Japan is thousands of miles away from the Western world where photography was born, but its scene is thriving. Not only do they lead the world in camera and printing technology, but from the radical photographers of PROVOKE, to the cutting-edge work of rising stars, its practitioners are internationally recognised and respected; and its photofestivals are are no different in quality or flare. Set within the ancient city of Kyoto, among countless temples, shrines, and imperial palaces, is Japan’s largest international photofestival, Kyotographie. It returns this spring for the seventh time, catching the last of the cherry blossoms – an important season in Japan, symbolic of renewal and the fleeting nature of life.
Japanese photographer Daido Moriyama has won the 2019 Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography, which is worth SEK1,000,000 (approximately £80,700). Moriyama will now have a show at the Hasselblad Center in Gothenburg this autumn, and a new book of his work will be published by Walther König. Born in Osaka in 1938, Moriyama studied photography under Takeji Iwamiya before moving to Tokyo in 1961 to work as an assistant to Eikoh Hosoe. Producing a series of images titled Nippon gekijō shashinchō [published in English as Japan: A Photo Theater], Moriyama created an impressionistic take on the dark side of urban life that soon became synonymous with Provoke magazine, a publication he helped produce in 1969. Celebrating images that were “are, bure, bokeh” [“grainy/rough, blurry, and out-of-focus’], and giving a critical view of post-war Japan, Provoke was short-lived but profoundly influential both at home and abroad. Moriyama is still creating new work, however, recently telling that Hasselblad Foundation that “It’s fun!”. “I just take photos, or want to take photos, so to do that, because my photos are snapshots …
Publications we loved, and the big news stories from the last month in photobooks – featuring work by Peng Ke, Tom Wood, Paul Reas, Vivian Maier and the post-war PROVOKE group
“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.
We are in Arles, where in July 2016 he showed Mortuary, one of his signature sculptural installations, made up of heavily manipulated, elongated photographic forms. He had been selected for the Rencontres photofestival’s Discovery Award, though in truth this cat had been long out of the bag – Yokota exhibited in Arles in 2015, showing his almost imperceptible inky-black prints from his Inversion series as part of Another Language: 8 Japanese Photographers, curated by Simon Baker of Tate Modern. And in the preceding half decade, his intriguing, visually arresting performances, experiments, installations, books, soundscapes and collaborations have blazed a trail from Tokyo to wider international acclaim, taking photography on a journey to the extreme. In this he is a revolutionary, with neither pretension nor timid creativity. The sheer energy with which he produces work is extraordinary, verging on obsessional and driven by a desire to constantly record, destroy and then recreate. Anxiety is the fuel. “In my mind, I have an image of burning energy in continual production,” he says.
Provoke: Between Protest and Performance by Diane Dufour, Matthew Witkovsky and Duncan Forbes has won Best Photography Book in the Kraszna-Krausz Foundation’s 2017 Book Awards. A celebration of the short-lived Japanese magazine, which ran for just three issues from November 1968 – August 1969, the book gathers the ground-breaking black-and-white images published by Provoke and combines with critical theory and interviews to show how influential the publication was.
1. Gregory Halpern’s ZZYZX, published by Mack A book that merges documentary, portraiture and a strange heightened sense of mystery that keeps you guessing about what it is he is evoking. I think it’s a work of the imagination as much as anything: a California of the mind that carries an undercurrent of anxiety and unreality. 2. Diane Arbus: In the Beginning at The Met Breuer, 12 July-27 November Wonderfully-curated show about Diane Arbus before she became the Diane Arbus we know. Grainy photographs from the NY demimonde of Times Square peep shows and Coney Island freak shows, but also some moments of dark melancholy. You sensed very strongly from this show that she was always a loner with a camera, searching for other outsiders to connect with however fleetingly. 3. Provoke: Between Protest and Performance at Le Bal, Paris from 14 September-11 December An intriguing look at the 1960s Provoke generation that placed them in the social and political context of the time, but also within the tradition of Japanese photography and the influences …
1. Araki at Musee Guimet 13 April-05 September, and Hamiltons 27 September-22 November Not a bad 76th year. A beautiful retrospective show at Musee Guimet in Paris, as well as a striking exhibition of new work at Hamiltons Gallery in London. Araki took the opportunity of being 76 to work with a 6×7 medium format camera and made some of his best work in years. 2. Provoke: Between Protest and Performance at Le Bal, 14 September-11 December Exhibition touring Europe, currently at Le Bal. Incredibly powerful. A historic show 3. Radical Eye: Modernist Photography from the Sir Elton John Collection, Tate Modern Curated by my colleague Shoair Mavlian. A real surprise for many visitors and a highpoint of the year for me too.One of the great private collections of modernist photography, in incredible frames! 5. All the photography in the new expanded Tate Modern It’s everywhere now! Especially happy to see Boris Mikhailov and Sirkka Liisa Kontinen in the new Switch House. Both where they belong at the heart of the collection. 4. Juno Calypso It has …
The director of The Photographers’ Gallery in London on what made 2016 for her – and what she’s looking forward to in 2017