Tag Archives: Japanese Photobooks

10×10: Japanese Photobooks

10x10

2012 is turning into the year of the Japanese photobook exhibition. After Contemporary Japanese Photobooks at The Photographers’ Gallery in London, New Yorkers now have the 10×10 Japanese Photobooks Reading Room to look forward to from 28-30 September. 10×10 is a 3-day pop-up reading room sponsored by the International Center of Photography Library with 100 Japanese photobooks selected by 10 specialists (=10×10). Since this event is also sponsored by the Photobook Facebook Group, there had to be some online action too, so the organizers have asked 10 people from the Internet to each select 10 books, which, according to my stellar arithmetical abilities, gives us a total of 200 books. For my list, I have tried to select books that represent different facets of Japanese photobook production over the last 60 years (I have managed to get one book from every decade since the 1950s). I should also mention a few obstructions in my selection. Firstly, I was asked not to select books that had already been selected other participants. As I tend to do things at the last minute, I had to make a few changes to my initial selection. Secondly, I have only selected books that I own so I could include some (rather poor quality) photographs of them. So without further ado…

Hiroshi Hamaya, China As I Saw It

Hiroshi Hamaya, China as I Saw It [Mite Kita Chugoku].
(Tokyo: Kawade Shobo Shinsha, 1958).

In 1956, just before Mao’s Great Leap Forward, Hamaya travelled through China to Canton, Shanghai, Xian, Lanzhou, Urumchi and Beijing. As with most of his early work, these photographs focus on the local folklore and people’s everyday life. Although it is not self-published, this is one of the most self-made photobooks that I know of. Hamaya took the photographs, wrote the text, designed the book inside and out (which leads to some unusual layout choices) and used his own calligraphy on the cover and for the fantastic end papers (a hand-drawn map of the route he took through China). With the gorgeous gravure printing of the period thrown in for good measure, this is one of those “They don’t make ‘em like this anymore” books.

Hiroshi Hamaya, China As I Saw It

———

Naoya Hatakeyama, A Bird: Blast 130

Naoya Hatakeyama, A Bird: Blast #130. (Tokyo: Taka Ishii Gallery, 2006).

I tried to avoid choosing personal favourites for this list, but I have to confess that this is one of them. The book is a kind of outtake from Hatakeyama’s Blast series on the explosions used in limestone quarrying. The Blast pictures are frame-by-frame deconstructions of explosions of limestone taken with remote cameras in order to get as close as possible to the action. When going through his contact sheets, Hatakeyama discovered that a bird had flown through the frame for the duration of one such blast. The book starts just before the charges are set off and ends as the dust is still settling in the air. Throughout, the bird continues its flight, only adjusting its course slightly in order to avoid the disturbance below. The drama and violent beauty of the explosion is made to feel almost insignificant by this bird flying across the sky. The production of the book is nothing special, but then it doesn’t need to be… in a way it reminds me of the flipbooks I loved so much as a kid. As an aside, Hatakeyama’s Blast series has, amazingly, never been published as a book, but thankfully that is soon going to be put right.

Naoya Hatakeyama, A Bird. Blast 130

———

Eikoh Hosoe, The Butterfly Dream

Eikoh Hosoe, The Butterfly Dream. (Kyoto: Seigensha, 2006).

Eikoh Hosoe has produced some of the great and most elaborate Japanese photobooks. The first two editions of Barakei and the first edition of Kamaitachi are some of the most sought after books on the market. This book from 2006, devoted to the late Butoh dancer, Kazuo Ohno, deserves to be better known. As with Tatsumi Hijikata, who collaborated with the photographer to embody the kamaitachi, Hosoe photographed Ohno throughout his dancing career until his death in 2010. Hosoe made the book as a gift for Ohno’s century of life and it was published on the dancer’s birthday. The Butterfly Dream was designed as a companion piece to Kamaitachi, so that each of the two masters of Butoh would have their own. The brilliant Tadanori Yokoo designed the slipcase for the book, just as for the 2005 Kamaitachi reprint produced by Aperture.

