Self-portraits as brides. 🖋
When wedding rhymes with Japanese photography
by Charlene Veillon
Reading time ⏰ 13 min 57
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In Japan, as elsewhere in the world, people get married! And as elsewhere in the world, we immortalize this great moment in the life of a couple with a photo shoot. But the deep meaning of traditional Japanese marriage sometimes clashes with our modern life, inspiring photographers – especially women – to create a scene in the form of self-portraits of brides. Kimiko Yoshida or Tomoko Sawada have each produced several photographic series entirely dedicated to the theme of the Japanese bride. Between parody, denunciation of stereotypes and gesture of rebellion, let's see how these images question us about the "Japanese wedding".
With the series omiai Begun in 2001 and made up of 30 color self-portraits, photographer Tomoko Sawada has highlighted a very particular type of photography, that of the prenuptial encounter portrait.
In this series, Tomoko Sawada is therefore transformed into 30 different young girls. This photographer “with 1000 faces” is a fan of self-portraiture. She uses photographic staging and her own person to explore identity and societal issues. In all her series, she embodies various female characters to bring out the stereotypes: the bride, the high school student, the sweet lolita, or even the young girl to be married. She also questions the photographic practices of our society, such as class, CV and wedding photos.
The specific type of photographic portrait presented in this series is related to the practice ofomiai, the "arranged meeting" for a marriage between two people who do not know each other. L'omiai would have been born with the advent of the great Japanese warrior families, who would have extended their political alliances by arranged marriages between their offspring. Nothing new in the tropics! But it is from the Edo period, in the XVIe century, that this type of marriage has truly entered into mores, first in samurai families, then among the entire population. With the modernization of the country from the very end of the XNUMXe century, love marriages took over, even if until 1930, arranged marriages still represented more than 60% of unions.
It is estimated that today, 6% of Japanese marriages are still made by omiai. In this modern version, suitors can refuse a union that does not suit them. It has also become a voluntary process. "Voluntary" is however to be taken with a grain of salt, because Japanese society puts enormous pressure on young people over 30 who are not married. It is still very frowned upon to move into a household, with children, without being married. Women are particularly targeted by these pressures, because they are considered a bit “outdated” after 30 years! As for men, they may be subject to discrimination in hiring, since a person responsible for a family is considered to be more docile in the face of pressure than a free spirit. Nothing romantic in this kind of consideration.
In the series Omiai, using wigs, make-up, costumes, Tomoko Sawada imitates the very serious photos taken by the families with the aim of a omiai : it is after all to sell his offspring on photo! Although these clichés are appropriate for both women and men, posture and clothing codes are stricter for young girls. These portraits are then exchanged between the parties, through the families or a third person named nakodo (sort of professional matchmaker), who want to see young people have a good marriage.
Tomoko Sawada copies the gestures and attitudes of the young girl to be married who must present herself in her best light, both in classic clothes (suit or dress for example) and in magnificent and expensive furisode (the long-sleeved kimono reserved for single women), in a reserved attitude, feet together, most often hands crossed, face serious, eyes fixed on the camera. No superfluous decor, no bucolic landscape, no enticing smile or simpering, we are not kidding with the prenuptial encounter portrait! So much so that by the repetition of these young girls who are both different and identical in his portraits ofomiai, Tomoko Sawada makes us aware of the artificiality of these social self-representations. Despite the wigs and artifices, by photographing her own face each time, Tomoko Sawada demonstrates the interchangeability of these young girls subjected to a social "role play", that of the child to be housed!
Among the first series of photographer Kimiko Yoshida is the iconic one entitled Single Brides. Self-portraits, started in 2001, consisting of more than 170 color shots made until 2009.
From the outset, with this series, the conceptual and formal protocol that defines the work of Kimiko Yoshida is put in place. This protocol is marked with the seal of minimalism: always the same subject - the artist is his own model -; the same framing - on the face or the bust from the front and centered -; the same format - square-shaped prints -; the same size – squares with sides of 120 centimeters for this series –; the same color, almost monochrome, uniting the background and the naked or adorned figure (make-up, wig, clothing); the same indirect lighting - fixed neutral light from two 500 watt tungsten bulbs; the same shot using a Hasselblad, format 6 x 6 cm on slide film; the same Lambda prints on Kodak Endura satin paper, mounted on aluminum and under plexiglass.
In the series Single Brides. Self-portraits, the title is always divided into three parts: for example, with The Widowed Bride. self-portrait (from 2001, the very first self-portrait in the series), the term "Bride" presents fiction as it is not a wedding photo; the second term (here "widow", but it can also be the name of an ethnic group, a famous character or a painting) represents the interval between truth and falsehood: it is a starting truth, a reference, an allusion, but the "bride" is not really a "widow"; finally, the last term, “self-portrait”, the most essential according to the artist, establishes the only reality in the fundamentally fictional work of Kimiko Yoshida, while introducing the functions of transformation, otherness and hybridization. This figure, who can be "married", "single" and "widowed" at the same time, is a constant pictorial paradox, where the artist's personal obsession with marriage and his freedom to endorse multiple identifications intersect.
"Dread of marriage" is not an empty expression in the case of Kimiko Yoshida. This series finds its origin in a trauma suffered by the artist in his childhood. At the age of 7, Kimiko Yoshida learns from her mother's very mouth that she is the fruit of a very special traditional marriage, since her maternal grandfather adopted her father so that he bears the prestigious name of Yoshida before marrying him to his daughter; the two young people meeting for the first time in their lives on the very day of their wedding. It was therefore not a omiai kekkon (arranged marriage) as is still sometimes practiced today, because there was neither prior meeting nor possibility of refusal. It was a forced marriage (kyosei kekkon), and more specifically of a mukoyōshi kekkon, or literally "marriage by adoption of the son-in-law", which was common in the past (and completely legal) in important families.
