Archive for the ‘Naoki Honjo’ tag
As part of the exhibition 10×10 Japanese Photobooks, on show from the 28th to the 30th of September in New York, I have been invited to select ten Japanese photobooks which will be featured in an online space in the run-up to the exhibition. This list was selected in relation to my PhD research on Japanese photography of the 1990s. The so called post-bubble era witnessed the emergence of a number of iconoclastic female photographers whose work has had a major cultural impact in Japan at the time.
Pushing against cultural taboos and strict censorship laws in Japan, Yurie Nagashima’s provocative photo book heralded the emergence of Japanese female photographers in the mid-1990s. As Nagashima photographs herself in various sexually suggestive roles, the book functions as powerful allegory on the relationship between performance and gender identity.
After her sensational debut at Canon’s New Cosmos of Photography award in 1995, Hiromix’s first book Girl’s Blue became a national bestseller when it was published in 1996. Vaguely referencing ‘snapshot’ style photography such as by Nan Goldin and Araki, the book encapsulates the optimism and youthfulness of a new generation of photographers at the forefront of social and cultural change in Japan.
In this book, intriguingly titled ‘What’s happening before your eyes’ in translation, Ohashi seeks to represent the trauma of his father’s failed suicide attempt. The images of the father being carried away by paramedics and later recovering in the fluorescent lit hospital room are nothing other than haunting. Yet Ohashi also sees beauty in his father’s recovery who is depicted looking through a pair of binoculars, metaphorically looking into the future. The book is a gripping and surreal homage to the fragility yet also the beauty of life.
Naoki Honjo photographs with a tilt-shift mechanism which makes the world beneath look like a miniature version of reality. A thin plane of focus, precisely trained on tiny people and objects below, creates a fantastical and surreal depiction of the urban environment.
Seeing Birds is a collection of Rika Noguchi’s eclectic and evocative photography projects. Her work differs from her contemporaries as it is usually driven by a very precise and seemingly predetermined aesthetic as well as conceptual photographic methodology. Divers photographed underwater, climbers on Mount Fuji – with this book Noguchi explores essentially liminal spaces.
The book consists of a series of photographs that depict the ancient pilgrimage trail to Kumano – a place that exemplifies the Buddhist and Shinto influences in Japan. If perhaps inadvertently nationalistic, the book appears to search for a cultural and religious ‘origin’.
Published along two other titles, Hanabi and Hanako, Utatane explores Rinko Kawauchi’s recognisable photographic style of a narrowly defined focal plane and close up shots in square format. Photographing anything from a half-eaten watermelon to a spoonful of salmon roe, Kawauchi’s distinct style lends everyday subjects a sense of beauty and belonging.\
Sakiko Nomura’s Ai No Jikan, or ‘Time for Love’, is a collection of grainy and dark photographs of her friends, both male and female, in the nude. The work deconstructs assumptions about sexuality, nakedness and representations of the nude.
Masafumi Sanai’s Wakaranai, ‘I don’t know’ in translation, is a slightly surreal even humorous take on seemingly banal objects. Sanai’s apparent obsession with cars, cloud formations, discarded objects and the streets would become a reoccurring theme in his later works.
In this series, ‘Rooms and Underwear’ in translation, Maki Miyashita has photographed different women from all walks of life at home in their underwear. The photographs are a reflection of the growing genre of so-called ‘private photography’ emerging in Japan during the 1990s. Ironically, it is often the objects in the room that tell us more about the person being photographed.
Here is the full list of contributors for the 10×10 Japanese Photobooks online space:
Ken Iseki / My New Notebook
Lilian Froger / 748= photobooks
Kohei Oyama / Parapera
Nicolas Codron / A Japanese Book
Victor Sira and Shiori Kawasaki / Book Dummy Press
Laurence Vecten / One year of books
Marco Bohr / Visual Culture Blog
Rémi Coignet + Nina Poppe / Des Livres et des photos
Marc Feustel / Eyecurious
If you are interested in Japanese photography from the 1960s, please download my essay:
Marco Bohr (2011). ‘Are-Bure-Boke: Distortions in Late 1960s Japanese Cinema and Photography’. Dandelion Journal. Vol. 2, No. 2.
The exhibition Contemporary Japanese Photobooks is currently on display at the newly re-designed Photographers’ Gallery in London. Curated by the photographer Jason Evans and the co-author of the landmark study Japanese Photobooks of the 1960s and ‘70s Ivan Vartanian, the exhibition presents a diverse range of photobooks published over the last decade. For those interested in the subject matter, this exhibition offers a unique opportunity to view some rare material, some of which would be even difficult to find in the most specialized bookshops in the backstreets of Tokyo.
Perhaps unusual for an exhibition displaying rare and valuable books, the viewer is actively encouraged to physically engage with the books. The books are openly displayed along the side of the walls, while seats and tables in the middle of the single room space invite the viewer to study the material at their own pace. Giving a small indication of how precious some of the books are, visitors are requested to wear white gloves presented at the entrance at the gallery. The exhibition thus underlines the fact that photobooks are not only a bound collection of photographs to be looked at, but rather, the photobook itself is a physical and tactile object that must be appreciated in its own right.
The importance of appreciating the photobook as a physical object is underlined in the exhibition by displaying a very diverse selection of books that were produced with very different and often-experimental methods: the paper edges of one book were covered by a reflective silver varnish while the pages of another book were kept together by industrial sized bolts. There is a sense in this exhibition that in some cases the photobook – as Gesamtkunstwerk – is edging towards the very boundary of the book as a commonly recognizable object.
By focusing on photobooks from Japan however, the exhibition of course also comments on a cultural specificity. While in the West the exhibition might be the preferred method of presenting photographs, in Japan, the photobook is the most common platform for disseminating photography. As pointed out in Vartanian’s illuminating study, the historical origins of the photobook as an emerging cultural industry can be traced back to the 1960s, and perhaps more specifically, to the emergence of a radical new type of photography ideologically aligned with the New Left Movement. Photobooks often allowed photographers to bypass the more traditional publishing outlets under heavy control of government policy. These radical origins of the photobook in Japan are equally visible in the exhibition: pushing the physical limits of the photobook is historically located in the belief that the medium of photography can push against ideological and political restrictions.
There is also an economic reason why the photobook flourishes, more than the photography exhibition, in Japan since emerging photographers are often locked out from the gallery system. This gallery system can be roughly broken down into five parts: public galleries, private galleries, department store galleries, camera manufacturers’ galleries and rental galleries where photographers can exhibit their work in exchange for a fee. For the vast majority of emerging photographers, the latter is the most viable option as the former are usually restricted to more established names. Faced with the increasing cost of exhibiting their work in often-tiny rental galleries, photographers instead invest in their work by publishing it as a book and thus reaching a wider audience.
The elevated value of a publication over an exhibition can also be seen in the way photography awards are structured in Japan. A nomination for the UK’s most prestigious photography award, the Deutsche Börse Prize (also on display at The Photographers’ Gallery at the moment), hinges on an exhibition. In Japan, a nomination for the most prestigious photography award, the Kimura Ihee Prize, follows the publication of a book. In short, as a consequence of specific political, economical and institutional developments, the photobook has flourished into a booming cultural industry in Japan. This exhibition is a timely, however, also selective case in point.
If you are interested in the emergence of ‘provocative’ photography in Japan in the late 1960s, please download my essay below:
Marco Bohr (2011). ‘Are-Bure-Boke: Distortions in Late 1960s Japanese Cinema and Photography’. Dandelion Journal. Vol. 2, No. 2. Other recommendations can be found in our online bookshop.