 Eikoh Hosoe, The Butterfly Dream

———

Mao Ishikawa, Hot Days in Camp Hansen

Mao Ishikawa. Hot Days in Camp Hansen [Atsuki Hibi ni Camp Hansen]. (Okinawa: Aaman Shuppan, 1982).

This is the first of two books on Okinawa in my selection. Ishikawa’s first book, Hot Days in Camp Hansen is a very unusual beast. Photography was still a male-dominated world in Japan in the late 1970s and a female photographer from Okinawa would have had virtually no opportunities to publish her work at that time, let alone work has uninhibited as this. The book focuses on the girls who worked in bars catering for the American GIs near the US military bases. To do this project Ishikawa became one of these girls herself, working in one bar for a period of around 2 years. The result is an astonishingly frank but joyous and affectionate portrait of the girls she worked and lived with and the GIs who frequented the bar. One of a kind.

Mao Ishikawa, Hot Days in Camp Hansen

–––

Kikuji Kawada, The Last Cosmology

Kikuji Kawada, The Last Cosmology: Photographs. (Tokyo: 491, 1995).

Kawada is known—almost exclusively—for his 1965 book The Map [Chizu], an extraordinary photographic object that now fetches astronomical prices at auction. Whereas Chizu was a kind of mental map of the horrors of the Pacific War, The Last Cosmology is Kawada’s personal map of the cosmos. Like many of his books, it combines seemingly unrelated images: long exposure photographs of of the night sky (Kawada is an amateur astronomer) are interspersed with visual fragments that echo the celestial patterns. Less elaborate in its construction than Chizu, like all of Kawada’s books, it is still beautifully produced.

Kikuji Kawada, The Last Cosmology

———

Jun Morinaga, Kawa Ruiei

Jun Morinaga, Kawa, Ruiei / River, Its Shadow of Shadows (Tokyo: Yugensha, 1978).

Kawa is a study of Tokyo’s waterways as they were slowly being choked by the economic boom of the postwar years. This is a book of texture: Morinaga focuses almost exclusively on the surface of the water, as it bubbles, froths and stagnates in the mud. One of the most remarkable things about Kawa is its design by Sugiura Kohei, the man behind many of the best Japanese photobooks of the 60s and 70s. His use of gatefolds slows the reading process down and draws you in to Morinaga’s muddy, claustrophobic, abstract world and the way in which the images are integrated into the pages of text at the end of the book is masterful. Morinaga was W. Eugene Smith’s assistant for his Minamata project and the latter contributed a short text to this title.

Jun Morinaga, Kawa Ruiei

–––

Seiji Shibuya, Dance

Seiji Shibuya, Dance (Tokyo: Akaaka, 2011).

For my money, Akaaka has been the most interesting photobook publisher in Japan over the last few years. Shibuya’s previous book Birth, was a little too perfect for me, a succession of achingly beautiful images that didn’t really go anywhere. Dance is a much stronger book, particularly thanks to the edit and the sequencing of the images where little series appear and disappear like musical riffs. The book was made from Shibuya’s entire archive and the edit took around one year, using some images that Shibuya had apparently forgotten about. The book isn’t driven by a concept or idea, but instead seems to focus on conveying a certain mood, a kind of sunny melancholy. This book also has my favourite cover of recent years, not so much for its cover image but because of the thick textured paper on which it is printed which just makes you want to pick it up.

Seiji Shibuya, Dance

———

Akihide Tamura, Afternoon

Akihide Tamura, Afternoon. (Tokyo: Match and Company, 2009).

If most photobooks are novels, Afternoon is more of a short story. With a mere 23 plates of black-and-white landscapes over 32 pages, the book is remarkably economical but very well made… not an ounce of excess fat here. Tamura was one of the photographers featured in the landmark New Japanese Photography show at the MoMA in 1974. My sources (ahem, Wikipedia) tell me that he shot the stills for several of Akira Kurosawa’s late movies, but I know very little about him apart from that. I know a little more about the publisher, Match and Company. They are the Machiguchi brothers, a cross between rock stars and book designers. Their books are immediately recognisable—maybe even a little too recognisable—with their clean, minimalist style and they are one of the few Japanese publishers with an eye for roman typography. They have also developed an interesting model, designing, producing and selling their books themselves through their online shop bookshop-m.