This news horrified the young Kimiko Yoshida who then chose to refuse any marriage, considering the latter as a disastrous event. She fled Japan in 1995 to escape a marriage arranged by her family. She arrived in France and began her series of self-portraits in the early 2000s as "single brides", also called "intangible brides" or even "Divine comedy". It is therefore no coincidence that her self-portraits as brides are images of solitude, figures that are always specifically "single", rejecting any male representation: in other words, photographs of a virtual wedding where she never marries than its own reflection. Like an exorcism, Kimiko Yoshida tirelessly replays the role of the intangible – untouchable – bride, the one we look at but cannot possess…
The theme of the bride is also the occasion for a hybridization - a marriage in short - of Franco-Japanese references, its two cultures, original and adopted. Hidden under costumes, masks or jewels of all origins, the photographer incarnates different characters in turn. However, Kimiko Yoshida is not a pastiche artist. For example, in The Cherry Blossom Bride from 2006, it does not parody a Japanese woman posing under a cherry tree. Indeed, it is not a traditional bridal headdress that Kimiko Yoshida wears, but a pink wig bought in a prank store. Likewise, the kimono is fake. The artist used a piece of pink cloth which she draped around her chest so that it looked - to a Western eye - like a kimono. Finally, if the opaque make-up covering her face and shoulders is reminiscent of the technique ofoshiroi - the traditional white make-up of geishas -, its only function is to blend her face into the dominant pink color of the photograph. Kimiko Yoshida actually questions the often fantasized, not to say stereotypical, vision that the French have of Japan.
Nowadays, getting married in Japan is not very different from the formalities to be completed in France. We go to the town hall of the place where we are going to celebrate the union, and we fill out a marriage declaration form. As in France, you can only have a civil wedding or complete it with a religious ceremony. Traditionally, marriages were celebrated in shrines shinto for the purification of the spouses, the ritual of the cups of sake, the exchange of vows, the mutual promises between families and the offering to the deities. During this day, the husband wears a traditional costume consisting of wide trousers hakama and a jacket Haori dark in color. The bride is dressed in an all-white long-sleeved kimono called shiromuku, and a white over-kimono named uchikake. She is very recognizable by her white headdress which can either take the form of an imposing shell (wataboshi) or a banner (tsunokakushi). It was after the Second World War that the fashion for “Western-style” weddings began, in white dresses and smocking.
On the photography side, it is trendy these days to immortalize your wedding both in traditional Japanese costume and in “Western” bridal clothes. This double outfit, rented at great expense for the occasion, is not for all budgets, but it symbolizes the true business of marriage in Japan.
In 2007, Tomoko Sawada initiated a series entitled Bride, or “married”. In these self-portraits, the artist poses as Japanese brides, posing both in traditional dress and in white dresses. Framed in the bust, from the front, these color shots show the artist dressed in white in front of an exclusively red monochrome background, an auspicious color in Asia sometimes also present on the traditional bride's coat. This series is made up of 30 portraits, all presented together or as a duo, with always on the left, the bride “ shinto and on the right, the “Western” bride. The bride shinto always wears the same white kimono and the same headdress wataboshi ; the Western bride is always dressed in the same sleeveless white dress, with a lace collar, matched with a transparent veil on her head. Only the hairstyles of Western brides change from photo to photo, the hair of the traditional bride being concealed by the headdress. The variations between each duo of shots are therefore minute, to the point that you can only distinguish the differences by having all the prints in front of you.
Photographer Tomoko Sawada deals here again with the standardization of women within the social practice of marriage. In a mediation bringing together tradition and fashion, East and West, she underlines the fragility of individualities even within these divisions. By not changing the appearance of brides one iota shinto, she also puts her finger on the heavy significance of this traditional outfit which symbolically “kills” the young girl to make her reborn in her in-laws (by the use of the white kimono, also reserved for the dead). Outfit that also conceals any individuality of the bride's face with imposing headdresses, the literal meaning of which is "horn cover" (tsunokakushi). In other words, an accessory to hide the demonic horns of the woman, a necessarily jealous and selfish creature, who will have to make amends through marriage to become a gentle and obedient wife. An entire program !
But Japanese wedding photography can also be fun, like the Bear & Rabbit couple who brighten up Instagram with their very official images of newlyweds masked as white bears (for the gentleman) and rabbit (for the lady). This is a series started in 2018 by the couple's photographer (Tsukao), based on the paradoxical observation that during his missions, his clients asked him not to photograph people's faces for privacy reasons, so that selfies were exploding on social networks. This contradiction in the use of photography led the couple to immortalize their marriage, then their honeymoon, then their life as a couple, in the form of completely serious modern portraits, except for their masked faces.
A much nicer and more egalitarian way of concealing traits than the traditional Japanese bride's "horn cover"!
Art historian. Doctor in Contemporary Japanese Photography
ill.1 – The Cherry Blossom Bride. Self-portrait, 2006 by Kimiko Yoshida ©Kimiko Yoshida
ill.2 – single brides by Kimiko Yoshida: The Widowed Bride. Self-portrait, 2001 ©Kimiko Yoshida
ill.3 – Omiai (30 works), 2006 © Tomoko Sawada
Fig.4 – Thirty Works: Bridle, 2008 © Tomoko Sawada
Fig.5 – Bear & Rabbit wedding, 2018, © TSUKAO (Instagram – bear_n_rabbit)
Small Planet 🖋
Small Planet, when photography shows the world in miniature!
written by Sophie Cavaliero and read by Charlène Veillon
Reading time ⏰ 9 min 10
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On the occasion of the exhibition “(Un)real utopia” by Naoki Honjo at Top Museum, the museum of photography in Tokyo, we are going to interest you in our article in a particular photographic process: the tilt shift. This process, used by Naoki Honjo, transforms photographs of a real landscape into an artificial miniature landscape photograph, the real world becoming a dummy world, where men are transformed into figurines, cars, toys and buildings, in model decorations.
Before talking about Naoki Honjo's photography in more detail, it seems necessary to explain this technique, without going into an expert debate either.
Introduced in the 1960s in the technology of photographic equipment, this process was very fashionable ten years ago. It is still used today because it is integrated into a good number of photographic editing software. The principle of tilt-shift is to have a very shallow depth of field in order to give a "model" effect. For this, there are two possible methods: the use of a tilting lens, or the use in post-production of photo editing software.
