2017, Aug 04
Shimizu Minoru’s criteria for Canon New Cosmos

The website for the Canon New Cosmos of Photography competition includes statements by various judges 1—this year’s crop includes a number of international figures like Alec Soth, Dayanita Singh and Sandra Phillips. I was taken with Shimizu Minoru’s statement, which shows his usual rigor, if not outright harshness:

Abstract catch copy discharged irresponsibly by people who do not look at photographs―words such as “real,” “natural,” or “wild”―is not permitted. Even if it is desirable to take photographs about photography, or to have a good eye for looking at photographs, it is pointless to merely consult the history of photography on its own.

Please be aware that work which relies on context (the death of a family member, the death of a loved one, natural disaster, etc) almost immediately becomes homogeneous. Instead of “a close friend,” select your ideal subject with the utmost care.
Instead of “a photograph of nothing,” show something after thinking, looking, and selecting it with utmost care.
Digital technology is already no longer “something that is not an analog photograph”; it opens on to an unknown territory.
Something that connects this unknown territory to the future and to the past, something that rediscovers “photography”―that’s the kind of expression I’m waiting for.


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Canon New Cosmos of Photography, Minoru Shimizu, Translation

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2014, Jan 21
Yonosuke Natori on viewing photography

With regard to the case of looking at photographs, here too a new way is required. Photography is steadily changing from a “thing that is seen” into a thing that is read. Today, as the story told by any number of photographs lined up next to each other becomes more important, appreciating the skill of an individual photograph has become equivalent to appreciating only the mask of a noh play—this way of looking at things now comes from an absolutely different position. The way of looking at the noh mask as an art object and the way of looking at noh as a single play have clearly separated. At this point, there is no need to worry about understanding the “good or bad” of photography. It is not necessary that everyone be able to comment on the sculptural-artistic qualities of a noh mask. It would be good to view photography with the same feeling as going to a movie or reading a letter.

From 写真の読みかた (The Way of Reading Photographs), published posthumously by Iwanami in 1962 (it was written in 1958). This book hasn’t been translated.

I think it would be an understatement to call Natori an “important” figure in the history of Japanese photography. As this scholarly (but legible and well-researched) article 1 explains, his activities during the war demand close scrutiny.


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Translation, Yonosuke Natori

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2014, Jan 09
Koji Taki on the flood of images

This is from an interview published in the March 1988 issue of Eureka (ユリイカ).

In the end, the world is a confused web of sight-lines, and this has been given an absolutely material form by photography. Because it is possible to take any number of photographs, a photograph is nothing more than one out of an endless number. If we think in this way, we will understand that photographs can only be produced out of a flood of images. Usually, it is thought that photographs produce this flood. But the birth of a photograph itself presupposes a flood of images—in other words, noise or chaos.


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Koji Taki, Quotes, Translation

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2013, Oct 16
Daido Moriyama on the foreign reception of his work

For people from America and Europe, the image of Japanese photographers is a kind of mystery shrouded in unknown gloom, or a darkness, isn’t it? I think that Japanese photography has definitely been maturing for quite a long time. Pre-war photographers—Yasui Nakaji for one—show its depth, or quality. I have some reservations about how much they know about Japanese photography. With the development of the internet and this way existing with information, the world is becoming speedier and flatter, and the work of many Japanese photographers is more visible. I think this is a good thing, but, you know, even after doing lots of exhibits overseas—and of course this has been an interesting experience for me—to say how people look at my work? That’s difficult to say.

The May 2013 issue of Gendai Shiso 1 was entirely dedicated to Shomei Tomatsu. I’ve been making my way through the issue at my own pace; one of the texts that grabbed me immediately was an interview with Daido Moriyama. Of course Tomatsu is the focus of the interview, but there were a number of fruitful digressions, including this one. Here, the interviewer has asked him for a comment about the foreign response to his work, and I’ve translated his answer.


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Daido Moriyama, Quotes, Translation

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2013, Jan 24
Translation note

I’m working hard to improve my reading ability, and I’m planning to translate more text here (or other places) as I finally become able to read text in Japanese. With that in mind I want to briefly explain something that came up in the Araki essay on Tomatsu I posted yesterday to American Photo 1.

Probably the strangest part of the essay is where Araki writes: “I was invited to the school as a teacher, though not to teach anything about mental thinking, just ‘finger thinking.'”

What’s happening here? Araki is making a joke. First, he says that he couldn’t teach “thought”: 思想, pronounced “shisou,” the combination of the characters for “think” and “thought.” Instead of “thought,” he taught something else, a made-up word: 指想, which is also pronounced “shisou,” but this is the combination of the characters for “finger” and “thought.” (Obviously he’s referring to pressing the shutter.)

Araki’s thinking is not a thinking-thinking; it’s a finger-thinking.


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Nobuyoshi Araki, Translation

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