GoEun Museum Of Photography International Exchange Exhibition The Origins of Japanese Contemporary Photography - Film grain as words Shomei Tomatsu, Hiromi Tsuchida, Kazuo Kitai, Ishiuchi Miyako, Nobuyoshi Araki June 9, 2018 – August 29, 2018
ⓒ Shomei Tomatsu, The Pencil of the Sun, Hateruma Island, Pigment Print, 75×105.7cm, 1971
From the mid-1950s to the 70s, Japan achieved rapid economic development through a period that began to be called, 'Japanese economic miracle'. With the help of special procurements in the instances of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and the 1970 Osaka Expo, by 1968, Japan was able to rise to the second highest GNP of the world. Although there was the occurrence of 1973 oil crisis in between, Japan continued a stable growth in the 70s. In regards to politics, with the anpo-tousou (nationwide campaign against the ratification of Japan-U.S. Security Treaty), the 60s and 70s were given the name, 'season of politics'. And in 1972, Okinawa, which had been under U.S. occupation for nearly a quarter-century, was returned to Japanese sovereignty.
During this time, a new trend―which leads on up to present day―arose in the photography scene. Up-and-coming photographers, who had doubts about the prewar and wartime journalistic photography, began to think of ways to bring photography-for-media back under their control and to express their own thoughts within their works. It was Shomei Tomatsu who spearheaded this movement. Tomatsu influenced the activities of Takuma Nakahira and Daido Moriyama, who came together for the magazine PROVOKE. As shown in there 'are, bure, boke' (grainy, blurry, and out-of-focus) style, these figures rejected and dismantled the status quo of photography and its visual methods. Resistance towards the existing system or establishment impacted not only the politics but also the world of photography.
The anpo-tousou became a spark that fed the flames of student protests and the Sanrizuka struggle, a protest against the construction of Narita Airport. There were photographers who captured these scenes from within the barricade. Kazuo Kitai was one of them. Against the abundance of photographs in the media capturing the barricade beyond the police and riot squad, these photographers took the day-to-day scenery through the point-of-view of students and farmers within the barricade. Also, along with the fast-paced economic development, various changes and maladjustments were prevalent in Japan. The issue with pollution being one of them, some photographers attempted to expose the circumstance with their photographs: Shisei Kuwabara covered on the 'Minamata disease' (a disease caused by mercury poisoning). With culture and customs undergoing transformations as well, photographers like Hiromi Tsuchida were in the pursuit of capturing things that remain unchanged; things indicative of Japanese culture.
In 1966, the exhibition Contemporary Photographers, Toward a Social Landscape was held in the George Eastman House in New York. There were photographers in Japan not unlike the artists featured in this exhibition, called the 'Konpora', who focused their attention on capturing the quotidian. There is also an appearance of photographers who practiced shi shashin (rendered in English as 'I-photography' or 'personal photography') using their personal perspective and occurrences as their subject matter. Nobuyoshi Araki and Masahisa Fukase involve their family members as models in their works. And Ishiuchi Miyako set her memory, experience, and outlook as a woman, as themes for her works.
The 60s and 70s were an era in which Japan went through a great degree of change―marked by the resistance of the younger generation towards the existing system and establishment, and the simultaneous contribution to new perspectives in photography―changing photography to a great degree as well. In this exhibition, we present the works of five photographers, Shomei Tomatsu, Kazuo Kitai, Hiromi Tsuchida, Nobuyoshi Araki, and Ishiuchi Miyako, introducing a segment of what comprised the origins of Japanese contemporary photography.
It can be said that Tomatsu was involved in all major incidents within the photography scene of this era. He took on a leader-like role for Japanese contemporary photography. Tomatsu’s photography is filled with the themes of scars of the war, occupation, Americanization, and the question of what Japan is or being Japanese means. Tomatsu was drawn to Okinawa ever since he made his first visit in 1969 and continued making frequent visits there. On the reason why he was so drawn to Okinawa, he says, "I didn’t arrive at Okinawa but returned back to Japan, and am not returning back to Tokyo but to America."1 "Okinawa, (…) the whole of its islands is under occupation. And has been under the rule of United States Military Government for a quarter-century. In spite of this, most of Okinawa still remains pure and untainted."2, he writes in his photobook, The Pencil of the Sun, which captures Okinawa not as a symbol of occupation but as 'Japan' through the liberal display of its people’s lifestyles, cultures and customs.