Let's focus instead on the "mechanical" technique: the tilt-shift effect with a tilting lens, used by Naoki Honjo. The tilting lens makes it possible to tilt the orientation of the lenses with respect to the sensitive surface of the sensor. This inclination allows adjustment of the focus which is not the same throughout the photograph. The image can then be sharp in the center of the photograph or in a chosen place, and blurred elsewhere. This type of lens is quite expensive and is now replaced by post-production image editing software.
You now have in mind the technical aspect. Let's move on to Naoki Honjo's "small world", in other words his work entitled "Small Planet", published by Little More Japan and for which he received the Kimura Ihei Award in 2006. His photographic work is instantly recognizable because of the use of this process tilt-shift previously explained. However, it is important to understand that Naoki Honjo is not just a technician. He has the will to represent our planet in a miniature vision to challenge us on what we do with it. The distancing of our world by the miniaturization of these images idealizes our vision, bringing us back to childhood when we were in awe of miniature train models or ready-made Lego pieces. Is it nostalgia? Deception? You can't help but love being duped. Quite naturally, we readjust our vision in our head to obtain an image closer to reality and yet imagined; then, we compare it to what we have just seen. Naoki Honjo therefore managed to challenge us and make us think about his photography.
Naoki Honjo's photographs are taken from skyscrapers or helicopters, using of that flip-flop lens that we talked about. Why does he do this? First of all for technical reasons! To successfully take a photograph with the tilt-shift process, you need to be high up and have a bird's eye view. Aren't we always looking at a model of our height?
This positioning in height can also be explained by a very Japanese pictorial tradition: the perspective "the bird's eye view". Indeed, this desire to show the world from an aerial perspective of the "the bird's eyeview" in an artistic work,is not new to Japan. Japanese artists very early produced painted works Yamato-e with an inventive aerial perspective. Born in the 12th century, this techniquecalled fukinuki yatai, meaning "roof removed". It allowed to see the scenes in their entirety (interior and exterior) according to a continuity adapted to a particular support, a low-height, wide-width roll of paper.
Representing our world seen from the sky is therefore not new, even before the invention drones! This prospect was imaginary, not real. Today with our means of air transport, be it helicopters, planes or drones, or even the height of our homes, the skyscrapers going higher and higher, the artist has the possibility of using this perspective in real mode.
Naoki Honjo isn't the only one toying with this perspective. Other photographers Japanese are also famous for this type of high angle shooting, but with a different artistic language than Naoki Honjo.
The photographer Taiji Matsue shoots from a helicopter. It has two shooting rules: it excludes the horizon line and the sky from the image plane. And he uses direct light to prevent shadows from being cast on his subject. This creates a flat version of what the photographer sees at the time of the shot, and the result then questions the true nature of the photography.
Sohei Nishino, another well-known Japanese photographer, also gives the impression to send us pictures seen from the sky. The image is again misleading. Inspired by the 17th century Japanese cartographer, Ino Tadataka, whose engravings reinvented the cities he had visited, Sohei Nishino travels a city over a long period, exploring and photographing its many points of view to "construct" his work. Then he carefully prints the photographs and compiles them into one work, which he uses as the basis for his final photograph. The effect then is not a traditional bird's eye view, but an enlightened way of seeing three dimensions in a single plane of the photo. Although geographical precision is important in this process, the scales can be modified and the places photographed sometimes repeated, like an erroneous memory of'a place. Viewed from a distance, Sohei's photographs appear abstract, but if you look at them up close, they are as detailed as a "diorama" of the city.
Naomi Honjo's particularity is therefore not really to take his photographs from a height to give a real vision of what he sees, but to transform reality into something else.. The tilt-shift process does not erase all the details of the photographed landscape, but it plays with our point of view, overlapping reality and the imaginary world resulting from the transformation. Remember that Naoki Honjo does not digitally manipulate his photos. He sometimes has to wait several days to take the perfect shot.
Last year Naoki Honjo continued his illustration of the constant evolution of the Japanese capital, with his Tokyo series initiated in 2016, which testifies to the development of the city with the 2021 Olympic Games. His photographs of Tokyo offer a new vision of this postmodern metropolis, accentuating the artifice ofthis man-made environment.
To end on photography that shows the world in miniature, we are going to talk about another Japanese artist who practices photography in a playful way to question us about our world. Tanaka Tatsuya, an instagram star, uses its staging to transform the image and not his photographic process. Tanaka Tatsuya has posted daily since April 2011 small scenes of life in miniature, diverting the nature or the use first of the objects of everyday life to tell what he sees. For example, in his March 2022 posts, sponges become ping-pong tables, or a harmonica turns into a post office. Let's hear the artist speak from his work :
"There is joy in discovering how objects can look like something else. Simply by changing perspective. Unfortunately, we tend to lose this playful perspective as we grow into adults. We only thinkin terms of common sense and only perceive things in a wayfixed again. I try to change that. "
Naoki Honjo therefore does the same by bringing us back to miniature to better imagine what tomorrow could be and make us appreciate what we have today.
- Naoki Honjo @ Top Museum, Tokyo: https://honjonaoki.exhibit.jp/en/index.html
- Taiji Matsue@ Top Museum, Tokyo: https://topmuseum.jp/e/contents/exhibition/index-4032.html
- Taiji Matsue : https://www.taronasugallery.com/en/artists/taiji-matsue/
- Website of the artist Sohei Nishino : https://soheinishino.net
- Website of the artist Tatsuya tanaka : https://miniature-calendar.com
Photo 1 – “[ small planet ] Tokyo, Japan” (2006) © Naoki Honjo
Photo 2 – “JP-02 15” 2012 ©TAIJI MATSUE / Courtesy of TARO NASU
Photo 3 – San Francisco – MAY. - SEP. 2016 – LIGHT JET PRINT/ 1700×2560 MM ©SOHEI NISHINO
Photo 4 – small planet / Tokyo, Japan / 2005 © Naoki Honjo
Picture 5 – https://miniature-calendar.com/200728 © Tanaka Tatsuya
Photography and disaster 🖋
Representations post-March 11, 2011
by Charlene Veillon
Reading time ⏰
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On March 11, 2011, Japan experienced one of the worst disasters in its history, combining earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident. The same day, almost simultaneously, we all – Japanese and foreigners – watched helplessly as a flood of apocalyptic images, broadcast in a loop on television screens or on the Internet.
