Tokyo in 1995. Image © Takehiko Nakafuji.
The Japanese photographer perhaps best known for shooting at night and on the street is Daido Moriyama, so it’s appropriate that Takehiko Nakafuji studied under him. Nakafuji recently published a two-volume book of photographs of nocturnal Tokyo called Night Crawler, the first volume containing images taken in 1995 and the second images taken in 2010. The combination shows changes in both the city and the man, evoking by turns the restless excitement and raffish charm of Tokyo’s underbelly, and a lonely, sombre place.
“There are two very different feelings,” says Nakafuji. “When I was in my twenties, inexperienced, discovering a new world, it was tremendously exciting. Fifteen years later, at the age of 40, a man is different. Now I can see things I was not aware of before. But not just this, Tokyo has changed, too. In 1995 Tokyo was just beginning to peak out after our bubble economy. Now it is calmer, less vibrant, and the city feels sadder.”
Nakafuji got into photographing at night through his love of music and punk rock, and exhibited the early work soon after he graduated from Tokyo Visual Arts. Then he put it aside and stopped photographing his home city, working instead in Hokkaido and Yokohama, and further afield in Russia, Eastern Europe and China. When Zen Foto Gallery suggested showing his 1995 project again he returned to the theme and the two-volume book followed from there. “The two series naturally complement each other, but I wanted to make the contrast apparent by having two distinct volumes,” he says. “I think it was effective.”
Tokyo in 2010. Image © Takehiko Nakafuji.
Zen Foto Gallery was set up by a British photography collector, Mark Pearson, in September 2009, and the publishing imprint grew out of his desire to document its shows. Pearson only publishes new or unknown work and says that “the process of finding young and unknown photographers and hopefully seeing them get wider recognition is tremendously exciting.” He’s pleased with this book first because it fits within the Japanese tradition of photographing at night, and second because of its evocation of the passage of time. “It says so much about change – change in the city of Tokyo, of course, but also change in people,” he says. “I deeply identified with the work, having lived and visited Tokyo for more than 30 years. I have seen Tokyo change, and how my perception has changed over time.”
“In a mere 15 years the streets, the people, the textures have all completely changed,” adds Nakafuji in his introduction. “Of course now the streets are noisy, crowded with people, shiny new buildings have been built, and all is hustle and bustle. But how can I express it? The feeling I used to get in my body from the vitality of the city I no longer feel. The light is brighter and the shadows deeper as the entire city seems to be silently sinking. I find it difficult to explain myself clearly. Certainly words are not enough, so I have to hope it can be understood through my photographs. All I can do is express my feelings directly and continue to take photographs.”
Night Crawler 1995/2010, by Takehiko Nakafuji, is published by Zen Foto Gallery, priced £56.
For more information, visit www.zen-foto.jp.
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