In the late 60s, which welcomed the peak of 'season of politics', Kazuo Kitai photographed the days of students who shut themselves in at his alma mater, Nihon University College of Art, and published them on the pictorial magazine Asahi Graph. But growing doubts about its increasingly biased activities, he moves on to record the lifestyles of the people in the rural village, Sanrizuka, located in the outskirts of Narita, Chiba pref ecture. Although the construction of an airport was scheduled in the imminent future, the site was still filled with pastoral scenery at the time. It used to be a peaceful area; when civil servants made a visit to survey the site, the farmers responded by shouting at them while hitting steel drums (containers). But with the influx of people?embracing various ideologies?to the area, the protests got more violent and were met with forced evictions executed by the government. Sanrizuka assembles the said scenery captured from the perspective of the farmers.
The photograph, which brought Hiromi Tsuchida to fame, is of a middle-aged farm couple sitting in the shade of a tree, enjoying a drinking party. Fed up with the amount of photographers at the festival of a famous mountain village, he took the photograph a distance away from the shrine. "I originally didn’t want to take this kind of photograph. (…) I want to get away from here (…). But when I showed these photographs to Yamagishi, he took an interest in them."3 Tsuchida, who was born and raised in the mountain village of Hokuriku region, who moved out with an admiration for city life, ended up getting high reviews from the editor-in-chief of the magazine Camera Mainichi―which has brought many prominent up-and-coming photographers to the world―for capturing the scenery of the very world he wanted escape from. He traveled within Japan "to walk through Japanese festivals or historic religious sites", in an effort to capture Japanese lifestyles and customs, which were in an ever-changing state due to the waves of urbanization and accelerated economic growth. This endeavor was released under the name Zokushin.
Nobuyoshi Araki was a trueborn Edokko (a term referring to a person born and raised in Edo). After graduating from university, he worked as a cameraman for a big advertising agency; he met his soon-to-be wife, Yoko there. His photographs of their honeymoon got compiled into the self-published photobook, Sentimental Journey, produced in a print run of thousand copies. From snapshots of the street to activities of the couple, the work features seemingly staged scenes of the trip. In the foreword, Araki writes, "Sentimental Journey represents my love and my resolution as a photographer. (…) I think I’ll continue to make works like I-novels (term used to describe a type of confessional literature). This is because I think of I-novels as a genre closest to photography", proclaiming that he―in his 30s at the time―will bet his career on the 'I-novel' (I-photography) style. He then continued on to take photographs of his wife Yoko’s daily life. But twenty years later, Yoko gets afflicted with a disease that takes her life. What captures the last of Yoko is the work, Winter Journey.
Ishiuchi Miyako moved to Yokosuka―a town with an American military base―from a provincial town of North Kanto region because of her father’s arrangements. At the time, Yokosuka gave her a significant culture shock, leaving her with no pleasant memories, being a place she desired to escape. She spent her teenage years cramped up in a six tatami mat apartment room with the rest of her family (family of four). An ever-changing variety of people inhabit and move out of these apartments poorly built with mortar. According to Ishiuchi, these small apartment rooms are like "a packaging for human beings"4 and the residents "smell or indiscernible lost articles are embedded within."5 The series she photographed thinking of 'human beings as a part of the wall', was made into her first photobook APARTMENT.
At this exhibition we mainly introduce works taken by the photographers when they were still in their late twenties and thirties, with the exception of the works by Shomei Tomatsu. The young artists came into spotlight through these works, and moved on to become major figures to lead the Japanese photography scene―it can be said that they are the originators of contemporary Japanese photography. Photography is a vernacular medium and thus cannot be severed from its generation and setting. Perhaps these works are the fruition of the photographer’s desperate contemplation on or resistance to the society at the time. The title of this exhibition was inspired from Shomei Tomatsu’s writing on the obi (a strip of paper looped around a book) of Ishiuchi Miyako’s photobook APARTMENT: "film grain is language in its own right." These photographers were at the forefront in devising a method of expressing one’s thoughts through a new language called photography. With this, it goes without saying that these portrayals of Japan-of-the-time will come into view, richer than what can be recounted in words.
Hiroshi Suganuma (Curator)
All rights is reserved.
This series, capturing the natural features of and the lives of the people in Okinawa, appeared serially in the magazine Camera Mainichi since 1973, and was published into a photobook in 1975. These new photographs were released as the “season of politics” (late 60s) came to a halt, not only making a big impact in the photography scene of Japan, but also getting the attention of the public for its timeliness with the Okinawa Reversion Agreement in 1972.
