‘In postwar Japan, the photograph in its truest form is widely understood to be a reproduction imprint. It might almost be said that the fine-art photograph on the gallery wall is antithetical to how Japanese photography has developed over the past fifty years as strictly printed matter.
The roots of this phenomenon are twofold. Photography [and the fine arts in general] in Japan has long lacked collectors – and more broadly a tradition of exhibition. Though this has changed in recent years, popular Japanese photography has been dominated by print media. This is partly due to the influence of photographers such as Ken Domon, whose rejection of Pictorialism and outright disdain for any kind of formalism set a new ground rule for the medium: value in photography is based upon information, not aesthetics. In the 1950s, Domon, who had published photographs of wounded servicemen, prostitutes, and peddlers during World War II, presented an unabashed look at the social conditions of postwar Japan. As a senior editor with the influential magazine Camera, Domon and his notion of the “absolutely unstated snapshot” directly affected the editorial direction of much journalistic photography.
The new approach advocated by Domon and others took off like wildfire, in a slew of periodicals and photography books that began to be produced in the 1950s. Photography editors – notable among them the legendary Shoji Yamagishi of Camera Mainichi – played a vital role in determining what images were disseminated. They were also in a position to give assignments to rhen-up-and-coming photographers such as Nobuyoshi Araki, Daido Moriyama, and Masahisa Fukase -providing both a forum to publish their photographs and the budget to allow them to work’. (pg 84)
Takuma Nakahira – Self-Change in the Act of Shooting (1989)
‘I develop the film in the evening – wash, dry, scrutinize, and edit – a process through which the work is made. When I try to look at them once more, I always feel a very strange psychological shock. But when I start to think about that, I realize that photography is wholly different from everything else; it has its own unique, independent, and bizarre power. A work of photography (and the act of shooting that leads to it) is nothing more than a facsimile of the various realms of society. Still, if it is done in a straightforward way, it is possible to expose this society. I made the decision to willfully involve myself in this possibility‘. (pg 86)
‘I – most days – have a look at the many magazines and publications, and I can say frankly that the starting point of the act of shooting almost all the photographs in them, beginning with nudes, is without certainty and commercialized. In all these images, the photographers have, in a sense, a fabricated aesthetic (a preconceived idea) when directing and shooting the subject. Looking at these photographs, some viewers may possibly be touched. But I, looking at them as a whole, realize that most of them wastefully push the basic power of the medium of photography too hard – and that, in the end, the real power that is in the word photography is gradually being lost‘. (pg 87)
‘I find, with the aesthetics of photography that I have created myself as the basis of my photographs, that I am able to supersede my own consciousness: when I encounter a new subject for the first time, shooting begins from that moment. When I say that I “supersede my own consciousness,” I certainly do not mean the development or display of an already established consciousness, interfacing with society. My sole foundation, as none other than a photographer, is to actively accept the power of the world‘.(pg 87)
‘I smoke, every day, a brand of cigarettes called “Short Hope” – not “long hope”. It isn’t possible through photography – the act of shooting – to grasp the entirety of the world in one stroke, so day by day, I work with the short hope, and through that I continue to hope to capture the entirety of the world, and to continue to live’.(pg 87)
Ihei Kimura – From Postwar Japan to Travels West’. (1956)
‘Cartier-Bresson’s photographs shot through me – there’s no other way to say it. I was humbled by them, and I thought: “I’d forgotten this. I’d forgotten that this is the imperative of photography.” It made me realize that photojournalism was my true path. And at the same time, it woke me up, and gave me the courage to move away from the photography I had been doing to make a living. Establishing photography as an art form very different from painting was a dream I’d cherished for many years. Cartier-Bresson’s photographs articulated this clearly, vividly. As someone who understands the difference between reality seen with my own eyes and the representation of that reality in a single moment through a machine, I was deeply jealous of Cartier-Bresson. But his work also made me believe in the possibility of expressing today’s world as seen throughjapanere eyes. I felt I had no choice now but to focus only on work‘. (pg 89)
‘It was around this time that I also had an opportunity to view W Eugene Smith’s “Spanish Village” photo-essay. As an expression of humanism, it is an amazing project – but it is close to the realm of painting, and because of that I was a bit dissatisfied with the work. I am a lone voice in the field of news photography, and I am certainly not denouncing Smith’s work, but I was reluctant to think of these images as “photojournalism.” Many general art photographers have style, and Smith’s work is an example of this. I found this “regression” to painterly photography disturbing’.