In the days following the disaster and until today a decade later, many artists have felt the need to go there to then attest through their creation to the reality of the unimaginable. Everyone wanted to make their work an "echo" of the disaster and its consequences, without however knowing how to go about it. Because in such a situation, nothing seems adequate, nothing can console...
What power can art, and more particularly photography, have in the face of such an economic, ecological and human disaster? When and how did Japanese photography first confront the challenge of representing disaster? Let's see what answers photographers of the XNUMXst century have been able to provide to the question of the potential of art in the face of catastrophe.
Japan is a country marked in its history by a long series of natural disasters. Before the arrival of photography in the archipelago at the beginning of the second half of the 1868th century, paintings and prints were able to illustrate some calamitous highlights. But in reality, until the XNUMXth century, Japanese illustrations of disasters were quite rare. Indeed, the censorship during the military reign of the shoguns (until XNUMX) was important. It prohibited any commentary on the news. The painted scenes were therefore never illustrations of specific disasters, but could sometimes represent an "imagery" of the disaster: fires, storms, earthquakes... presented in Buddhism as divine punishments.
It was mainly the great Tokyo earthquake of 1923 that gave painters, engravers and photographers the opportunity to present for the first time scenes of a very real disaster, and no longer imagined from the angle of morality. religious.
On September 1, 1923, Japan experienced one of the deadliest and most destructive natural disasters in its history. The devastating combination of an earthquake, followed by a tsunami and fires spread by strong winds from a typhoon, ravaged for two days and three nights the eastern half of the Japanese capital, as well as the neighboring city of Yokohama, killing more than 120.
In order to illustrate this catastrophe, photography was used, among other things. The pictures were mainly the work of photographers working for newspapers, but they also served to develop a surprising trade in postcards of the disaster. These black and white images oscillate between a purely commercial status and that of testimony for posterity. A sometimes biased testimony since at that time, many postcards printed from photographs were retouched by hand (on negative), often with the aim of adding or accentuating a dramatic element. Some examples of postcards are currently kept at the Great Kanto Earthquake Memorial Museum located in Tokyo.1. In particular, we can see an enlargement of the black and white print of a photograph showing the state of the site of the former Honjo military clothing depot, located on the site of the current Yokoamichô park, on 1er September 1923, a few hours after the earthquake.
Families of refugee survivors at the Honjo site on September 1, 1923, a few hours after the earthquake.©東京都復興記念館, Tokyo fukko kinen-kan
We see families piled up against each other as far as the eye can see, with all the personal belongings they have been able to gather. People had indeed chosen to gather on this vast open ground of approximately 67 square meters, since it protected them from the risks of landslides and collapses of buildings. But the sense of security was short-lived. Around four o'clock in the afternoon on September 000, several fires following the earthquake and amplified by very strong winds converged on this square, trapping the tens of thousands of people who had taken refuge there. In a single night, around 1 people (38% of the refugees) perished in the flames.
When this photograph was taken, the fires had not yet broken out. Gold in the background of the scene, huge gray clouds of smoke have been added by hand using paint. We therefore understand logically that the retouched staging that we have in front of us was carried out largely after the shooting, by a person who had knowledge of the tragic events that took place later on this same place. . This person probably felt that the prints would sell better if the dramatic moment foreshadowing the horrific death of the people in the image was highlighted by a smoke screen…
Most of these photographic postcards were intended for the island market, but foreigners also took an interest in this tragedy, as evidenced by other cards, whose titles at the bottom of the image are inscribed in both Japanese and English. (in a translation however very approximate and most often grammatically incorrect).
What most shocks the current viewer of these old photos, however, are the very raw contents of these first public photographs of the disaster, which do not hesitate to depict corpses and human remains (stacked bodies, gigantic heaps ashes and bleached bones from cremations, etc.). This “direct” – unfiltered – imagery of horror and mass grave aimed at commercial sensationalism is totally absent from the post-disaster photography of March 11, 2011, even in its documentary or journalistic leanings.
Let's now see how photographers of the 2011st century have apprehended the terrible disaster of XNUMX, and what message(s) they want to convey through their works.
There are several ways to "represent" a disaster, which can generally be divided into two large groups: the documentary approach and the symbolic one. The first is to record the situation at the time of the disaster or its consequences later in time. But whoever says "documentary" does not necessarily mean pure "objectivity". Because if it is indeed a question of bearing witness to a situation for posterity, the memorial dimension, and therefore personal, can be primordial.
In 2011, the photographer Naoya Hatakeyama (畠山直哉), usually working on the transformation of landscapes under human influence, achieved his most personal work, immortalizing the remains of his hometown Rikuzentakata, devastated by the tsunami. These photographs have been published in two collections, Kesengawa appeared in 2012 2 et Rikuzentakata 2011-2014 appeared in 2015 3. In the first publication, which reports on the Rikuzentakata plain just after the tsunami, Naoya Hatakeyama immortalizes the mountains of waste torn by the wave, then washed up on the coast. The disaster is embodied in these devastated landscapes, emptied of all life, with the exception of a few rare silhouettes of walkers or construction workers. No body or corpses in the image, except for a small dog with a pink collar resting, solitary, among the waste. The second publication, later, focuses on the evolution of post-disaster reconstruction between 2011 and 2014. The photographer testifies month after month, year after year, to the metamorphosis of the landscape of Rikuzentakata, moving from the chaos of debris in the void left by the bulldozers.