Akihide Tamura, Afternoon

———

Shomei Tomatsu, Okinawa, Okinawa, Okinawa

Shomei Tomatsu, Okinawa, Okinawa, Okinawa. (Tokyo: Shaken, 1969).

Although far less elaborate than those of Eikoh Hosoe, Tomatsu’s books have also become some of the most highly collectible postwar Japanese photobooks. Okinawa, Okinawa, Okinawa is a somewhat lesser known title, which, you guessed it, focuses on the islands of Okinawa. Tomatsu has always been fascinated by the Americanization that took place in Japan after the war and in the 1960s he travelled to Okinawa, where the US has maintained a major military presence, to photograph. The islands became a major subject for his work and eventually his home (he has lived there for many years now), not only because of the US military presence, but also for their natural beauty and way of life so far removed from the intensity and chaos of Tokyo. In some ways this is a protest book (the slogans on the cover call for an end to the US occupation of the islands), but it also shows Tomatsu’s burgeoning interest in the beauty of Okinawa and its way of life. Some of Tomatsu’s color photographs of Okinawa appear in the current issue (#280) of Aperture magazine.

Shomei Tomatsu, Okinawa, Okinawa, Okinawa

———

Yoshihiko Ueda, Quinault

Yoshihiko Ueda, Quinault (Kyoto: Seigensha, 2003).

In the summer of 1990 while scouting for a location for a fashion shoot, Yoshihiko Ueda, a successful fashion photographer, had a “moment of vision” when he discovered the extraordinarily lush Quinault rainforest to the west of Seattle. Ueda eventually returned with an 8×10″ camera and color film to try and recapture the feeling he first had in discovering Quinault. The images in the book are taken at eye-level in very low light to convey the feeling of wandering through this dense forest. The book is beautifully and very subtly printed on a thick matte paper in an oversize format to retain some sense of the imposing scale of the forest. If you are unfashionable enough to appreciate natural beauty, this one is for you.

Yoshihiko Ueda, Quinault

Share

The Latin American Photobook, Jonathan Torgovnik’s Intended Consequences Win Les Rencontres d’Arles Awards

The Latin American Photobook, edited by Horacio Fernández and published by Aperture, has been awarded the historical book award at the Rencontres d’Arles photography festival. The volume, a blend of bibliography, facsimile, and encyclopedia, offers a critical study of the most important photography books to come out of Latin America, from the 1920s to today. Along with Aperture’s The Dutch Photobook: A Thematic Selection from 1945 Onwards and Japanese Photobooks of the 1960s and ’70s, The Latin American Photobook is part of a growing body of scholarship on the photobook and its place in photographic history.

Jonathan Torgovnik won the Rencontres d’Arles Discovery prize for Intended Consequences—his portraits of women and their children who were born of rape in the Rwandan genocide—which was published by Aperture in 2009. Watch an excerpt of a panel discussion with Torgovnik, and read an interview with the photographer on FLYP. Intended Consequences and limited-edition prints of Torgovnik’s work are available for up to 35% off as part of Aperture’s summer sale, until midnight EST, August 10, 2012.

Check out The Guardian for more coverage of the Rencontres d’Arles festival prizes.

Revelaciones: The History of the Latin American Photobook

Upwards of 150 photobooks published since 1920 from 11 Latin American countries are on view to the public in Revelaciones. Historia del fotolibro en Latinoamérica at the Ivorypress Space in Madrid (through July 14, 2012).

While publication of the photobook has been prolific in Latin America across these years, its history has gone largely undocumented. This exhibition, which is curated by Horacio Fernández, author of Aperture’s second so-called “book on books,” The Latin American Photobook (2011), the result of a four-year, cross-continental committee effort, offers visitors a hands-on opportunity to examine a unique and comprehensive survey of rich visual publishing. Books are arranged by the following themes: America before America, History and Propaganda, Urban Photography, Photo Essays, Artist’s Book, Photography and Literature and Contemporary Photography.

