A r i k o
M a s a s h i
K o i c h i
S a k i k o
Y u j i
A s a d a
K u r o d a
N o m u r a
O b a t a
T o m o y u k i
S a k a g u c h i
O s a m u
W a t a y a
November - April 2009/10
A u t u m n / W i n t e r
O c t o b e r - A p r i l
Yuji Obata -> 6
Kuroda Koichi -> 18
Osamu Wataya -> 52
Tomoyuki Sakaguchi -> 58
Ariko -> 68
28 M a s a s h i A s a d a
The Asada Family
52 O s a m u W a t a y a
04 Guest Editor's Note
By Jason Evans
Jason Evan's offers an insight into his ongoing
interest in contemporary Japanese
2 0 0 9 / 1 0
36 Japanese Photo Books of the 1960s and 70s 58 T o m o y u k i S a k a g u c h i
By Ivan Vartanian
Ivan vartanian discusses his new Aperture
publication Japanese Photo Books of the 1960s 68 A r i k o
and 70s.
06 Yuji O b a t a
Winter Tate
50 A Bird: Blast #130
By Mark Bolland
Naoya Hatakeyama has been making
photographs in the blast series for over a
decade. Here Mark Bolland looks at the latest
in this series, A Bird: Blast 130
William Klein: Tokyo
By David Campany
David Campany considers the lasting legacy of
William Klein's classic photo book Tokyo.
K u r o d a Koichi
Sakiki N o m u r a
Night Flight
78 Hanatsubaki and Nakajo
By Penny Martin
Penny Martin considers the legacy of Nakajo,
influential art director for Japanese style
magazine Hanatsubaki.
Reviewed by Shiho Kito
Tabi Yukeba Neko
Reviewed by Shiho Kito
Front cover Osamu Wataya. Back cover image courtesy of the Archive of Modern Conflict.
u n i q u e
B r i t i s h
f o r u m
a n d
i n t e r n a t i o n a l
p h o t o g r a p h y
c u l t u r e ,
c a s e s
a r t i s t s
t a l e n t s ,
a n d
a n d
a n d
e m e r g i n g
r e v i e w s
p u b l i s h e s
o n
s h o w ­
e s t a b l i s h e d
e x h i b i t i o n s
w r i t i n g
v i s u a l
P h o t o w o r k s
b o t h
Published biannually in May and November
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G u e s t
B y
E d i t o r ' s
J a s o n
N o t e
E v a n s
Moving Target
ThefirstJapanese photography I remember
seeing was work published as the short lived,
much lauded Provoke journal. This politically
charged, technically challenging work
couldn't fail to make an impression. Despite
my ignorance of the historical conditions
which informed these images their agenda
is manifest absolutely, and the required
emotional response cannot be mistaken.
If this were a walk in the park, the leaves
were blown away by the Nuclear winds
of change, the lens would be disintegrating
in the tumbling clutches of the outraged
'cameraman' as earth is scorched, like a fire
managed forest preparing for a new growth
which never comes.
How often is photography this
unambiguous? We generally assert that
photographs are only open to interpretation
and reliant on context, this is not taken as
given in Japan, far from it.
The challenges of the 'Provoke' era were
assimilated up to a point, in much the same
way as the implied revolution of Punk became
a marketing opportunity rather than a cultural
threat. Subsequent generations tended to
dilute the impact of their forebears in tomes
of relentless, yet considerably less disturbing
work. The agitation aesthetic and blunt design
devolved whilst the stop-start, organized
chaos edit style lived on. Sequencing remains
for me one of the most exciting elements
in Japanese work. The 1980s saw a third
significant cultural influx in the history of
Japan's westernized de-isolation and with
it work that continued to borrow elements
from overseas. There is a healthy pluralism
afoot that operates without the economic
concerns of a tyrannical art market that
impacts so profoundly here. There are
individuals who have successfully crossed
over to engage with overseas collectors
and publishers, but on the whole there is
little interest in approval from abroad. I
have tried to avoid work by practitioners
who have completed foreign studies, they
are easy enough to spot. Similarly I have erred
to practitioners who may not have received
much foreign attention thus far.
One theme Ifindconsistently refreshing in
Japanese manufacture of all kinds is the terms
of translation required to refine a received
idea into something of Japanese propriety
and functionality. A clear sense of attention
to detail in Japan never fails to delight.
A bewildering domino-fall of appropriate
choices made, which even baffle my Japanese
guides on occasion. There is often no clear
explanation for why something should be
this way or that, only that it is irrefutable.
This all sounds very prescriptive, but as is
evidenced here, the voice of the individual
can ring through. Simple Japanese logic
can baffle the most sophisticated Western
analysis, perhaps because it does not stand
to be deconstructed, like a meteorite trying
to navigate a spider's web.
I have been lucky enough to visit Japan
five times, and despite unease amongst
crowds and a preference for wide-open
spaces the dizzying density of Tokyo never
fails to inspire me visually. There is a sense
of perpetual convergence, with the vanishing
point at numerous infinities and in continual
shift. This makes for a woozy, vertiginous
free fall for the visually aware. Surrender
to its mechanism without anxiety, for Japan
is an incredibly safe country for the traveler.