‘So, in order to eliminate any ambiguity for myself, I came to the resolution that the only path for me was news photography’. (pg 91)
Journey to Europe – Paris – brought him to the world’s attention
Daido Moriyama – From Document to Memory (1973)
‘Even if I encounter an event by chance and release the shutter while facing it, my photograph does not assume any journalistic value – and that event is immediately integrated into my “inner photography.” I often take photographs of trees, Howers, and animals; my subjects have little academic, ecological, empirical, or aesthetic value. They are captured only as part of my own reality. I have no interest whatsoever in fashion or commercial photography – so I am not using my sensibility and technique to promote a certain product. And even if I use a composition that looks like an ordinary “commemorative photograph,” it doesn’t turn out at all like one taken by a studio photographer.
‘So the last place to find the purpose of my photographs I can think of would be aesthetic photography singular tableaux, or fine-art photography. However, I have always believed that a photograph should not have the value of a unique artwork, in principle, so I cannot find any meaning in taking photographs professionally. My photography’s role is slightly different from that of typical vocational photography, and it’s purpose is different’.
‘In the end, I may be considered a “professional photographer” only if that category includes blurred images’. (pg 96)
‘I think photography is a method of commemoration. … Without much resistance, [people] also accepted the camera as a “time machine” … What I am trying to say is that photography, in its very formation and existence, essentially blocks the photographer’s imagination and feelings. … Thus, I cannot really see a photograph as a singular artwork that can be shared. My work may serve as a document due to its unique character – but only for myself, since I can never take photographs on behalf of others. So in this sense I am a quintessentially amateur photographer’. (pg 97)
‘[The act of] photography itself may be summed up in the words “memory / commemoration / document” not by “expression / aesthetics” which are, I believe, added to the meaning of a photograph only at a later point’.
Daido explores the difference between two projects – both ‘documents’ but one is mass media and one is mini media. The personal work is so he can reflect on an idea and bring it to life ‘without troubling anyone else’. (pg 101)
‘I have no idea whether individual photographs contain ideas, worlds, histories, humanity, beauty, ugliness, or nothingness. And in fact I don’t really care. I simply extract and record things around me, without any pretensions’. (pg 102)
‘To put it a bit provocatively, what makes me release the shutter are things that allow my cells to sense .. extremes. What I shoot are either my “favourite” or “least favourite” things in a haptic sense. It is an inevitable, natural reflex, but if I abandon myself to such fetishism too much, my photographs will lose my reality or sense of document and commemoration; there is this a risk that they will end up being photographs only of my own navel gazing’. (pg 103)
Most overt references to Yukio Mishima (Eikoh Hosoe) and Jack Kerouac (Daido Moriyama).
Section explores how Japanese Photographers documented their own working methods.
Naoya Hatekeyama – Lime Works (1996)
The use of limestone, Japan’s only natural resource, being used up and affecting the landscape.
‘Farmers are the only race of people who don’t sing the praises of the landscape’. (pg 111)
‘Farmers don’t enjoy nature, they live it’. (pg 111)
‘The camera alters the meaning of the landscape‘.
‘The images of idealized nature created by our aspiration have one common characteristic. Within this perfect world of greenery and water and air, where all living things exist in a continuous circle of life, there is always one species missing: people. While any trace of humankind is discernable in a landscape, we are hesitant to call it “nature.” We feel a desire to remove anything that has to do with people from the landscape-just as nature-conservation programs are deemed successful to the extent that they are able to keep people away from the areas being protected‘.
‘Having been thoroughly removed, then, is humankind truly no longer part of nature? Let us take another careful look at this idealized image of nature: no matter how closely you look at it there is no evidence of humans disrupting the harmony of the landscape’. (pg 112)
‘I am reminded again that I am standing on the outside. Only the medium of photography itself is able, on occasion, to freely cross the boundary between inside and outside. A photograph is a space where the human spirit and the physical world can interact, and it is fair to say that that space is about as democratic as they come. At the very least, I as an individual am able to participate in this space, even if I am not able to cross to the other side’. (pg 113)
Daido Moriyama – Highway (1999)
Karyudo (A Hunter) 1972
‘I‘d borrowed On the Road from Takuma Nakahira, and read it for the first time. It was a simple paperback. Nakahira had lent it to me when I put down my camera and started roaming aboutjapan, saying to me: “This should interest you. It’s meant for you.” I took it home and starting reading it immediately – I’m glad I did, but my head started to get a little knotted up, and midway through I found I was really bushed. It is certainly not uninteresting, but there is something I don’t quite understand. In the American continent, a place known to be a mixture of people, with countless hours of time, there is an intricate network of routes fanning out, and within that, jazz, drugs, alcohol, motels, truck-stops, and sex are elements that collide with one another almost violently.