The publication of The Latin American Photobook, which followed the success of Aperture’s 2009 Japanese Photobooks of the 1960s and 1970s, is part of an ongoing effort to support the growing appreciation and connoisseurship of the photobook as an artistic form in it of itself. The text is reviewed by Photo-eye Magazine, The British Journal of Photography, and Memory in Latin America.

Spanish-speakers can find reviews of the exhibition in Madrid on El País.

Revelaciones. Historia del fotolibro en Latinoamérica
Exhibition on view:
Through July 14, 2012

Ivorypress Space
C/Comandante Zorita 48 – 46 28020
Madrid, Spain
+34-91-4490961

Submit Photos to Japan’s Young Portfolio 2012

The Young Portfolio flier: Navarro, Toledo and Martínez, 2009; from the Tribes Series © Lucia Herrero/Kiyosato Museum of Photographic Arts

The Kiyosato Museum of Photographic Arts in Japan is on a project to support young photographers, buying up work for their permanent collection. They are now calling for entries to the Young Portfolio 2012, a seach for exceptionally original work that pushes the boundaries of photographic expression or methods of production.

Qualifications for submitting to the seventeenth annual event are very inclusive. Basically, curator Yuko Yamaji writes:

As long as a photographer is under thirty-five years of age, he or she can participate as many times as they like, with the result that there are people who have taken part for over ten years and who have as many as one hundred works in our collection. Whether it is their first work or they have been published before is quite irrelevant.

Submissions will be accepted Sunday, April 15, 2012 – Tuesday, May 15, 2012. For an idea of the kind of work they tend to go for, the 178 images by 26 photographers that were selected last year with be on view at the museum Saturday, March 24, 2012 – Sunday, June 24, 2012.

This year’s selection committee is made up of Kikuji Kawada, Hiroh Kikai, and Eikoh Hosoe, Director of the Museum and photographer of the groundbreaking, classic Japanese photobooks Barakei and Kamaitachi. His 1963 collaboration with controversial author Yukio Mishima Barakei, part photographic performance, part surreal portrait of Mishima as both iconoclast and self-mythologist, was faithfully reproduced by Aperture as a facsimile in 2009, limited to 500 signed copies. Kamaitachi, another collaborative work produced with Tatsui Hijikata, founder of ankoku butoh dance, in 1969 was reproduced in close consultation with Hosoe by Aperture in 2005 as a limited addition facsimile, and again reprinted with an updated text in 2009. The work is a “magnificent and seductive combination of performance and photography,” a “subjective documentary” chronicling Hijikata’s spontaneous interactions with the landscape and people of the Japanese countryside.

Young Portfolio 2012
Submissions accepted:
Sunday, April 15, 2012 – Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Young Portfolio Acquisitions 2011
Exhibition on View:
Saturday, March 24, 2012 – Sunday, June 24, 2012

Kiyosato Museum of Photographic Arts
3545 Kiyosato, Takane-cho, Hokuto-shi, Yamanashi 407-0301 Japan

Review: Foto/Gráfica @ Le Bal

Le Bal’s latest exhibition, Foto/Gráfica: Une nouvelle histoire des livres de photographie latino-américains (A New History of Latin-American Photobooks) opened last week. The show is based on a selection of 40 books taken from Horacio Fernandez’s recently published book on books, The Latin-American Photobook (Aperture, 2011). This is not Le Bal’s first photobook exhibition—they presented Japanese Photobooks Now in the summer of 2011—but it is the first time that they have devoted their entire space to an exhibition of books. Following this show they will be hosting the 5th International Fotobook Festival, which is traditionally held in Kassel, so it seems that photobooks are becoming one of the major areas of focus of their programme.

According to Martin Parr, Latin-American photobooks “are the best kept secret in the history of photography”… one of the many secrets that are being steadily revealed by Parr and/or Aperture through The Photobook: A History series, Japanese Photobooks of the 1960s and ’70s and a forthcoming book on Chinese photobooks that Parr is doing with WassinkLundgren chez Aperture. The ‘books on books’ phenomenon is gaining so much traction that Andreas Schmidt, a pleasingly disruptive photobook maker, is already looking forward to the book on books on books which surely can’t be too far away. As for Parr’s quote, I am willing to take his word for it, knowing absolutely nothing about Latin-Amercian photobooks (with a few Mexican exceptions) and having had very few opportunities to see any.

