Yonosuke Natori
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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