminally cheap self-publication which creates an artificial structure for “daily snap photography”—it’s a book of photos only taken on the first of each month.
Color photographs from a psychology graduate turned photographer. You could actually buy this zine using the link above.
Taishi Hirokawa, “Still Crazy: Nuclear power plants as seen in Japanese landscapes” (Korinsha, 1994)
I’m cheating. This book was actually published in 1994, but it’s the most I spent on a book this year, and with good reason.
Nao Amino, editor. Worked at Little More and FOIL, freelance editor and exhibition planner from 2011
Rinko Kawauchi, “Illuminance” (FOIL)
Shigekazu Onuma, “SHIGEKAZU ONUMA” (limArt)
Eiji Sakurai, “Hokkaido 1971-1976” (Sokyu-sha)
Hiroh Kikai, “Tokyo Portrait” (Crevis)
Masayuki Yoshinaga, “Sento“* (Tokyo Kirara-sha)
“Masayuki Yoshinaga, who has been shooting groups of minority and outsiders in Japan, made this series of work in 1993 when he was still a photographer’s assistant. Building good relationships with the subjects made it possible to photograph these relaxed naked men from such a close distance.”
*Sento is an old style public bath (not a natural hot spring) that can be found almost anywhere in Japan.
Masafumi Sanai, “Pylon“ (Taisyo)
“After publishing tons of photobooks with various publishers since his debut in the late 1990s, he launched his own publishing label ‘Taisyo’ in 2008. Sanai is a very typical Japanese photographer in a way: strolling around neighborhoods and shooting photos without any concept, but no other photographer’s work has as much strength as his photography. This is the tenth book of his own from the label.”
Takashi Homma, “mushrooms from the forest 2011“ (Blind gallery)
“As many other photographers did, Takashi Homma also left for the Tohoku area to document the aftermath. But he didn’t photograph any debris or people like others did, instead he chose to shoot the forest and mushrooms in Fukushima which also suffered from radioactive contamination.”
Kotori Kawashima, Mirai-Chan (Nanaroku-sha)
“Because this photobook reached people who don’t buy photobooks or who are not even interested in photography at all. Simply amazing.”
Masterpieces of Japanese Pictorial Photography (Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography)
“The exhibition “Masterpieces of Japanese Pictorial Photography” at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography reminded us that there was also an significant movement, which is hardly recognized, before the era of Araki and Moriyama. This is the catalog from the exhibition.”
Ryosuke Iwamoto, photographer
Naoya Hatakeyama, “Natural Stories” (Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography)
“For me, the best thing wasn’t a book but an exhibit—Naoya Hatakeyama’s show ‘Natural Stories’ at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography. It’s not really ‘today’s Japanese style,’ but I thought it was great on the whole, so I’ll pick the catalog that he made for the show.”
Nobuyoshi Araki, “Rakuen“ (Rat Hole Gallery)
Shinya Arimoto, “Ariphoto Selection vol. 2“ (Totem Pole Photo Gallery)
Hiroh Kikai, “Anatolia” (Crevis)
Tomoe Murakami, photographer and lecturer
Naoya Hatakeyama, “Terrils“ (Taka Ishii Gallery)
“2011 saw the publication of several more photobooks by Nobuyoshi Araki. In addition to being featured in at least one magazine each month, the man puts out more solo photobooks in a year than most established Western photographers put out in a career. Here are three of my favorites and one non-Araki publication.”
Araki, “Theater of Love“, (Taka Ishii/Zen Foto)
“A small visual treat published by Taka Ishii & Zen Foto galleries which is a collection of recently rediscovered pictures taken by Araki in the mid 1960s, several years before his Sentimental Journey debut in 1970. The book, published in an edition of 1000 copies, matches the 5×7 size of the actual rough little prints while the content allows one to see the the very foundations of Araki’s future major themes coming to light. A must-have for those interested in learning more about the early stages of this artist.”
Araki, “Shakyo-rojin Nikki“ (WIDES)
“With a title that roughly translates into “The Diary of an Old Man Photo Maniac”, Araki again employs his date-imprint function to great effect chronicling the three months to the day after the Tohoku Earthquake on March 11th. Where his inclusion of color paints to black and white photographs resulted in brilliant and moving imagery, his alteration of the images in this book was subtractive in his scratching of the negatives with the edge of a coin. Each image bears a scar or fault line through it with results that fluctuate between sadness, horror, and at other times comedy. His tenacious treatment of the actual physical essence of film-based photography comes across as a rebellious challenge to the dry dull digital era he has been lamenting in recent interviews.”
