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February 2012
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2012, Feb 28
Masaru Tatsuki, “Tohoku”

Once a year, Japan’s Ihee Kimura Photography Award is given out to an outstanding photobook. This year’s recipient is “Tohoku,” by Masaru Tatsuki, a friend of 35 Minutes. I’m not sure just how important the award is these days—in other words, whether it’s still able to launch a career—but it’s definitely far from irrelevant.

The book is the result of a number of years that Tatsuki spent photographing Japan’s Tohoku region. Of course, this is the area that was most badly affected by the 2011 tsunami, and when the book came out in July of this year I thought that it might have been too early. The book actually has very little to do with the earthquake, though, it doesn’t at all seem like the editing or publication was rushed. Tatsuki’s photos look at the unique relationship between humans and animals in this area; there’s a very readable English statement on his website.

Apart from the excellent photos, the nice thing about this book is its price: at ¥2300 ($28), it’s on the low end of the scale for photobooks with high production values. Definitely worth a look if you can get your hands on it.

Photos © Masaru Tatsuki

 

 

 

 

 

 


							

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Ihee Kimura Award, Little More, Masaru Tatsuki

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2012, Feb 25
Article roundup: Usui, ERIC, Hata

© ERIC

I’ve written a few things for other websites in the past couple of weeks. Here’s a quick rundown:


							

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ERIC, Kazuyoshi Usui, Naoyuki Hata

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2012, Feb 10
Yasuhiro Ishimoto, 1921 – 2012

Yasuhiro Ishimoto, “On a Tokyo street. Tokyo, 1953.”

Early this week, photographer Yasuhiro Ishimoto passed away at the age of 90. Caille’s warm response to hearing this news illustrates his unique connection to America.

I only encountered Ishimoto’s photos at PGI Gallery, where he had shows up until as recently as last December. Last time, I was really impressed by his book “Shibuya, Shibuya,” which only shows the backs of people waiting at the intersection later mythologized by Sofia Coppola. The photographs of an old man in the teen paradise that is Shibuya could easily be contrived, but his obvious dedication to the subject made the book work. Even spending such a brief time with his work, it was clear that he was a master. This is a story that was floating around Twitter earlier:

Just a few days ago I heard a story about Ishimoto. When he was shooting ‘Shibuya, Shibuya,’ a young girl dragged him to the police because he was shooting from a low angle. He showed them his card but no one knew or cared who he was. I wish him well in next life.


							

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Shibuya, Yasuhiro Ishimoto

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2012, Feb 08
A bright “future” for Japanese photography?

A post of mine went up recently on American Photo called “The Future of Photography Is Alive and Well in Tokyo.” It’s part overview of Tokyo’s independent gallery scene, part love letter to Totem Pole Photo Gallery. I got a comment expressing some doubt over the title, and I think this doubt might open up a conversation that’s interesting to people invested in Japanese photography.

My editor and I see the title as meaning: “Tokyo is an exciting and nurturing place for young photographers.” The reading that may have caused concern goes: “The young photographers of Tokyo have a bright future ahead of them.” The difference here is the subject: “Tokyo” versus “photographers,” and I would agree that things are not exactly rosy for individuals. In the article I took Emi Fukuyama as an example of someone who’s succeeded within the structure of an independent gallery. Her relative success is far from a guarantee, though.

It’s true that there are many independent galleries in Tokyo, but it’s also true that these galleries are not spurring on a “Golden Age” of Japanese photography. I think the reason for this is that the structure of these independent galleries is stronger than its individual members. In other words, there’s a danger of spinning your wheels creatively. When you join an independent gallery, you’re part of a system, and this can actually make it difficult to “break out,” not just out of the independent gallery scene in general but even outside the internal structure of your own gallery! This actually mimics the way that Japan functions in general. (Thinking about it now, the fact that this thought actually surprised me surprises me. How could I forget?)

For what it’s worth, I think Totem Pole is one of the least stratified independent galleries, but even so, I was glad to hear that Emi was leaving: it showed that she was taking some serious decisions about her own work and development. To be honest, someone with a slightly selfish approach would get the most out of an independent gallery, because they would always be conscious of how the gallery is working for them. I probably don’t need to tell you about selfishness and Japan, though. In the end, I’m still convinced that these galleries can serve as a good platform; the challenge for the photographers to use it in a way that actually benefits them.


							

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2012, Feb 08
Short note about online criticism and the lack of a middle ground

One reason so much critical writing — especially that produced by academics — is so stilted and impenetrable is that its authors simply haven’t been writing often enough, and therefore haven’t learned to hear and modulate the sound of their own written expression. […] As a side effect of this, students come to believe that such strained language is expected of them, and mimic it dutifully, exacerbating the already considerable problems I and others face in teaching them to express their ideas clearly. […] I think we still need — today no less than in 1979, and indeed even more so — to also swell the ranks of writers capable of articulating the crucial issues in photography in an accessible, non-jargonized, engaging and unpedantic language, in order to bring them before an intelligent general audience.

A.D. Coleman, from a talk given in 1999 [link to PDF]

Ken Schles has written two posts over on A.D. Coleman’s blog entitled “Infinite Stupidity.” Schles’ point is that there is a lack of “intelligent conversation” about photography on the internet, and he is correct, although that is hardly a new situation. The only problem with saying this directly on the internet is that you’re unlikely to change anyone’s opinion. An online audience probably needs to be pushed, not led.

We can all agree that the internet needs writing about photography in an “accessible, non-jargonized, engaging and unpedantic language.” It’s easy enough to talk that talk, but let’s not forget the gauntlet that Daniel Blight laid down for us: “the middle-ground you and A.D. Coleman want to occupy doesn’t exist.” Who’s going to create it?


							

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2012, Feb 06
Space Cadet is a site for Japanese photography you should have bookmarked

The amount of work that remains trapped in Japan is the primary motivation for writing this blog. Lack of internet usage is one reason that photographs don’t leave the country, but what about when someone makes a nice website, uses readable English, but doesn’t promote it to foreign audiences? This is the case with spacecadet.jp, a very good Tinyvices clone for Japan. It’s being updated with some regularlity, but seems to have no recognition outside of Japan—and maybe not even that much inside, either. This post is only saying: visit spacecadet.jp, bookmark it, and come back again later.


							

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Space Cadet, The photography internet in Japan

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2012, Feb 02
American Photo posts on Totem Pole, Patrick Tsai

© Patrick Tsai

A couple of big articles I wrote for American Photo went up over the past week.

The first was a feature on Tokyo’s gallery scene. It focuses in particular on Totem Pole Photo Gallery, which is a place that really helped me decide to move to Tokyo in the first place. This article is pretty gung-ho about Tokyo’s photography galleries, and I’ll have a little more to say about that stance here.

The second was an interview with Patrick Tsai, who is in a very practical way the reason that I was able to stay in Japan longer than just a couple of tourist visas. For almost a year now, Patrick has been writing a blog, Talking Barnacles, which has turned into a fairly incredible project. I posted about it a long time ago, but haven’t since; the nature of writing a blog is that things disappear quickly. Sometimes that’s good, but this is case where it’s unhelpful. I guess I can’t post every week about Talking Barnacles, just to say, “hey, did you know that Pat’s still writing this really good blog?” Maybe I should though.


							

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