In the article Rikuzentakata. Biographical landscape accompanying his 2015 publication, the photographer evokes his impressions, his feelings and above all his infinite sadness. Because the artist has not only lost the place of his childhood or his family home, his mother has also been swept away by the wave. Hatakeyama questions the relevance of taking photographs of devastated landscapes. Those of Rikuzentakata from before the disaster no longer exist. With the destruction of the coast by the wave, follows the destruction of the wooded mountains by the bulldozers initiating the reconstruction of the region. Because there is no plateau in Rikuzentakata, only mountains, which now have to be "decapitated" to create flat surfaces on which to build the new, higher houses. But his own role is that of witness: witness to his city's past and witness to its present. Thus, in the book Kesengawa, Naoya Hatakeyama added to the poignant images of chaos, other shots taken several years earlier, between 2002 and 2010, when the city was still teeming with life. Through his photos and his memories, the photographer tries to redo a three-dimensional map of his hometown which is nothing more than a totally flat devastated field, without buildings, mountains and trees...
Far from any sentimentalist discourse, Naoya Hatakeyama shows the disorder of materials thrown, piled up, twisted by the force of a nature that nothing can resist. In this intimate and universal “memorial documentary”, destruction is not shown as the opposite of beauty. It is a step towards a renewal. This term “renewal” is important. One of his Japanese translations, yonaoshi (世直し), was used extensively in various post-disaster contexts of the past, calling for a rebirth from the chaos that wiped out the slate of the past. The text that accompanies the images of Rikuzentakata 2011-2014 is taken from Naoya Hatakeyama's own logbook, written during his journey through stricken Tohoku immediately after the disaster. The photographer talks about his fascination with these "unprecedented" images (未曾有, mizo), which are both aesthetic and documentary photographic evidence of a memory destroyed by the wave.
Other photographers immediately on the scene after the disaster include Keizo Kitajima (北島敬三)4 or even Kozo Miyoshi (三好耕三)5. Keizô Kitajima, famous in particular as co-founder with Daido Moriyama in 1979 of the CAMP gallery (first independent photography gallery in Tokyo), began in April 2011 his first post-disaster color photos, which are soberly titled the exact date and the place (city and prefecture) of the photograph, exactly like those of Hatakeyama or Miyoshi. As if no title could correspond to the shocking images of the period immediately following the disaster, so great is the amazement. Keizô Kitajima's photographs document the state of devastation in the region. But they also reveal to us a kind of "aesthetics of ruin", where the debris are like the colored strokes of a paintbrush on a canvas. Like those of Naoya Hatakeyama, Kitajima's color images are breathtaking in construction (formal) within deconstruction (field of ruins).
Kōzō Miyoshi said he wondered whether or not he should take pictures of the area after the tsunami hit.6. The question seems to have been posed to many artists who did not know if disaster photography could rhyme with ethics. As soon as the roads reopened, Miyoshi headed north, not really knowing what he would do there. The project for his black and white series was formed during a trip to Tohoku. In the 1980s, he had already photographed this region; in 2011, he immortalized these same places where everything had changed, covered with debris left by the wave.
Documentary photography took off in the 1950s in Japan, bearing witness to the harsh social reality and miseries of the post-war period. This documentary trend made a remarkable comeback on the Japanese art scene after the tragedy of 2011.
Documenting humanity in the face of catastrophe is one of the favorite subjects of photojournalist Yuki Iwanami (岩波友紀) 7, whose topicality is marked by the Irie Taikichi Memorial Museum of Photography Prize won in 2021 for his series Threads in the dark. This series, devoted to the difficult and slow return to normality of the disaster-stricken inhabitants of Tohoku 8, shows the links forged between the populations and their local festivals, which together resisted the tremors and the wave. The series testifies to the devastation, human and material, suffered by these weakened populations, but also to the resilience of the ceremonies and folk dances, moral and psychological support of the inhabitants.
The many photographs of Threads in the dark presenting dancers in uniform with their masks, demonstrate the importance of this Japanese intangible cultural heritage in danger of disappearing following the 2011 disaster. Indeed, in certain towns or villages, the wave had taken everything away: costumes, dancers and knowledge - do ancestral. However, the Tohoku region is particularly rich in folk heritage. For example, dance shishi odori (the deer dance) finds its roots in this mountainous and wooded region, which abounds in game. It has played an even more essential role since the disaster, since the shishi odori is practiced in particular in homage to the deceased.
In one of the photos in the series, we can see, on a black background, a broken dancer's mask. Found in the debris after the passage of the wave, this mask looks at us with the only eye it has left.
The 2011 disaster was one of the most photographed in our history, partly because it took place at a time when photographic and video technology allowed it. And on the other hand, for its extraordinary character: the meeting of the double natural disaster (earthquake and tsunami) with the nuclear disaster of the Fukushima power station. The large wave that engulfed the east coast of the main island Honshu shortly after 15 p.m. (Tokyo time) also submerged the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, knocking out the plant's main cooling system, causing the partial melting of cores of four reactors. Significant radioactive releases into the air took place from March 12 to 15, contaminating the surrounding regions, not to mention the release of contaminated water into the ocean. In fact, this plant – built 10 meters above sea level – was only designed to cope with tsunami waves of 3 meters. This calculation was based on the height of the waves of the tsunami coming from Chile which had hit Japan in 1960. However, the waves of 2011 reached up to 35 meters in height... On October 12, 2012, the Japanese electricity company Tepco which operates the Fukushima power plant, admitted for the first time that it had deliberately minimized the tsunami risk, lest a shutdown be demanded to improve safety. Unlike the earthquake and the tsunami, which are terrible but natural disasters, the Fukushima disaster is indeed human.
Takahiro Yamashita (山下隆博) is a photographer who has produced several series on the triple disaster of March 11, including one, started in 2011 and still in progress, entitled Remember not to forget. As its title indicates, it is important to Takahiro Yamashita not to forget the disaster, and to continue to bear witness to the situation of people living in the disaster areas, particularly in Fukushima prefecture. Because his native village is in an area close to a nuclear power plant, the photographer was particularly aware of the Fukushima disaster. In a recent comment regarding the latest photos (2020-2021) of Remember nor to forget, he says he still feels guilty, 10 years later, to feel “lucky” that such a disaster did not occur at home 9.