As my explorations have taken me further
from the capital Ifindmyself lost and found,
dependent on the kindness of strangers,
which is measured but sustaining. Codes are
strict, but acceptance somehow prevails out
of a sense of duty. As a fellow island person,
I can appreciate the 'natural' suspicion that
greets me, but am also aware of a deep and
gentle sense of humour which often crosses
language and cultural barriers. I cannot claim
to understand the Japanese anymore than
I understand the British or the Danes. What
does it mean to 'understand' a people? To
answer this type of question usually leads
to prejudicial formulae. I would prefer to
advocate acknowledging difference over
acceptance of similarity.
Similarly I want to try and avoid
generalization or sterotype in this brief
contextural introduction. There are themes
running through these collected works, and
these provide illuminating counterpoint to
the general conditions of photography made
here. It is possible to recognize a theme of
photography about Photography (that often
revisits the 1970s) in much contemporary
Western practice. Preconceived bodies of
Untitled by Shin Suzuki. Courtesy Kiki In
work sometimes feel shored up with
impenetrable theoretical texts published
as part of the monograph. It is fair to say
the overwhelming majority of Western
'Art Photography' shuns the intuitive, the
emotional and the unrestrained that we
find so often in Japanese work.
There is less chance of finding a 'critical
essay' in a Japanese photography book.
The implication is that the images need no
qualification. That's not to say that there
isn't an important relationship between
the written word and photography in Japan,
but any text to be seen, if at all, is more likely
to be prose, poetic or a non-formulaeic and
deeply personal statement by the author
of the images rather than an invited party,
and often occurs elsewhere, in journals and
papers. Ivan Vartanian collected key texts in
his highly recommended 2006 Setting Sun
collection for Aperture. This is not meant to
be an anti-intellectual rant, but I often find
myself looking at versions of versions these
days and find a refreshing sense of possibilities
as counter point in Japanese photography.
In my role as guest editor of this issue
I have tried to create a balance between
my taste and the broad remit of Photoworks
magazine. For now we will have to leave Leiko
Shiga, Naoki Ishigawa and Akira Somekawa
and many others in Japan. You should realize
that the issue could have taken very different
forms, as simple comparative visits to Micitaka
Ota's fantastic Sokyu-sha gallery/shop or
the Aoyama Book Centre would reveal. Both
places sell contemporary Japanese photo
books, and most new Japanese photography
is still to be found on the page rather than
the wall, but the contrasting shelves tell
quite different versions of recent events. The
legacy of Japan's deeply earnest documentary
tradition rubs shoulders with the wonderfully
miserabalist torch bearers of the post-Provoke
era who in turn have to make room for new
generations for what we would probably call
'Art Photographers', but whose work bears
little relation to our precepts. Aside from this,
there is a huge popular culture for amateur
photography and numerous volumes of sugary
girly photography and sentimental natural
themes are testament to the ambitions
of these practitioners, not to mention piles
of used equipment to be seen at suburban
car boot sales. Photography in Japan is still
a majority male domain, but this is changing,
just a little slower than in the West. Japanese
fashion and advertising photography, though
thriving in numerous editorial contexts, is less
interesting than it once was. The commercial
restraints that limit aesthetic innovation
elsewhere are even tighter in Japan, requiring
very literal, descriptive imagery with few
exceptions. Despite this it was left field fashion
photography that brought me to Japan,
and I am indebted to Shiseido's Hanatsubaki
magazine for their continued support of my
research into Japanese photography.
Deciding which bodies of work to feature
here was tough. Some of the photographers
are on their fourth or fifth monograph,
approaching creative maturity. Whereas
in the UK we tend to seize upon an emerging
artist with a comparatively brief body
of work that suits a particular idea of what
photography should be, in Japan it is easier for
new photographers to produce an expanded
monograph of what photography could be.
These first books are often 'flawed' by our
standards. But within these happy accidents
new potentials emerge. In Japanese craftwork
a production flaw is often celebrated as
unique rather than damaging. The images
that illustrate this text are taken from two
new projects for which there was not enough
space to feature in depth. Shin Suzuki's
'Photograph' book has a remarkable and
Eye Ohashi, Untitled, from Unchained. Courtesy of Foil © Eye Ohashi
thought provoking device on the cover as part
of the packaging, that can only be experienced
the first time it is unwrapped after purchase.
It's content seems to split three ways, between
subtlely different styles of working between
which I still ponder a connection, it makes
little 'sense' but is wildly engaging. Eye
Ohashi's Unchained book of soap bubbles
makes for pretty eye candy, but lacks
direction, like the breeze ridden by the
subject. At the turn of a page we may find
kitschy soft porn or psychedelic swirls of the
highest order, and an S&M dungeon invaded
by unlikely visitors. With restraint and
redesign, this could have been a marvelous
project, but it is work not suited to the
page, especially not a page this small. I look
forward to seeing it on the wall, and bigger.
I never thought I'd hear myself say that about
Japanese photography. •
Jason Evans is a photographer, who lectures
at the University of Wales, Newport.

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