Setting Sun – Quotes – Part One

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Quotes and notes:

INTRODUCTION

Anne Wilkes Tucker

Daido Moriyama states that photography is ‘ .. not a social business, but personal work’. (pg 18)

Tucker comments:

There is no separation between what is photographed and the self. The photographer connects them by the desire to be connected’. (pg 18)

Kimura and Domon believed a photographer could achieve a certain objectivity and that photographs could record reality. Nakahira, a founder of Provoke, rejected the presumption of objectivity as a ‘blight of consciousness’. (pg 18)

Takuma Nakahira, co-founder of Provoke, wrote:

Our means of expression at this point in time should discard ‘the image’, and address the world as it is, and rightly position the the thing as the thing and myself as myself in this world’. (pg 18)

Nakahijra is aware of the things independent existence outside of the photographer’s perspective.

REALISM

Ken Domon – Photographic Realism and the Salon Picture (1953)

Realism is not found in the cold, square device we call the camera. The person who shoots, his  (sic) view of the world, and his method of expression are what contains Realism’. (pg 26).

Shomei Tomatsu – The man who says ‘I saw it, I saw it’, and passed by (1975)

A photographer is both a passerby and a dweller’. (pg 28)

‘A photographer looks at everything, which is why he must look from beginning to end. Face the subject head on, stare fixedly, turn the entire body into an eye and face the world. The human that bets on looking, that is a photographer’. (pg 29)

Shomei Tomatsu – Towards a Chaotic Sea (1999)

Colour let him escape from Americanisation.

Daido Moriyama – The Decision to Shoot (1972)

The word ‘decisive’ may sound overbearing in itself, but it’s actually an extremely simple concept. It just means that I have no choice but to photograph within the context of this life, rather than searching for a hidden ideal behind it’. (pg 35)

There is no way that a single person can have a truly comprehensive view of the world, but it is possible for him (sic) to conceive of an outline of its totality. It is therefore from the gap between his perceptions of cruel reality and his weltanschauug   – in other words, from the interplay between the extremes of the real and the ideal, as they are juxtaposed in his shutter – that meaning arises’. (pg 35)

‘Why do Robert Capa’s photographs of war, or William Klein’s candid street scenes feel so real that they weigh upon me even to this day, yet these other, utterly shocking photographs [of the humanitarian disaster in Bangladesh in 1971 when the Pakistani Army withdrew] don’t take me anywhere beyond the scenes they depict?

Perhaps it’s this: perhaps the cameramen lost themselves in the Bangladesh photographs and became an intrinsic part of the recording device, so that the only effect that the photographs could have was as illustrations of the misery of war. 

Photographs such as those by Capa and Klein, on the other hand, contain the living pulse of the human being behind the camera. The former is nothing more than a journalistic photograph of an atrocity, while the latter is a framed portion of the world that bears a poignant relationship to the world as a whole’. (pg 36)

Seiji Kurata – Camp Story Playback (1976-1983)

An ode to being part of the Camp photo collective / club, rather than being alone, creatively

LANDSCAPES

In Japan, landscape is not static, but is literally a ‘flowing view’. It is transient, ephemeral, never stopping. Mick: it’s alive

Shoji Ueda – Squinting Landscape Discourse: Photographing the San’in Region, 40 Years (1999)

Capturing the landscape in a gentle breeze – like Atget in Paris

This led me to believe that we photographers have a very limited view of photography, which isn’t necessarily shared by the general public. I have also grown fairly doubtful of the commonly held belief that photographers are always right and lay people lack sophistication.

This experience taught me that now, especially in this era, looking back at dated-seeming or average landscape photographs isn’t really necessary. This includes, now that I think of it, even those photographs that have spaciousness.

In other words, we cannot avoid dealing with the new generation; must work with them to progress. We must turn our attention to the work and discourse of young, ambitious creators and use their frame of reference for how photography is understood. It goes without saying that recoiling into the past is plain stupidity’. (pg 45)

Atget’s photographs still evoke the aroma of Paris and the feeling of gentle breezes. Wind blows through a landscape. If that flow of air that is not visible to the eye can be felt in the picture, then I would venture to say that the photograph successfully fulfills one of the goals of landscape photography’. (pg 45)

Yutaka Takanashi – The Landscape Appears (1982)

Taking photographs is a journey before a ‘landscape’ that is free in a physical sense, and yet bounded with psychological restraint’. (pg 46)

It is a kind of poetic performance, marking a period of time before the ‘landscape’.

Ryuji Miyamoto – Temporary Ruins (1986)

These [demolished] buildings were disconnected from the builder, the architect and the prisoners, and there was a reality to the feeling that the buildings entered a different dimension different from the time-space they had occupied until then’. (pg 50)

Shigeo Gocho – Photography as Another Reality (1980)

Things that some people can see, other people cannot. Things that some people can hear, other people cannot. I once wondered if such a thing was possible, but now I understand it as a matter of distance between reality and fantasy It is also a matter of how each specific person places himself in this temporal world, as the image of the world is dependent upon this relationship.

Photography provides a verisimilar “other reality”. No matter how much one might say that it presents pure fantasy or delusion, photography is about capturing an image of the outside world, which means that a photograph is only possible if it uses reality as a go-between. The life of a photograph, reborn by passing through this interactive relationship with reality, can have a powerful impact on us.