At the origin of this series, a few days after the disaster in 2011, there is the discovery on the Internet that the victims were no longer supplied with food and various products, because the truck drivers were afraid of exposing themselves to radiation. driving around the Fukushima power plant. Feeling the need to do something for these people, Takahiro Yamashita jumped on a train to Iwaki, one of the still accessible towns in Fukushima prefecture. There, he discovered the same images of desolation as on television: people digging through the rubble, military self-defense forces looking for bodies, and endless queues at gas stations. Collecting testimonies from survivors while helping the locals as best he could, Takahiro Yamashita noted the anguish for the future of these people outrageously left behind by Tepco (Tokyo Electric Power Company); its CEO even went on sick leave from March 13 to April 7, 2011! But he also says he realized over the time spent among these people, that the television and press images showing only the inhabitants of Fukushima as victims of the tsunami and the atom were biased. The reality is friendly, frank and courageous people, in a region rich in local traditions and sublime landscapes, and that it is not enough to go for a walk there for a few weeks to take some photos, to understand why these people chose to stay there regardless.
Humbly, Takahiro Yamashita has therefore testified for 10 years to the evolution of the situation in the vicinity of the power plant, but also to the popular anti-nuclear actions carried out in the streets of Tokyo since 2011. His last photographs are an alternation of shots taken at Tokyo (Shibuya, Shinjuku and Ginza) of these “anti-nuke” demonstrations, and in the Hamadôri part of Fukushima, where one still sees a few (normally) temporary habitats and bags of contaminated earth, among peaceful landscapes of greenery and beach.
Many mutual aid actions took place in Tohoku in the aftermath of the disaster. Some aimed to help locals recover their memories of before March 11, 2011, such as the various workshops for recovering, cleaning and restoring personal photos drowned by the wave that have emerged in different cities. Miraculously, some houses were only partially affected by the tsunami. The house is still standing, but the whole interior has been in murky water for varying periods of time. Several large groups of photographic equipment then launched workshops and tutorials so that the victims could at least save this family heritage, this intimate memory of the disappeared city. As of March 24, 2011, the company Fuji Film thus presented on its website a tutorial for washing soiled photographs. It also launched an advertising campaign in the affected region explaining the process. From mid-April to mid-June, 30 employees also traveled to Tohoku to teach the restoration of photographs to volunteers who could then take over from the professionals. Faced with the magnitude of the task and the long period required to process the thousands of photographs torn from the mud, new Tokyo volunteers were trained. From August 2011, the photographs were sent to the 3331 Arts Chiyoda Center10 to Tokyo for treatment, before being returned to their owners, when possible. The rescue of these images may not be a creation strictly speaking, but the necessary intervention on these photographs has transformed them into "symbols" of an intimate, family and cultural heritage that fell victim to the disaster.
Photographer Lieko Shiga (志賀理江子)11, herself a resident of Kitakama village (Miyagi prefecture) badly affected by the tsunami, was also interested in these "found photos", now without owners, rejected soiled by the wave. His studio was near Kitakama Beach. Settled here since 2008, she had become the community's photographer, documenting village life, from baseball games to local festivals, to portraits of everyone she knew personally. Lieko Shiga narrowly escaped the tsunami: she fled by car as the wave sped towards the land. Four days later, she found that her studio and home were gone, along with 60 of Kitakama's 370 residents. Thinking it was her responsibility as the village photographer to record what was happening there, she borrowed a camera and began documenting Kitakama's post-disaster state. Having herself lost all her belongings, Lieko Shiga actively participated in cleaning up the photos found in the mud. She “saved” many of the negatives, which she set up to dry on a huge wall in the city's assembly hall, thus forming a kind of monument of remembrance.
Most of Lieko Shiga's professional photographs taken before March 11, 2011 were also washed away, but a few stored elsewhere survived. The photographer saw it as a sign of fate and decided to mix these few older shots with the new ones taken after the disaster. This is how a first series was born, Rasen Kaigan (spiral coastline), of which the disaster is not really the object. Her subject matter focuses on the community of Kitakama, the town itself, and how the tsunami impacted her own body, resulting in the visualization of movement during the shot. Rasen Kaigan was exhibited in 2012 at the Sendai media library (Miyagi prefecture): the color photographs (of residents, beaches, stones, etc.) were presented in a large dark room, printed in large format and displayed on vertical supports like tombstones. The works were arranged in a concentric “spiral” movement meant to recall the circle dances practiced during the annual Obon Buddhist festival, dedicated to the deceased.
In 2019, Lieko Shiga exhibited at the Tokyo Photographic Art museum a new series entitled HumanSpring (2018-2019) which is intended as a sequel to Rasen Kaigan, in the sense that the photographer remains focused on the theme of life in Kitakama and Japan after 2011. The atmosphere of HumanSpring is very heavy since it evokes the impossible "return to life" of certain residents of Kitakama. In 2012, Lieko Shiga witnessed several suicides among her neighbours, including farmers who could no longer cultivate in too salinized soil after the tsunami. The following year, she lost another neighbor to cancer, anchoring the idea of the fragility of all existence 12. HumanSpring plays on disconcerting, disturbing images, in their colors, their breaks or their subjects, but always in a symbolic way, evoking the ghost more than death.
In two different ways, Naoya Hatakeyama and Lieko Shiga – both personally and intimately affected by the tsunami – make visible the feelings of loss and mourning by showing the remains of the disaster. Because the wave allows it, leaving behind carcasses, waste and desolation. But on the other hand, how to show the invisible threat of radioactivity which leaves no trace detectable with the naked eye?...
The Fukushima accident is unfortunately not the first Japanese atomic disaster, Japan being the only country in the world to have experienced several nuclear disasters on its soil. Some photographers like Ishu Han (潘逸舟), Takashi Arai (新井卓) or Tomoko Yoneda (米田知子) were thus able to work on "nuclear imagery" both from the bombings of Hiroshima or Nagasaki in 1945, or even from the irradiation of the Japanese tuna ship Daigo Fukuryû Maru in Bikini Atoll in 1954, and of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in 2011. Other photographers have focused on the question of the representation of radioactivity in the evacuated area around the Fukushima power plant: how to photograph this invisible evil?