Tomatsu was not only a distinguished photographer who constantly contributed new perspectives to the scene, but also was a prominent organizer. He founded a publisher by himself, opened the WORKSHOP photo school and involved himself in a wide array of activities. He also discovered young talented photographers, including Miyako Ishiuchi. It can be said that he was, in essence, the originator of Japanese contemporary photography.
Born in Aichi Prefecture.
Graduates Aichi University and moves to Tokyo.
Works as a cameraman for Iwanami Shashin Bunko.
Forms the photographers’ collective VIVO with Kikuji Kawada, Ikko Narahara, and Eiko Hosoe.
Starts photographing works, which set American military base as the theme.
Photobook - Hiroshima-Nagasaki Document 1961 (Japan Council against A & H Bombs) with Ken Domon et al.
Photobook - 11:02 Nagasaki (Shashin Dojinsha)
Photobook - Nippon (Shaken).
Visits Okinawa as a correspondent for Asahi Camera.
Photobook - Okinawa, Okinawa, Okinawa (Shaken).
Stays in Naha on his fourth visit to Okinawa. With the return of Okinawa to Japanese rule, Tomatsu applies to change his address and stays for a year.
Photobook - I am a King (Shashin Hyoronsha).
Moves to Miyako-jima and stays for 7 months. Photographs Southeast Asia for a month before returning to Tokyo.
Opens WORKSHOP photo school with Nobuyoshi Araki, Daido Moriyama and others.
Photobook - The Pencil of the Sun (Mainichi Shinbunsha).
Receives the 17th Mainichi Art Award and the 26th Minister of Education, Science and Culture’s Art Encouragement Prize.
Publishes the photo essay, Scarlet Dappled Flower (Sanseido).
Photobook - Shining Wind―Okinawa (Shueisha).
Exhibition - SAKURA +PLASTICS, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Receives the Medal of Honor-Purple Ribbon, awarded by the government of Japan.
Exhibition - Interface, National Film Center, the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo.
Exhibition - Traces: 50 years of Tomatsu’s works, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography.
Exhibition - Nagasaki Mandala, Nagasaki Prefectural Art Museum.
Exhibition - Okinawa Mandala, Urasoe Art Museum.
Exhibition - The Photographs of Shomei Tomatsu 1972-2002, National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto.
Exhibition - Shomei Tomatsu: Skin of the nation, which travels venues including San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Exhibition - Aichi Mandala: Shomei Tomatsu’s Landscape, Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art.
Exhibition - Shomei Tomatsu: Tokyo Mandala, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography.
Exhibition, Hues and Textures of Nagasaki at Nagasaki Prefectural Art Museum.
Photobook - camp OKINAWA (Miraisha).
Exhibitions - Tomatsu Shomei: Photographs, Nagoya City Art Museum.
Okinawa Photographs - Love Letter to the Sun, Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum.
Dies at a hospital in Naha, Okinawa, at age 82.
Exhibition - Shomei Tomatsu: Island Life at the Art Institute of Chicago.
Photobook - The Pencil and the Sun: New Edition (AKAAKA).
Exhibition - Shomei Tomatsu: NAGASAKI, Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art.
Exhibition - INTERFACE―An Inquiry into the Artistic Practice of Shomei Tomatsu, the Photo History Museum FUJIFILM SQUARE.
Uncertainties arose in Japan through its economic developments and changes in social structure. Many in the 70s have attempted to review such status quo; among them is Hiromi Tsuchida, who shared his keen insight through photography.
Growing up close beside an old rural community―tightly knit by regional ties/kinship―Tsuchida grew an admiration to modernism and urban culture, leading him to move to Tokyo.
At the time, the “city” was filled with young people who moved from the country, and there were many who hung on, despite being unable find a place to stay. From 1972, he visited various parts of Japan, covering on the people and customs that remain in the countryside, and presented the work in the magazine Camera Mainichi. The series was compiled into the photobook Zokushin in 1976. Its old-fashioned and vulgar impression got the attention of many ever since it made its first appearance as a serial in the magazine.
As the poet Goichi Matsunaga wrote in this photobook: “saint” is the antithesis of “common man,” and a “common man” can become a “saint” through rigorous pursuance. Tsuchida discerned in the places where the said energy convenes, the essence rooted in Japanese people. It was an era when these photographs, which captured a plethora of traditional settings, started to come across as nostalgic to those who have moved to the city.