Araki, “Shamanatsu 2011“ (Rathole)
“The third and most beautiful of three Araki books published by Rathole Gallery in 2011, Shamanatsu continues on with the artist’s personal destructive alteration of physical photographs. The book is divided into two parts, the first being pictures taken with his Leica over the past 5 years from various commercial assignments and personal experiences. Each print has been unsettlingly and completely torn in half only to be mended back together with cellophane tape across the front the prints. The publisher did a marvelous job recreating the shimmer of the tape on each page. The second half of the book is a series of images Araki took over the unusually hot 2011 summer with a new Fuji 6×7 camera purchased earlier in the year. In a recent interview in the mens’ fashion and culture magazine, HUGE, Araki states clearly that Shamanatsu is not any sort of Art with deep meaning, but simply the photographic manifestation of his own physiology. He also added that after his new camera broke this series came to its sudden end.”
Meisa Fujishiro, “Mou, Uchi ni Kaerou 2” (Let’s go home 2), (Rockin’ On)
“Photographer Meisa Fujishiro’s sequel to his wildly popular book “Let’s go home”. While his first book, now in it’s 9th printing, simply dealt with married life with his wife (a professional model) and dogs, the sequel introduces his son from birth and five years after that. For a skilled photographer who mainly shoots celebrities and bikini models, Fujishiro’s pictures of his home life are never bogged down by excessive slick camerawork or sentimentality. Their delightful frankness is a simple kind of beauty.”
“The books I’ve selected aren’t necessarily “best of” books. Rather, they were selected for what they say in relationship to the photobook oeuvre of each individual photographer.”
Yurie Nagashima, “SWISS+“ (Akaaka Art Publishing)
“From her earliest and strongest photography projects, Nagashima has used Family, her family in particular, as the source material for her photography. As a book production, SWISS+ interleaves pages of photography with prose printed on tracing paper. The photographer has recently turned her attention to writing both non-fiction and fiction. This book most poetically gives us a framework for how she finds a sort of concordance between the two mediums, sometimes independent, sometimes dependent on one another.”
Takuma Nakahira, “Documentary“ (Akio Nagasawa Publishing)
“This book was largely overlooked and under-appreciated after its publication. Documentary compiles this master photographer’s recent color work. The photography’s awkward vertical format and how it reveals the position of the photographer relative to his subject matter seem to be at odds with the book’s lofty title. But when we consider this publication in light of Nakahira’s early and other experimental work, the project of his color work is slightly more understandable—resisting the dogma and trappings of contemporary photography. The publication of Documentary was almost simultaneous with the publication of a facsimile edition of his legendary For a Language to Come (Osiris, 2010).”
Daido Moriyama, “Sunflower“ (MMM Label [Match and Company])
“The lush black and tonal range of this publication are an example of how beautiful basic offset printing can be. The same is true of the craftsmanship exhibited in the book’s layout and edit. In its simplicity, it shines.”
Takashi Homma, M2 (Gallery 360)
“M is an ongoing series of about fast food restaurants around the world. M refers to the identifying logo mark of the McDonald’s chain of restaurants. Such establishments have been a continual object in Homma Takashi’s photography since his Tokyo Suburbia series, which addressed the Americanization of Japanese culture. The screen printing of the photobook’s cover has a plain visual kinship with the discernible dot pattern on the cups and packaging produced by the fast-food chain. Does eating too much fast food also effect vision? Among the 500 copies of the edition, there are multiple cover variations.”
Koji Onaka, “Long Time No See“ (Média Immédiat [France])
“This is a bit of a cheat. This book was not published by a Japanese publisher but, as a body of work, it may be one of Onaka’s best photobooks so far, especially when considered relative to his previous publications. This is an example of the photographer stepping outside of his familiar territory and producing a body of work that is free of his usual rigor. The full weight of his previous work still lingers in the air of this tiny book. It is a treat to see the cone-shaped birthday hat worn by his otherwise hapless mother, dutifully giving her son (Koji) a birthday party. The photographer scanned monochromatic photographs from his family albums and added color to each image in Photoshop. Onaka’s father was a photographer so there was a wealth of snapshots to choose from.”
There’s going to be a shocking amount of 2011-related Japan photography content showing up here this week. Before that, though, I would like to say that Naoya Hatakeyama’s show “Natural Stories” was the “best” show of the year. I wrote a little bit about it for Tokyo Art Beat’s end of year piece. Marc Feustel wrote about it too.