To Takashi Homma (ホンマタカシ), the solution is found in mushrooms. Allegory of the atomic cloud photographed after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the shape of the mushroom has become a symbol of nuclear power. But the mushrooms photographed in close-up on a white background by Takashi Homma in the series Mushrooms from the Forest (2011) are not just a symbol. They all come from forests around the plant: Takashi Homma has collected more than 100 specimens of different varieties. Tested radioactive, they were banned for consumption. Yet irradiated, they continue to grow peacefully in their natural environment, their lethal danger invisible to the naked eye. These photographs are grouped together in the book Mushrooms from the Forest of 2019 13
To Masato Seto (瀬戸正人), the opportunity to enter the Fukushima Daiichi plant arose in February 2012, when a French press agency asked him to accompany the delegation of the French Minister of the Environment to photograph the 'event. Protected in overalls and under masks, the group was able to see the extent of the damage caused by the explosions and the wave. But under a beautiful cloudless blue sky, with the peaceful ocean as far as the eye could see, it was hard to imagine the latent danger of the place. Masato Seto says he tried to capture in his lens the cesium he knew would attack everything there. But his black and white images of the plant and the surrounding landscapes only show us a ghostly universe where the most frightening elements are in fact the suits of the visitors. These photographs were collected in his 2013 publication titled Cesium-137Cs- 14.
Shimpei Takeda (武田 慎平) was in New York on March 11, 2011, but was greatly affected by the images of the disaster unfolding at the plant, since he is from Fukushima. Unaware of the ins and outs of radioactivity before the disaster, he later realized that photographic negatives and papers were sensitive to radiation as well as natural light. In silver processes, the silver halide darkens when exposed to electromagnetic radiation. After various experiments carried out from May 2011, he became interested in the “autoradiography” of contaminated soils. In December 2011 and January 2012, Shimpei Takeda thus collected 16 soil samples in 5 different prefectures, in 12 places all having a historical link with death: temples, shrines, former war sites, ruins of castles, etc. He then deposited a sample on a photosensitive film (with halide gelatin) for a month. Radiation emitted by radioactive material in the dust from the ground impacted the negative, producing a physical record of the disaster15.
Since 2011, the photographer Yoi Kawakubo (川久保ジョイ) 16 started the series The New Clear Age, consisting of color photographs of views of various Japanese nuclear power plants, including Fukushima Daiichi. In addition to these luminous photos of places and landscapes linked to nuclear power, there is another series produced between 2013 and 2016, entitled If the Radiance of a Thousand Suns were to Burst at once into the Sky. This title is taken from a quote from the American physicist Robert Oppenheimer (1904-1967), scientific director of the Manhattan Project, nicknamed the “father of the atomic bomb”: “If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst into the skies, that would be like the splendor of the Mighty One...This quote comes from the Bhagavad-Gita, the heart of the epic poem Mahabharata, one of the sacred texts of Hinduism. One of the avatars of the god Vishnu proclaims that he "has become death, the destroyer of the worlds", as Oppenheimer saw himself. 17.
For this series, Yoi Kawakubo traveled to Fukushima Prefecture. Like Shimpei Takeda, he uses photographic film coated with halide gelatin to capture the action of radiation. But he uses color films and buries them directly in the evacuation zone around the power plant (films buried between 2013 and 2016). He removes them after several months, then prints them on a very large format (prints made until 2019 for this series). Radioactivity generates dangerously seductive images here: it is difficult to see the dark side of nuclear power in these photos with their soft colored tones.
Many other photographers have testified in their own way to the terrible disaster of March 11, 2011, and continue to do so today. Because photography is by definition the recording of a reality, both personal and universal, it is perhaps for this reason the medium best able to bear witness to the impermanence and fragility of all things in a context. post-disaster...
- Site of the Great Kanto Earthquake Memorial Museum: https://tokyoireikyoukai.or.jp/ireidou/history.html(Japanese only)
- Hatakeyana Naoya, Kesengawa /Kesen River, 河出書房新社, 2012. Light Motiv Editions, 2013, for the French/English version.
- Hatakeyama Naoya, Rikuzentakata 2011-2014 /陸前高田 2011-2014, 河出書房新社, 2015. Light Motiv Editions, 2016, for the French/English version.
- Keizo Kitajima website: https://keizokitajima.com/about/
- Kôzô Miyoshi website: https://8x10.jp/
- In the Wake. Japanese Photographers respond to 3/11, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, 2015, p. 27.
- Yuki Iwanami website: https://www.yukiiwanami.com/
- The SUGOI POD "March 11, 2011 - March 11, 2022: Photographs of life after the disaster by Yuki Iwanami" of March 2022 is dedicated to this photographer: click here
- Takahiro Yamashita website: http://takahiro-yamashita.co.uk/
- 3331 Chiyoda Arts Center website: https://www.3331.jp/en/
- Lieko Shiga website: https://www.liekoshiga.com/
- Amanda Maddox, "A Japanese Photographer's Encounters with Natural Disasters", Aperture, 2019: https://aperture.org/editorial/lieko-shiga-amanda-maddox/
- Man Takashi, Symphony - mushrooms from the forest , Case Publishing, 2019.
- Seto Masato, Cesium -137Cs-, Square M, 2013.
- Shimpei Takeda website: http://www.shimpeitakeda.com/
- Kawakubo Yoi website: https://www.yoikawakubo.com/
- Video of Robert Oppenheimer quoting the Bhagavad-Gita: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pqZqfTOxFhY
ill.1 – Naoya Hatakeyama, Rikuzentakata / Takata-cho 2011.5.2, 2011 C-print © Naoya Hatakeyama
ill.2 – Takahiro Yamashita, series Iwaki, Fukushima, 20/03/2011 © Takahiro Yamashita
ill.3 – Yuki Iwanami, Threads in the dark © Yuki Iwanami
ill.4 – Yoi Kawakubo, If the Radiance of a Thousand Suns were to Burst at once into the Sky I, 2016, unexposed color photographic film buried under soil in radioactive location © Yoi Kawakubo
KAI FUSAYOSHI (甲斐扶佐義) 🖋
Kai Fusayoshi, In Honyaradō – Chibi, 1977-80 © Kai Fusayoshi
Kai Fusayoshi, milk time, 1976 © Kai Fusayoshi
Kai Fusayoshi, From the top of the watchtower, 1976© Kai Fusayoshi
Kai Fusayoshi, Where do I sit?, 1978© Kai Fusayoshi
Kai Fusayoshi: Cat Map of Kyoto
by Cécile Laly (article taken from the book Neko Project published by iKi)
Reading time ⏰
Before the first neko cafes (cat bars) did not officially appear under this name in the 2000s, Honyarado, a Kyoto restaurant that was the gathering place for the city's protesting youth in the 1970s, was already unwittingly trying out the concept.