The novel itself is filled with a strange chaos. If it were made up of photographs, it would be like the odd experience of flipping through a photography book that shuffled together pictures by William Klein, Robert Frank, Bruce Davidson, Larry Clark, Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, and even Alfred Stieglitz and Ansel Adams in one volume’. (pg 116)
Takuma Nakahira – Excerpt from ‘Why an Illustrated Botanical Dictionary?’ (1973)
‘What is a camera? What is the logical background of the camera? It might be said that the camera is the embodiment of our desire to look, a technology resulting from historical accumulation – or a system unto itself. The camera objectifies everything and places me at a distance, changing the world into an object [a two dimensional flat surface]. It cuts reality into rectangular frames. It consolidates everything into a single point. I can then ‘own it’, even if it is only one part of reality’.
‘In this sense, the camera is inescapably imbued with modern logic, rooted in subject-object dualism. But looking cannot happen when isolated from the human body. A life is spent inside a body in this world, and lookingis an essential condition for life. The body passes through the world in this condition; the space spreads through the amid the space is thus physicalized. The entire “memory” of the world is the truth of looking‘.
‘The world is not simply an object to be objectified by me. Am I contradicting my own thesis, which posits the absolute non-reconciliation between an object (the thing in itself) and myself? That thesis is not contradictory, because the magnetic field where a gaze from my eyes joins a gaze from objects reflected in my gain is the world itself Looking also refers to the exposure of oneself to another’s gaze. However, before showing the schematics of my hypothesis, I must begin by recognizing that an object does not belong to me at all, but exists as itself, as a thing. There is the world and then there is me. (pg 125)
‘Roughly speaking, I tried to overcome the perspective provided by each individual photograph, by producing vast amounts of photographs. Although it was not possible to overcome perspective altogether, I moved in a direction that would invalidate each individual perspective‘.
‘Thinking it over carefully, I find that such corruption of perspective in the dimension of everyday life, where we must live, prevails profoundly. If we take these as individual images then they are without exception based on a single perspective, but the countless images that are constantly being broadcast in massive volume and simultaneously are ubiquitous, forcing us to accept and and consolidate these images from a single perspective and making it impossible for me to establish my own perspective’. (pg 126)
‘Anyway, I think I will restart my work with the Illustrated Botanical Dictionary. I am going to capture subjects in daylight with color photography; I will compile them into the Illustrated Botanical Dictionary. For that, they must be color photographs. This is because I would like to completely cast off any traces of the hand that remains with the darkroom process of black-and-white photography. The hands themselves have made the art. The hands are the others within oneself. But of course the hands are the self. Manipulation and a thing manipulated by the hands are still an extension of the hands‘.
‘The world is manipulated by the hands. My Illustrated Botanical Dictionary will come to exist by cleanly severing all ties with hand-manipulation. In that sense, the color photograph is already in the other world’. (pg 131)
Eikoh Hosoe – Notes on Manipulating Barakei (1984)
The story of the creation of the book, published 1963.
Daido Moriyama was Hosoe’s assistant at the time.
‘I thought I would use whatever Mishima loved or owned to form a document of the writer’. (p 134)
Second edition, different sequence, arranged in 1970. On November 25, 1970, Mishima committed seppuku, at Ichigaya Heights. The book was published in January, 1971, delayed at Hosoe’s request so as not to be part of the sensationalsim around the suicide.
Conspicuous differences were that the book was organised in Western fashion, pages flipped right to left, and Mishima’s text was set horizontally.
Mishima chose chapter titles, last one being ‘death’. He also changed English title to ‘Ordeal by Roses’, nearer to meaning of Barakei.
Barakei third edition was in 1984, and Hosoe returned it to the original structure.
