Lieko Shiga: Chiako, from the series Canary, 2007 ©Lieko Shiga

Rinko Kawauchi, Lieko Shiga exhibitions, lectures at Photobook Festival Kassel, Germany

Next week Rinko Kawauchi will join the 3. International Photobook Festival in Kassel, Germany, where she will exhibit works from her series “Utatane” (2001).
I have already written about Rinko  here and here, therefore today just my favourite quote about “Utatane”:

Just when it seems that everything has been photographed, in every possible way, along comes a photographer, whose work is so original that the medium is renewed. Such a photographer is Rinko Kawauchi, who makes simple, lyrical pictures, so fresh and unusual that they are difficult to describe or classify. Her images documentary everyday things, yet could not be described as documentary. They are generally light in tone, yet somehow dark in mood. They are almost hallucinatory, yet seem to capture something fundamental about the psychological mood of modern life.
Garry Badger

Rinko Kawauchi, Utatane, 2001 ©Rinko Kawauchi

Rinko Kawauchi, Utatane, 2001 ©Rinko Kawauchi

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Shomei Tomatsu: Untitled (Hateruma-jima, Okinawa), from the series "The Pencil of the Sun", 1971 © Shomei Tomatsu

Shomei Tomatsu exhibition

It is interesting to have a look at the Western reception of Japanese photography in the last three decades. After a few initial exhibitions on Japanese photography in the 1970s and early 1980s – like the first and seminal show New Japanese Photography at the MOMA 1974 – the Western audience lost interest in this exceptionally productive period of time and in Japanese photography in general. It took almost a decade that the interest in Japanese photography revitalized, but this time the interest focussed on contemporary Japanese photographers like Nobuyoshi Araki (first solo show in the West 1992), Hiroshi Sugimoto or Toshio Shibata.
Historical Japanese only came into view again at the end 1990s with the world tour of the Daido Moriyama exhibition, produced 1999 by Sandra Phillips at the SFMOMA, and in 2004 with the exhibition “The History of Japanese Photography” by Anne Tucker at the Museum of Fine Art Houston. Ann Tucker’s catalogue will be the reference publication on Japanese photography for many years to come. This kind of meandering reception of Japanese photography led to the surprising result that “the most important figure in Japanese postwar photography” is still much less known as the photographers who developed their work with or against him. Of course this photographer – who had been labelled the “godfather” of Japanese photography by an artist I met in Tokyo recently – is Shomei Tomatsu.

Recently I had the pleasure to initiate the first solo exhibition of Shomei Tomatsu in Germany, which is currently on show at Galerie Priska Pasquer.

Shomei Tomatsu at Galerie Priska Pasquer Cologne
Exhibition: March 13 – April 17, 2010

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Ikko Narahara: 'Engraved arrow, Arizona' from the series: 'Where Time Has Vanished', 1972 © Ikko Narahara

Ikko Narahara Exhibition in Cologne

I was quite busy the whole summer working Galerie Priska Pasquer on the program of Japanese photography – including a trip to Tokyo. One result of my work can currently be seen at our gallery:

Ikko Narahara – Photographs from the 1950s to the 1970s

It’s the first solo exhibition of Ikko Narahara´s work in Germany and the first time that his vintage prints from the 60s and 70s are on show in a gallery.

Ikko Narahara: Island without Green #12, Gunkanjima, Nagasaki, from the series: 'Human Land', 1954-1957 ©Ikko Narahara

Ikko Narahara, born in 1931 in the Fukuoka Prefecture was self taught photographer. The response to his first (one week) solo exhibition in Tokyo’s only photo gallery was so positive that he decided to become a photographer. Soon after he took part in the groundbreaking photography exhibition ‘The Eyes of Ten’ in Tokyo in 1957. Two years later he became one of the co-founders of the legendary photo agency VIVO (in collaboration with Shomei Tomatsu, Eikoh Hosoe, Kikuji Kawada, and others), which was to be the epicenter for a new generation of Japanese photographers.

Ikko Narahara: Garden of Silence #03, Hakodate, Hokkaido, from the series: 'Domains', 1958 ©Ikko Naraharaa

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Eikoh Hosoe: Man and Woman #20. 1960 © Eikoh Hosoe

Must/should sees: Tokyo Photo fair/ The Provoke Era; Photography Now – China, Japan, Korea, at SFMOMA


It’s a little bit late, but for Tokyoites and current visitors to Tokyo not too late:  This weekend the first photography art fair is held in Japan: TOKYO PHOTO 2009. The fair is not that big – not to say quite small with 18 galleries participating, including four galleries from the USA. But some of the leading Japanese galleries have a booth like Tomio Koyama Gallery, Zeit-Photo Salon, MEM or Taro Nasu.

