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展覧会「The Origins of Japanese Contemporary Photography - Film grain as words」


東川賞受賞作家 展覧会のお知らせ

GoEun Museum of Photographyにて始まった展覧会「The Origins of Japanese Contemporary Photography - Film grain as words」に、荒木経惟氏、石内都氏が出展しております。


The Origins of Japanese Contemporary Photography - Film grain as words

b0187229_20260272.png
©Miyako Ishiuchi


以下リンクより

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)


1 The Pencil of the Sun
2 Ibid.
3 Counting Hiromi Tsuchida (Recruit)
4 Ishiuchi Miyako exhibition catalogue Hiroshima/Yokosuka (Meguro Museum of Art)
5 Ibid.

*******************************
June 9, 2018 – August 29, 2018
Tuesday-Sunday, 10:00 ~ 19:00
The Museum is closed on
:Every Monday and 1 January, the lunar New Year’s Holiday, Chuseok
Admissions :
GoEun Museum of Photography opens to the public for free
16, Haeundae-ro 452beon-gil, Haeundae-gu, Busan, Korea [48089]





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