MAN / WOMAN
1990s conspicuous increase in female photographers
Nobuyoshi Araki – The Photo Apparatus between Man and Woman (1976)
At opening party for Fukase’s Ravens ..
‘Photography is the past’. (pg 143)
Tetsuya Ichimura …
‘The colour photographs of Nagasaki were erotic. And there was such a feeling of actuality to them. Hometowns are also eroticism’. (pg 143)
Story of Akiko Maeno, banker who fellated a Miranda bottle ..
‘Photographing women is a gaze that rapes’. (pg 145)
‘Between man and woman there is law’. (pg 145)
‘Without jealousy, a photograph cannot be taken’. (pg 145)
‘Shooting photographs is both foreplay and after play’. (pg 145)
‘The lens is a phallus’. (pg 145)
‘Film is regenerated hymen’. (pg 145)
‘There is a photo apparatus between man and woman’. (pg 145)
‘Photography is a man’s regret’. (pg 146)
Nobuyoshi Araki – Photographic Discourse as Strip Show (1976)
Tengu – strip show – ‘special display’= genitalia
Namaita – sex show where audience participated (now illegal)
Large format – noise – not hiding to take pictures
‘Photographing is a game with the subject. In photography yuu must include your relationship with the subject’. (pg 151)
‘It’s not possible to expose the subject with photography. But you can expose yourself It’s not necessary to take in order to expose yourself, but having the intention to do so is necessary. Concretely put, over-explaining, you must plainly lay yourself bare. That is your duty to the subject. But even without that intention, the person who takes the photograph is exposed. Photography is frightening‘.
‘Photography is nothing more than a game with myself’‘.
‘All photography is private landscape’. (pg 151)
‘Photography can only really capture the exterior’. (pg 152)
Yuri Nagashima – Not Six (2005)
Personal story of husband.
Miyako Ishiuchi – A Connection Called Looking (1991)
Female looking at pornography magazine in store, young teen asks her to play with him
‘In other words, to this boy, the Me that was looking at a woman with her legs spread was equated with the woman in the photograph’. (Pg 160)
‘My individuality became nothing more than a printed reproduction’. (Pg 160)
In sentimentalism, photography and the outside world are one and the same.
Romanticism (according to Araki) is about transcending the self and eventually convening with one’s surroundings (community in world)’. (Pg 163)
Nobuyoshi Araki – My Mother’s Death (1974)
‘My mother exists in this photo book’. (pg 171)
Wanted to take pictures of her (still warm) corpse (pg 173)
Nobuyoshi Araki – My Father’s Lover (1974)
‘But pictures like those from “Geishun” and Father’s Lover” don’t necessarily imply that all pictures are half_hearted works, made with half-hearted processes-that they are, ultimately, half-hearted things. Rather, such processes are just a game. In fact, whether or not they are plays on the fame obsession of photography or a process to let people know about the horrifying aspect of writings makes no difference.
Portrait photography is beyond both a photographer and words. Portraits are far beyond half-assed photographs, or the process of writing. They exist. That’s what I want to say. A portrait exists there. All you need to do is kneel down and shoot it. Even a photographer with no talent at all can take “portrait photography.” Women are already an expression. Women are a subject. Their faces exist to be photographed. Reproduce their past and the love stories hidden in the subcutaneous tissues’. (pg 181)
Masahisa Fukase – Ravens: The End (1982)
First and second exhibitions
New York show
‘The final exhibition of the series, “Ravens ’82,” opened on November 9 of the following year. The first show had been about my escape to my birthplace; the fourth and last, this current exhibition, was about rousing the memory. I went to visit the Matsubara housing complex, where lived for over ren years. It was as if I had seen some horror, or was a thief returning to the crime scene. There was no reason for me to feel like a thief, but there was something behind the I took there. I don’t know what it’s but I cannot deny there was a thrill and pleasure that’s like to pickpocket, probably like the one you get picking pockets. Shooting stealing, so I felt like a villain. The desire to shoot loomed large, and accumulated like gravestones in a cemetery’. (pg 191)
Masafumi Sanai – Car of Mine (2002)
VARTANIAN, Ivan, HATANAKA, Akihiro and KAMBAYASHI, Yutaka. 2006. Setting Sun: Writing by Japanese Photographers. New York: Aperture.