© Pascal Martinez

I was particularly interested to see how Le Bal would take on this subject. Although there appears to be a growing trend for exhibiting books, the ones I have seen so far have generally been disappointing. Books are not an easy thing to exhibit, in fact they are exhibition-resistant in my view. Most people’s preferred position for reading or looking at books is sitting down and they are generally consumed by one person at a time, things that are difficult to replicate in an exhibition context. Exhibitions do not encourage visitors to touch the works on display, making it difficult to display more than one spread, something which is painfully reductive unless multiple copies of each book displayed can be tracked down. I think the key in exhibiting books is in overcoming these obstacles by recreating the immersive experience of a book in a way that goes beyond the experience of going into a very good bookstore.

In addition to the basic difficulties of exhibiting books, Le Bal’s space is far from huge whereas Latin America is on the large side and presumably has produced a decent number of interesting photobooks over the years. This poses the additional challenge of avoiding the exhibition equivalent of a ‘best of’ compilation album. To borrow the strapline from a random ‘Best of Latin America’ compilation, this could have been “a lively exhibition filled with hot and spicy Latin American photoboks!” which would probably have given me a severe case of indigestion.

Thankfully the exhibition successfully avoids most of these pitfalls. Rather than structuring the exhibition around individual countries, it is broken up into a series of sections: history and propaganda, urban photography, photographic essays, artist books, literature and photography, and contemporary books. These categories go beyond the traditional bounds of the photobook, expanding its definition to something like ‘books that contain photography,’ which makes the terrain far more diverse and interesting, bringing in books such as the revolutionary propaganda tome, Sartre Visite a Cuba (1960) or Auto-photos (1978) an artist book documenting a performance. There is enough material in each of the sections to whet the appetite, but without requiring you to spend several hours in the exhibition space just to cover all the material on display.

The scénographie of Foto/Gráfica is particularly good, the best I have seen for a photobook exhibition. Firstly, in order to tackle the issue of displaying more than one spread from each book, the organizers have decided to go down the road of sacrifice and cut the books up so that a series of spreads can be displayed (there are clearly enough copies of these books to spare, as book-surgery is not the kind of thing that could be done with an exhibition of rare Japanese photobooks for example). The books are displayed in a variety of different ways, from ‘classic’ glass display cases, to superimposed custom shelving units hanging on the walls. The exhibition also makes good use of prints, which are exhibited alongside the books and are a useful reminder of how different these media are. In the downstairs space, the central wall has been covered with scans of the spreads from a single book with a handful of prints displayed in mounts floating on the surface, a very impressive display. I’m posting a few of the official installation views with this post, as my crappy iPhone shots would not do the exhibition justice. By deconstructing the books in these different ways, it makes the viewer think about the form of the book and its specific qualities.

© Pascal Martinez

 

© Pascal Martinez

© Pascal Martinez

The success of Foto/Gráfica is that it opens itself out beyond Latin American photography to engage with Latin American artistic culture more broadly. By giving politics, literature and other art forms center stage, the exhibition not only provides some much-needed context, but opens up a number of interesting paths of inquiry. Photobook lovers won’t need my encouragement to go and see this, but this is one for those that are not book geeks as well. After Paris, the exhibition is travelling to Ivory Press in Madrid, Aperture in New York and to the Museo del Libro y de la Lengua in Buenos-Aires.

Foto/Gráfica, Une nouvelle histoire des livres de photographie latino-américains, Le Bal, 20 January – 8 April 2012.

Rating: Recommended

Share

No related posts.