TOKYO PHOTO 2009 endeavors to be the foremost art fair of photography in Japan. The venue is located in the heart of international business and culture in Tokyo. To be held from September 4 to 6, Tokyo Photo 2009 will provide visitors with a unique opportunity to see and buy a wide range of photographic works from vintage prints to cutting-edge digitally enhanced images.

It would be great if this first photography fair would be successful and would be repeated in the upcoming years. Until now we have two major photography fairs, Paris Photo in Europe and the AIPAD Photography Show New York in the USA. I think a successful third fair in Asia would be an important tool to promote photography in Japan and nearby countries like China or Korea whose photography scenes are growing, but in which the market for photography still needs development. But of course, for these galleries from other Asian countries need to be included in future photography fairs…

THE PROVOKE ERA – Postwar Japanese Photography

I would love to see this show which opens on September 12 at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The show is curated by Sandra S. Phillips, senior curator of photography at the SFMOMA. Sandra did already the two fabulous travelling exhibitions which introduced leading Japanese photographers to the West: Daido Moriyama in 1999 and Shomei Tomatsu in 2006.

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Eikoh Hosoe: Kamaitachi 8, 1965

Some recent activties

It’s over a year that I have written at But is it not because I lost interest in Japanese photography, on the contrary, I was so much involved in Japanese photography, that there wasn’t much time nor thoughts left for the blog, unfortunately.

Eikoh Hosoe: Kamaitachi 8, 1965

Some time ago I became director of Galerie Priska Pasquer, Cologne, where I am responsible for the program of Japanese photography. Already in the years before we had some solo shows with Japanese artists at the gallery: Iwao Yamawaki (Modern photography), Eikoh Hosoe (his first solo show in Germany), Daido Moriyama and Rinko Kawauchi. In the beginning, we did not receive much response, but this changed very much in the recent years because Western curators and private collectors alike became more and more aware of the history of Japanese photography and of the quality of the works coming from Japan.

Osamu Shiihara: Untitled, end 1930s

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Rinko Kawauchi: Untitled (from the series: Uatatane), 2001 ©Rinko Kawauchi

Rinko Kawauchi: “Utatane” exhibition in Paris

Just a short post after a long hiatus, but I hope to post more in the upcoming months.

I know I wrote a few times about Rinko Kawauchi – with whom I had a very pleasant dinner in Tokyo a few weeks ago -, but since this is the first time that her famous series “Utatane” from 2001 is exhibited in a solo show outside Japan, I thought it is worth to mention it.

Rinko Kawauchi “Uatane”, at Art77, presented by Antoine de Vilmorin (until May 3).

Rinko Kawauchi: Untitled (from the series: Uatatane), 2001 ©Rinko Kawauchi

As far as I know there has not been much written about the series and book “Utatane” (in contrary to “Aila”)  and which has lead to Rinko’s national and international breakthrough. For “Utatane” (and for her book “Hanabi” [Fireworks]) the artist received the prestigious Kimura Ihei Award and the book was included in the “The Photobook: A History. Vol. 2” by Parr and Badger. Badger wrote a very interesting comment on Rinko and “Utatane” in the photobook anthology:

Just when it seems that everything has been photographed, in every possible way, along comes a photographer, whose work is so original that the medium is renewed. Such a photographer is Rinko Kawauchi, who makes simple, lyrical pictures, so fresh and unusual that they are difficult to describe or classify.

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Daido Moriyama in Cologne

It’s not the first time that I write about Daido Moriyama. The reason is simple: Daido Moriyama is one of my favorite photographers. His photographs and his books – especially the book Shashinyo Sayônara (Farewell Photography) – had a huge impact on my initial idea of Japanese photography. Therefore it had a certain inevitability that soon after we began to work more intensively with Japanese photography at Galerie Priska Pasquer, we did a Daido Moriyama exhibition in 2004. The exhibition took place at the time when Daido Moriyama received the Cultural Award of the German Photographic Society. The award ceremony was held at the Photographische Sammlung / SK-Stiftung Kultur in Cologne (and where I had the pleasure to give the award speech).

Daido Moriyama. Retrospective from 1965
Photographische Sammlung / SK-Stiftung Kultur (Photographic Collection / SK-Culture Foundation)
Sept. 5 – Dec. 12, 2007

Daido Moriyama: Japan Theater, 1967

At the beginning of September Daido Moriyama was in Cologne again. He came for the opening of his exhibition Daido Moriyama. Retrospective from 1965 which is held at the same place where he received the Culture Award three years ago.

