Posts tagged ‘Japanese Photography’

January 7, 2013

RIP | Shomei Tomatsu

Shomei Tomatsu
I was sad to learn today that Shomei Tomatsu has died.  Tomatsu was a major influence on the Provoke generation of Japanese photographers.

These young photographers, such as Takuma Nakahira and Daido Moriyama, developed a freewheeling, highly expressionistic visual style that seemed to push the individual photographic image to the edge of descriptive incoherence. Tomatsu was a proponent of this approach, though not quite as extreme as some. The important thing about the whole group, and Tomatsu also, was that the rough-hewn tone of the imagery was not simply a style or an aesthetic, but a means of registering an attitude toward the world, a stance of defiance and political protest.

Read the rest of the BJP obituary here:

February 19, 2012

Interview | Eikoh Hosoe

February 19, 2012

Kamaitachi | Eikoh Hosoe

All images © Eikoh Hosoe

Eikoh Hosoe’s long association with the revolutionary performance movement butoh came about through his encounter in 1959 with one of its founders, Tatsumi Hijikata. Hosoe collaborated with Hijikata on several series including Kamaitachi, which is acknowledged as the finest illustration of Hosoe’s hybrid photographic style, combining performance and documentary with a dramatic, virile aesthetic that embodies the founding principles of Hijikata’s ankoku butoh or ‘dance of darkness’.  The dramatic and intense energy that Hijikata generated with his dance not only captured Hosoe’s imagination but also opened up new ways for the young photographer to approach themes such as sexuality, gender and the human body.

Driven by the desire to re-enact his childhood memories when he was evacuated from Tokyo during World War Two, Hosoe had Hijikata perform kamaitachi, the legendary weasel-like demon that haunted the rice paddies in the extremely sparse, rural landscape of the Tohoku region from where they both came. Fusing reality (Hijikata interacting with the landscape and village people) and performance, Hosoe’s ‘subjective documentary’ series opened new ground in Japanese post-war photography.

February 8, 2012

PROVOKE | Inspired

Auckland, New Zealand (2006)

Prague Airport (2002)

Rotorua, New Zealand (2006)

February 7, 2012

PROVOKE | Daido Moryiama

© Daido Moriyama. Selection of images from the Provoke era.

February 6, 2012

PROVOKE | Manifesto

Vol. 3 Provoke (Aug '69).

The image by itself is not a thought. It cannot possess a wholeness like that of a concept. Neither is it an interchangeable code like a language. Yet its irreversible materiality—the reality that is cut out by the camera—constitutes the opposite side of language, and for this reason at times it stimulates the world of language and concepts. When this happens, language transcends its fixed and conceptualized self, transforming into a new language, and therefore a new thought. 

At this singular moment—now—language loses its material basis—in short its reality—and drifts in space, we photographers must go on grasping with our own eyes those fragments of reality that cannot possibly be captured with existing language, actively putting forth materials against language and against thought. Despite some reservations, this is why we have given Provoke the subtitle “provocative materials for thought.”   (Nakahira & Taki 1968)

February 5, 2012

Japanese Avant-Garde | Tatsumi Hijikata

The inspiration for my Rethink & Vietnam projects includes the Butoh dance of Tatsumi HijikataKazuo Ohno and the political times of 60s/70s Japan as captured by the Provoke group of photographers.

In November 1968, Takuma Nakahira and Koji Taki published the first volume of a magazine-style photobook call Provoke (intended for a restricted market with a common subset of interests, as opposed to general readers).  Provoke is the magazine most often associated with the generation of photographers working in the 60s & 70s Japan – even those that did not actually publish in the magazine. It is an example of a small, short-lived, but legendary publications, whose influence is still felt. Early editions had print runs of just 1,000. Investigating the relation between photography and text, the magazine was an artistic and philosophical manifesto, responding to the upheavals of the late sixties; inspired by free writing, Butoh dance of Tatsumi Hijikata, the experimental theatre of Shuji Terayama and underground cinema particularly the new wave films of Nagisa Oshima.

Participating photographers including Domon Ken, Eikoh Hosoe, Masahisa Fukase, and Daido Moriyama searched for a radical photographic language all hugely inspired by the raw, visceral style of William Klein’s New York (1956).  The aim of the magazine was to abolish the idea that photography is a document – ‘separating the photography from its socially prescribed function as a record”.  In doing so these photographers eliminated information, record especially narrative from their work to create ‘pure’ images’ (Kaneko & Vartanian 2009).  The images were often grainy and blurred (referred to as are-bure-boke; shortened to bure-boke) an aesthetic that implies a willingness to discard information.  ‘This drew attention to the photographic nature of a photograph, thereby liberating the image from illusion that it presented a reality beyond the physicality of the photograph’ (Kaneko & Vartanian 2009) thus challenging the commonly accepted idea of photography and to ‘provoke thought’.   ‘Photography here is not a source of information but rather a font of questions in pursuit of truth’ (Kaneko & Vartanian 2009).

Yesterday I was lucky enough to see Tatsumi Hijikata (1967); and the first UK screening of Tatsumi Hijikata Summer Storm (2010) at the Pump House Gallery as part of Art, Performance & Activism in Contemporary JapanThis YouTube clip gives a sense of period I refer to.