Afterwards, Tsuchida pointed his camera towards crowds of people in the city and presented the work as Counting Grains of Sand; these two works both were an approach towards the inquiry, “What does it mean to be Japanese?”
Born in Fukui Prefecture.
Graduates from the Faculty of Engineering, University of Fukui and starts work at a cosmetics company.
Attends the graduate course at the Tokyo College of Photography (night school)
Graduates the graduate course.
Becomes a freelancer. Teaches at the Tokyo College of Photography (until 1996).
Exhibition - Autistic Space. Receives the Taiyo Award.
Starts photographing the series Kizuna, which later continues on as Zokushin.
Exhibition - New Japanese Photography, the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Starts photographing the series Counting the sand and Hiroshima.
Photobook - Zokushin (Ottos books)
Exhibition - Hiroshima: 1945-1978. Receives the Nobuo Ina Award.
Photobook - Hiroshima 1945-1979 (Asahi Sonorama).
Exhibition - Japanese Photography: 1848-today, the Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna, Italy.
Coauthors Testimonies of Hiroshima (Iwanami Shoten).
Receives the Annual Award from the Photographic Society of Japan.
Photobook - Hiroshima (Kosei Shuppansha).
Starts the series Ageing, taking photographs of himself every day.
Photobooks - Counting Grains of Sand (Toseisha), Party (IPC).
Exhibition - ZOKUSHIN, the National Library of France.
Exhibition - Hiroshima, Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography.
Ever since the time of his debut, Kazuo Kitai continues to this day to produce prominent snapshots. Any of the photobooks he released in the 70s are considered by many as a masterpiece that put dynamic social changes in the background while capturing day-to-day sceneries.
The title of this work, Sanrizuka, is the name of a region in Chiba Prefecture. There was an outbreak of protests, organized by the local farmers against a planned construction of an international airport (now known as Narita Airport). A violent conflict unfolded, requiring the mobilization of the riot police. Kitai stayed at Sanrizuka from 1969, covering the event over the span of three years. He captured the days of the farmers, gradually losing their homes in the shadow of the advancement of Japanese economy.
These photographs don’t assert a certain thought nor speak on the behalf of somebody. This is a characteristic also shown in his next work, To the Village―where he covered villages of various regions in Japan―which won the Kimura Ihei Award, awarded to up-and-coming photographers who produced notable works, on the year of its establishment.
Born in Anshan, China.
Drops out from Nihon University College of Art. Photobook - Resistance (Miraisha).
Photographs student protests at Nihon University.
Photographs the rally against airport construction at Sanrizuka.
Establishes the publishing house, Norasha. Starts photographing the series, Somehow Familiar Places (until 1973).
Photobook - Sanrizuka (Norasha).
Receives the Newcomer’s Award from the Photographic Society of Japan.
Starts photographing the series, To the Village (until 1979).
Receives the Kimura Ihei Award, for his work.
Photobook - People at the Sakai River (City of Urayasu).
Photobook - To the Village (Tankosha).
Photobook - Story of Shinsekai (Choeisha).
Photobook - Funabashi Story (Roko Publishing)
Photobook - Itsuka Mita Fukei (Sokyusha)
Photobook - Otenki (Terajimasha).
Photobook - 1990s in Beijing (Toseisha)
Publishes the series, Walking with Leica, for the magazine Nippon Camera (until 2013).
Photobooks - Sanrizuka (Steidl), reprint edition. Publishes Barricade (Harper’s Books) on the occasion of Kitai’s first exhibition in America with the same name.
Photobook - A collection of NAGAREKUMO TABI (Wides Shuppan Co., Ltd).
Exhibition - Provoke: Photography in Japan between
Protest and Performance, 1960-1975, which travels venues including the Art Institute of Chicago; showcases the works, Sanrizuka and Resistance.
Photobook - To the Village (Only-Photography), which includes previously unreleased photographs.
Photobook - Propaganda (Wides Shuppan Co., Ltd).
Ishiuchi Miyako is one of the most talked-about female photographers of the world today. This work, together with Yokosuka Story and Endless Night, comprise the trilogy made in the early stages of her career.
Yokosuka is a town with an American military base, and at the time, it was not uncommon to witness soliciting prostitutes or acts of violence in its streets. To Ishiuchi, who moved from a rural town in Gunma prefecture at the age of six, Yokosuka gave her a significant culture shock, which she called: “a town with a certain kind of wound” .