Since photography provides this “other reality,” I want to drag it into the depths of the limitlessly vague world of the everyday …’ (pg 53)

MEMORY AND TIME

Anne Wilkes Tucker – Introduction

For some time after photography was introduced to Japan in the second half of the nineteenth century, the camera (at the time it was the daguerreotype camera) was used primarily as a tool for making portraits. What the photographs were called reveals much about how they were understood. One appellation was In-ei-kyo which adds the character for “mark,” (as the sitter has a unique identity that is present in the portrait), to those for “shadow” and “mirror.”

Photographs were also called Ryu-ei-kyo, meaning “a mirror that stops shadows.” (Today, the term for “making a photograph” in Japanese is satsu-ei, meaning literally “taking a shadow.”)’. (pg 55)

Photography – which is, after all, a technique for freezing time – was seen by many Japanese as a means to create symbols of memories that would otherwise be forgotten and vanish into nothingness: this understanding is echoed in the approach of many Japanese photographers today. Hiroshi Sugimoto, well known as a conceptual artist, when speaking about his own work, relies upon this view of appearance and meaning. (pg 55)

Photographers such as Masahisa Fukase and Daido Moriyama have taken as their focus the emotions that many Japanese people had buried deeply after World War II; they have attempted to create a portrait of their country’s psyche. Ryuji Miyamoto, meanwhile, in his studies of architecture and the ruins of architecture, has found a metaphor for his personal sense of memory, and explores the paradox of time in terms of construction and deconstruction’. (pg 55)

Seiichi Furuya – Adieu-Wiedersehen (1978-1985)

The story of his partner Christine, who was mentally ill and not getting proper treatment, and who committed suicide in East Berlin before the Wall came down. He at first blamed himself.

People whose existence is put to an end by death continue to exist due to the fact they they once lived’. (pg 63)

They continue to exist but with different meanings to different people.

Masahisa Fukase – Family (1991)

Photography was in his family, from Grandfather and Father, with family business – and his mother printed the work.
Really just a personal story, including war time years and US Occupation.

Looking back, I realise that experience was what changed me from a photography technician to a photographer’. (pg 69)

Daido Moriyama – Time’s Fossil (1984)

Daido was very taken with a photograph of the Ainu clan, mid-Meiji period, photographer unknown. He saw it nine years ago.

Photography in principle is the fossilisation of some actual thing, but for a landscape to be so spectacularly turned into a fossil is remarkable’. (pg 73)

Being rather lost in his purpose, Daido spends 3 months one summer in Hokkaido, the place of his earlier dreams. Although he took 250 rolls of film, still lost when he returned to Tokyo, except …

‘In old photographs, there is a mysterious code that is wrapped up in one point: old. If it is just a matter of nostalgia, then I know of many masterpiece photographs that do the trick. In that photograph, though, a landscape of bygone days was totally fossilized, and the dazzling light alone, sent to me from a faraway time utterly unfamiliar to me with such palpability, came as a shock. The experience was like none other I have ever had.

As I wrote at the start of this text, in that small town of Hokkaido during the first days of that summer, I had a rare, chance encounter with the power of memory that is held by photographs’. (pg 76)

Ryuji Miyamoto – The Silence of Photographs (1988)

I sometimes think that a photograph, any photograph, is essentially a vestige of time itself. Perhaps a photograph can only be considered an independent, materially perfect entity once the scene that it captured has gone from this world entirely.

Aren’t all photographs already “past existences,” from the very moment they’re taken? A photograph is like the passage of time, never identical to the time-space in its frame, but an artifact of a moment just passed. It may be that a photograph taken as a portrait comes into its own as a true photograph only after the person photographed has died and ceased to exist. I don’t think people who used to say a photograph was akin to capturing one’s soul were being ignorant.

Rather, I think it’s more likely that they had an intuitive sense of the true nature of photography. The essence of photography lies in the sensation of post priori that results from looking upon something that is absolutely impossible to see at present, even though it had been right before your eyes only moments before, or, alternately, from seeing something that you have never actually laid eyes upon, yet don’t feel that you are seeing for the first time.

Like death, the concept of time remains an eternal mystery. Sometimes I think that the key to unlocking  this mystery lies hidden within photographs. There are also occasions when I think that the words “time” and “decay” are synonymous. I don’t suppose there would be much point to photography in a utopian world where time remained frozen and nothing changed. One could say that viewing the “ancient ruins” of a photograph is somewhat like experiencing the times and places of a distant world called “the past”’. (pg 78)

Hiroshi Sugimoto – Bleached Journal (2003)

Discussing transient nature of old artefacts, blended with natural landscapes and seascapes.

What is truly beautiful is something that has withstood time. Time, advancing, with its unforgiving power to rot, intends to return everything to the soil. True beauty is that which has survived time and persevered in color and form. Man-made things are weak, and so, successively, with time, become exterminated. Some things are lost to war, some to earthquakes, some to weather, some are sunk, and some are preserved and shut up in the storehouses of museums.

These objects survive so-called misfortunes and pass through the sea of perpetual time. As a stone on a shore flows down from upstream, it develops a rounded, beautiful shape that is polished with time. The flattery and insistence it has in the beginning, its extreme color and exaggeration, are tapered. Then, all of a sudden, it seems to possess a beauty that was there from the beginning.

Yet, even that beauty does not last for more than a short time. At some point there will come a time when its color and shape will fade away. This world is the interval where something shifts from being to nothingness. Sometimes in that interval, beauty sparkles like a solved riddle from a secret language’. (pg 81)

Setting Sun Part Two

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VARTANIAN, Ivan, HATANAKA, Akihiro & KAMBAYASHI, Yutaka. 2006. Setting Sun: Writing by Japanese Photographers. New York: Aperture.