“How to fill the gap between politics and art? This is both an old and a new problem,” writes Takuma Nakahira, in the afterword to PROVOKE no.1, published 50 years ago this month. Led by some of Japan’s best-known photographers and art critics – including Takuma Nakahira, Koji Taki, and iconoclast Daido Moriyama, who joined from the second issue – the magazine stemmed from the anger and discontent that they felt towards the post-war world. Though it survived only three issues, and was criticised at the time, it is now widely recognised as a ground-breaking publication in the history of contemporary Japanese photography.
The magazines were printed in 1968 and 1969, both turbulent years for politics which featured the May 1968 riots in Paris; the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr and the anti-Vietnam protests in the US; the end of the Prague Spring. In Japan, 1968 was the year that a string of violent student uprisings forced many of the top universities to close.
Feeling all shopped out? Take refuge in a photo show – though many are being hosted by private galleries in Paris next week, meaning you can still buy prints if you want to. Photo Saint-Germain is a huge umbrella under which 36 exhibitions and events are taking place, for example, including the Polycopies and Shakespeare & Co book events and several cultural institutes, but also smaller, commercial galleries.
“There’s not enough journalism about female friendships, they’re not given the same credit as romantic relationships, but I actually think they can be so much stronger,” says London-based photographer Francesca Allen, who spent a month in Tokyo last spring photographing the subject of her new book, Aya, a Japanese musician and now Allen’s good friend.
The pair first met in 2016, during Allen’s two week vacation to Japan. Allen, whose work often centres on womanhood and sexual freedom and is regularly featured in publications such as Ripose and The Fader, used part of her time on holiday to photograph Japanese girls. Looking across her selection of images, she felt so drawn to the photographs of Aya that the following year, she arranged to go back and make a book with her.
“It is peculiar how forests have such an affect on us,” observes Jersey-born photographer Alexander Mourant of his latest project Aomori, which was shot in Japan’s ancestral forests. “As temporal dimensions crumble, objectivity leaves us. We are found in a still, oneiric state, contemplating our own accumulation of experience.” His series is going on show in London as part of the Free Range FR Awards
You may not know it, but you’re probably familiar with Emily Shur’s celebrity portraits, from Helen Mirren and Will Farrell to Lupita Nyong’o and Larry David. Her active, vibrant and playful commissions have been seen on posters and screens the world over, and have helped her become one of LA’s most sought-after photographers when it comes to shooting comedians, actors and musicians in their most natural – or unnatural – habitats. But in Super Extra Natural!, her new book published with Kehrer, Shur trades in the digital camera and studio lighting to take us on a journey through Japan.
“There was Hiroshima, Nagasaki and the American occupation but also the uprising of students and farmers against the seizure of land for Narita Airport. It all unleashed the desire of the young generation to say that they had enough,” says Manfred Heiting as he introduces The Japanese Photobook. In a century of vast changes, from traditions to technology, empire to war, the photobook became an institution in its own right in Japan, documenting the history of the country as it happened.
Shot in Japan over two years, Tokyo is Yours is inspired by manga, surrealism and film noir, and uses a gritty monochrome that Meg Hewitt first experimented with back in Sydney
“When I started researching the pornographic visuals, it hit me that there’s a clear formula in the way women are portrayed in them,” says Ina Jang. “I printed out some of the images, cut out the body figures and photographed them. From there, I kept making images with similar positions.”
Back in 2010 BJP asked a panel of experts to select the best photobook of the past 25 years. They chose Ravens by Japanese photographer Masahisa Fukase – a dark, impressionistic journey by a man left bereft by divorce which has also been interpreted as an insight into the post-war Japanese psyche.
In Japan, years are counted the Western way as a linear progression starting from year 1, but they are also counted as a series of periods relating to whichever Emperor is in power. 2014 was also the 26th year of the Heisei period, for example; the last period, Showa, lasted 64 years until 1989. Kazuyoshi Usui’s series, Showa88, depicts an alternative universe in which the Emperor kept going – extending a difficult but vibrant era. “Japan now is said to be suffering from a long stagnation but there is very little hardship here,” he says. “But although there is no physical deprivation, there may be psychological deprivation. Maybe people are living like characters from Orwell’s 1984, by destroying or suppressing their emotions — like company workers who never express their true emotions or desires. “In the Showa era there was hardship and poverty, but I sense the power of the urge for survival. Violence, vice and poverty are hard, but they do reveal humanity. Japan today tries to eliminate these negative things, but in the process it …