In her work, Endless Night, in which she captured the town’s red-light district, she mentioned how it inevitably made her think of her own womanhood , and that the trilogy is her own way of expressing “vengeance of a sort” . APARTMENT captures old apartments found in Tokyo, Yokohama, and Yokosuka. Ishiuchi, who spent her adolescence in a six tatami mat room says, “the apartments where we are forced to live in―even if we want to get away―are jumbled with the footsteps of those who have inhabited the space and are stained with miscellaneous body odor, and through this characteristic atmosphere, characteristic of apartments, I am able feel a more human, realistic sense of inhabitancy” .
After this, Ishiuchi pointed her camera to the texture of human body or things, producing multitude of works. In particular, her work, Hiroshima, which captured atomic bomb artifacts, attracted worldwide attention for providing an original perspective to the history of postwar era.
Born in Gunma Prefecture.
Moves to Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture.
Drops out from Tama Art University.
Begins photography by teaching herself.
Exhibition - Hyakka-Ryo-Ran (Blossoming Garden), Gallery Shimizu, presenting works by 10 female photographers.
Exhibition - Yokosuka Story.
Photobook - APARTMENT (Shashin Tsushin Sha).
Exhibition - Japan: A Self-Portrait, International Center of Photography, New York, and others.
Photobook - Yokosuka Story (Shashin Tsushin Sha)
Photobook - Endless Night (Asahi Sonorama).
Exhibition - Dumont’5: Die Japanische Fotographie, Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, Germany
Exhibition - Paris, New York, Tokyo, Tsukuba Museum of Photography, Ibaraki.
Photobook - 188.8.131.52 (IPC).
Receives the Domestic Photographer Award - Higashikawa Award.
Receives the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Photographic Society of Japan
Starts photographing the series Hiroshima.
Photobook - INNOCENCE (AKAAKA).
Exhibition - ISHIUCHI MIYAKO Photographs 1976-2003, travels Europe.
Photobook - Hiroshima (Shueisha).
Photobook - Infinity ∞ Shintai no Yukue (Kyurudo).
Receives the Mainichi Art Award.
Photobook - Tokyo bay blues 1982 - 1984 (Sokyusha).
Receives the Medal of Honor-Purple Ribbon, awarded by the government of Japan.
Exhibition - Here and Now: Atomic Bomb Artifacts, Hiroshima 1945/2007, Andre Roth Gallery, New York.
Photobook - From Hiroshima (Kyuryudo).
Becomes the first Asian female recipient of the Hasselblad Award.
Exhibition - Ishiuchi Miyako: Postwar Shadows, the J. Paul Getty Museum, Frida by Ishiuchi Miyako, Michael Hoppen Gallery, London.
Photobook - Frida: Love and Pain (Iwanami Shoten).
Receives Avon Awards to Women.
Exhibition - Art Basel Hong Kong, Convention & Exhibition Center.
Grain and Image, Yokohama Museum of Art.
Although Nobuyoshi Araki’s began his career by taking commercial photography as an employee of a big advertising agency, he was able to produce numerous personal works by using his spare time. Sentimental Journey, a documentation of the honeymoon with his wife Yoko, is one of such works created during this period.
It was first published in 1971 but came into the limelight of the Japanese photography scene in the 90s. The work reevaluated Araki as a shi shashinka, (rendered in English as “I-photographer” or “personal photographer,”) positing him as a popular artist both in Japan and the overseas.
The photobook, Sentimental Journey/Winter Journey―published a year after Yoko’s death in 1991―is an updated edition, adding memories of his wife post the Sentimental Journey series.
“I-photography,” which Araki devised in the 70s, is an endeavor to break free from photographs produced for a certain someone’s purpose and instead making them an expression of the self.
This was a symbolic development in an era that diminished photography as symbol of consumption or tainted the notion of journalistic photography.
Born in Tokyo.
Graduates from Chiba University and enters the advertising agency, Dentsu.
Receives the Taiyo Award.
Exhibition - Sachin and His Brother Mabo.
Creates Xeroxed Photo Albums with the company photocopier.
Photobook - Sentimental Journey (Self-published).
Becomes a freelancer.
Photobook - Yoko My Love (Asahi Sonorama).
Photobook - Sentimental Journey: The 10th Anniversary** (Tojusha)
Photobook - A Night of Nostalgia** (Byakuya Shobo)
Photobook - Love Life** (Byakuya Shobo)
Photobooks - Our Journeys of Love (Magazine House), Tokyo Story (Heibonsha).
Receives the Annual Award from the Photographic Society of Japan.