A Japanese season starts in Paris

Opening night at Japanese Photobooks Now

Opening night at Japanese Photobooks Now

Last night was the opening of Japanese Photobooks Now, the first in a summer series of events on Japanese photography and film at Le Bal, which, as regular readers will know, should be right up my street. I’ve written about Le Bal before on eyecurious and since their first show Anonymes last autumn they have maintained a consistently interesting and diverse programme. For the next couple of weeks, the upstairs space has been taken over by Ivan Vartanian, a Tokyo-based New Yorker and the author of Japanese photobooks of the 1960s and 1970s and Setting Sun amongst others. For Japanese Photobooks Now Vartanian has put together a selection of around 80 photobooks which provide an overview of contemporary Japanese photobook publishing. Opportunities to pick up Japanese photobooks outside of Japan are pretty limited and so this is a rare chance not only to see some of the best current books but also to get a broader overview of the contemporary Japanese photo scene and the current trends in photobook publishing. The show is up until 8 May, but if you hurry Vartanian is in Paris until the end of the week and you just might be able to convince him to give you a private tour. With a Kitajima/Takanashi/Watabe exhibition, a month of Japanese film, two books and several events to come (full programme on Le Bal’s website), this promises to be a good summer.

 

Ivan Vartanian

Ivan Vartanian

 

 

Share


Related posts:

  1. Review: Japanese photobooks of the 1960s and ’70s
  2. Review: Tokyo-e @ Le Bal
  3. Mariko Takeuchi on contemporary Japanese photography

Yutaka Takanashi: Photography 1965-74



A month ago marked the start of the 2010 Les Rencontres D’Arles smoking convention which I attended for a few days. I found a small number of books (still trying to show restraint) which I will mention in the upcoming weeks. The main draw for me is the competition which names one “contemporary” book and one “historical” book as “best of the year” – the winners get 8000 euros each. Last year I entered the first Errata Editions books for the historical prize and we didn’t fair very well. The judges that year were extremely critical of the concept of my books and not for the reasons you would think. (See my report from last year for more details).

So this year I entered the new Errata books with no hope of a prize but purely to help introduce them to a new audience. That Saturday, the day I was leaving, they made the final decision on the two awards and I was excited, not to mention surprised, to hear that this year’s judges liked the series so much they were considering them for the historical prize. Their final decision went to Japanese Photobooks of the 60s and 70s from Aperture instead, but I am pleased to say that during the award ceremony that evening, they gave Errata Editions a special runner-up mention.

The winner of the contemporary book went to Only Photography‘s fine book Yutaka Takanashi Photography 1965-74. Only Photography is Roland Angst’s independent publishing house in Berlin. Their books are beautifully produced with a strong care towards design and printing and the Takanashi book is their best so far. Past titles have been Ray K. Metzker’s Automagic and Frauke Eigen’s Shoku.

This hardcover book presents an edit of 41 images from Toshi-e in a large vertical format and the selection corresponded to an exhibition of mostly vintage prints that was on display at Galerie Priska Pasquer in Cologne, Germany. This marked the first solo showing of Takanashi in Germany. One of the gallery directors, Ferdinand Bruggemann is a specialist on Japanese photography and contributes a fine essay on Takanashi and his masterwork, Toshi-e. A second essay by Hitoshi Suzuki, who was an assistant to Kohei Suguira the book’s designer, provides a personal remembrance of discovering the book in Seguira’s design studio while it was being created. A short preface from the gallerist Priska Pasquer opens the book.

Yutaka Takanashi Photography 1965-74 is beautifully realized with three different cover images silk screened onto the cloth of the boards. A yellow translucent dustjacket wraps the book and the color I have been told reflects the tone off an exhibition poster from the first solo exhibit of this work in Japan in the 1980s. The printing of the plates is also exquisite – a modern offset interpretation of the original’s lush gravure which remains rich and clean. The design reflects the twisting and turning of the original (horizontals oriented vertically) but with additional gatefolds for a few of the horizontal pictures. It was printed in an edition of only 500, 30 of which come signed and numbered with a print. An additional 100 were signed and numbered by Takanashi. I strongly recommend this book if you can get one. They are a bit pricey but I assure you it is because these books were expensive to produce.

So this year was a clean sweep of awards nodding towards Japan (it was also our study of Toshi-e that had gotten the main attention from the jury). My congratulations go to Aperture and Roland of Only Photography, I don’t mind coming in second when the competition was that strong.