This retrospective, which comprises some 500 photographs, presents the decidedly complex work of Daido Moriyama (b. 1938), one of the most renowned Japanese photographers, from 1965 to the present day. It consists of thirteen series of pictures, largely based on vintage material, and a film presentation. Although Moriyama belongs to Japans post-1945 artist generation, who struck out along radically new aesthetic paths in the post-war period, it is interesting to note that to this day his work has lost none of its currency or artistic scope.

Daido Moriyama: Nippon Gekijo Shashincho (Japan Theater Photo Album), 1968

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Kikuji Kawada: The Japanese National Flag, 1960-65

John Szarkowski (1925-2007) and Japanese Photography

John Szarkowski, a curator who almost single-handedly elevated photography’s status in the last half-century to that of a fine art, making his case in seminal writings and landmark exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, died in on Saturday in Pittsfield, Mass. He was 81.
[Quote: New York Times Obituary]

American Photography

As the New York Times points out John Szarkowski “was first to confer importance on the work of Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander and Garry Winogrand” and two of his books, “‘The Photographer’s Eye,’ (1964) and ‘Looking at Photographs: 100 Pictures From the Collection of the Museum of Modern Art’ (1973), remain syllabus staples in art history programs.” Szarkowski also introduced the work by William Eggleston in the now legendary exhibition “William Eggleston’s Guide” (1976). This exhibition “was widely considered the worst of the year in photography.”

New Japanese Photography, MOMA, New York 1974

New Japanese Photography, MOMA, New York 1974


New Japanese Photography

John Szarkowski left definitely his mark in the field of American photography, but not only there. In 1974 John Szarkowski organized together with Shôji Yamagishi (editor of Camera Mainichi magazine) the exhibition “New Japanese Photography”. The exhibition introduced 15 photographers, amongst them the grand masters of Japanese photography: Ken Domon, Yasuhiro Ishimoto, Shomei Tomatsu, Kikuji Kawada, Masatoshi Naitoh, Tetsuya Ichimura, Hiromi Tsuchida, Masahisa Fukase, Ikko, Eikoh Hosoe, Daido Moriyama, Ryoji Akiyama, Ken Ohara, Shigeru Tamura, and Bishin Jumonji.
It was the first major exhibition about contemporary Japanese photography outside Japan ever.

Kikuji Kawada: The Japanese National Flag, 1960-65

Kikuji Kawada: The Japanese National Flag, 1960-65

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Since decades the major trend of Japanese photography is definitely ‘straight photography’ with all its derivations (street photography, cityscapes, portraits, e.g.). A lesser role plays conceptual photography like the works by Hiroshi Sugimoto or Naoya Hatakeyama. But even these photographers usually use their cameras in a traditional way, that is they don’t (overly) manipulate their works during the production process.

Maybe it’s just my selective perception, but in contrary to the ‘straight’ approach on reality the experimental, manipulative use of the medium photography as a tool for to produce works of art is not very widespread in Japan.

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Berlin – Tokyo – Berlin? Some thoughts on the asymmetry of the relationship of Japanese and German arts in the 20th century

Did anybody see the exhibition Berlin – Tokyo / Tokyo – Berlin at the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo or later in Berlin? I wasn’t neither able to see the exhibition in Tokyo nor at the second venue in Berlin afterwards.

The reviews in the German press were very positive (except on the contemporary part of the show), while in Japan the review at the Japan Times was quite crushing:

Berlin/Tokyo: Invitation to a car wreck
The exhibition “Tokyo-Berlin/ Berlin-Tokyo” was put together by a total of 17 curators and assistants, and looks like it. This is a dog’s breakfast of a show — although there is a lot of good art here, the total amounts to less than the sum of the parts. If there is a unifying theme, it is trepidation, the fear of putting a foot wrong.
[Quote: Monti diPietro, Japan Times]


Some better examples

While I cannot say anything about the exhibition, I found the catalogue to the exhibition very weak compared to previous exhibition catalogues about the relationship between the West and Japan. Just take for example the catalogue to a similar themed exhibition “Japan und Europa 1543-1929” which was shown in Berlin in 1993. The catalogue to “Japan und Europa 1543-1929” contains many elaborate essays and additionally detailed descriptions and comments to every piece exhibited.  Or you could take the more recent exhibition catalogue “Encounters: The Meeting of Asia and Europe 1500 – 1800” (Victoria &Albert Museum, London 2004) which contains very insightful essays on the early encounters between the West and Japan. I have seen the show and I keep it in my mind as a very important contribution to our knowledge about the cultural exchange in the early stage of the contact between the Far East and Europe.

Jun Watanabe: «Winter», 1926

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