Disappeared under the flames on the night of January 15 to 16, 2015, the Honyarado opened in 1972 in the Demachi district next to Dōshisha University. Its name, Honyarado, should be understood as "children's playground" (literally, the word refers to the small igloos used by children around the city of Ojiya, Niigata prefecture). The choice of this name would be inspired by the manga Mr Ben from the hotel-igloo (hon.yaradō no ben-san) published by Tsuge Yoshiharu (1937) in the monthly Garo in June 1968. The instigators of this café project were photographer Kai Fusayoshi (1949-), Katagiri Mitsuru (1945), better known by his pen name Nakao Hajime, hippie and activist from Tokyo who had previously participated in the student movements at Waseda University; his older brother, Katagiri Yuzuru (1931), a poet, who pioneered folk music in the Kansai region and translated Bob Dylan's songs into Japanese; Okabayashi Nobuyasu (1946), folk singer nicknamed the God of Folk or even the Bob Dylan of Japan; Muro Kenji (1946), a childhood friend of Nakao, poet, critic and editor-in-chief of the journal Beheiren News; as well as Hayakawa Masahiro (1944-) and his "walking band of carpenter joiners". Foreign specialists in Buddhism or linked to the movement Free Speech of San Francisco also helped with the preparations. Finally, on the day of the opening, May 30, 1972, no less than 500 people came to witness the launch of the project with, among them: Kubo Keinosuke (1923), one of the producers of the film Torah! Torah! Torah! (1970) and Fujieda Mioko (1930-2011), feminist and Japanese translator of Sexual Politics (1970) by Kate Millett (1934-2017).
The two Katagiri brothers, Okabayashi and Fujieda then became all four professors at Seika University (Kyōto). Nakao was even its President for several terms (1997-2006). Seika University was very young when the Honyarado opened, it had been created in 1968 by Okamoto Seiichi (1905-2001), a professor from Dōshisha University (Kyōto) who had seen his dreams of becoming mayor of the city fell apart in 1966. A group of students from Dōshisha University and Kyoto University convinced by his revolutionary ideals banded together, and together they founded Seika University. Okamoto only accepted the position if he could impose his vision on it. He then wrote the charter that still regulates the university, highlighting principles such as autonomy, freedom and respect for students. The people who met at Seika were the same as those who met at the Honyarado, the two spaces were complementary. With Seika, they had a place that allowed formal education. The Honyarado offered them a space of freedom and encounters.
Honyarado therefore became the gathering point for committed Kyoto and international youth. It housed the offices of the support committees for folk singer Nakagawa Gorō (1949-) during his trial for obscenity. In 1970, the latter had announced to stop the song and had become the editor-in-chief of the review Folk Report. But as soon as the first issue came out in the winter of the same year, Nakagawa found himself accused of producing obscene content because of his text. Your Honor, what is love? (saibanchō dono, ait nani?). His trial lasted for several years, from 1973 to 1978, during which the Honyarado served as his defense preparation office. The cafe also housed the offices of the Movement for the Liberation of Political Prisoners opposing the Vietnam War (1955-75). In addition, it hosted concerts, poetry meetings, readings, or even English lessons according to the principles of direct methodology (GDM). Among the regulars, in addition to the people already mentioned, we counted among others Nishio Shimako (1949), singer and childcare worker who followed the educational methods of the Summerhill School; Imae Yoshitomo (1932-2015), author of children's literature; Itō Takashi (1949), sculptor, now professor at Osaka University of the Arts; Kaihara Hiroshi (1947-2005), painter and illustrator; Tanikawa Shuntarō (1931-), poet who worked on a poetic interpretation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; Kenneth Rexroth (1905-1982), leading American poet of the San Francisco Poetic Renaissance; Shiraishi Kazuko (1931), erotic poet; Nakayama Yō (1931-1997), scholar of American literature; or the American Harvey Wasserman (1945), author of American History According to Wasserman (1972), contributor to the creation of the global anti-nuclear movement and Greenpeace activist who stayed several times with his sleeping bag in the premises... to use Kai's words, it seems that the Honyarado practiced couchsurfing before the hour.
The presentation of the Honyarado as a Kyōtoïte center of the counter-culture is well established, but this bar also had a lesser-known aspect which interests us more particularly here. Kai ran this café from its opening until 1981 (then from 1999 to 2015), and during that time he lived in a room at the back of the first floor. As far back as he could remember, there were always cats at the Honyarado. Stray cats regularly came of their own free will, out of nowhere, one after another. Sometimes females came to hide to give birth. It also happened that customers of the bar brought back cats that they could no longer keep or abandoned kittens that they had found in the street on their way. Until the early 1970s, there were no regulations in Japan regarding stray or domestic animals, their treatment, their abandonment. It would seem that even after the passage of the Animal Protection and Control Act (Dō-kan-hō) in 1971, it took some time before habits changed. The Honyarado's feline flow was constant. These cats lived like stray cats. Sometimes a customer adopting one, taking it under his arm after a nightcap. The Honyarado therefore functioned as a neko café, which was very unusual.
In this cultural broth, in the midst of human and feline comings and goings, three cats imposed themselves: Gomi, Demachi Komachi and Chibi. They are recognizable in many photos of Kai. The meowing white kitten behind the Honyarado's glass front door is Gomi. His name, which literally means "trash can", was given to him because he was particularly "naughty" and did a lot of stupid things. Chibi was the tabby cat that we see perched on the exterior sign of the Honyarado, a popular place for the three friends, because it is high up, safe from annoying hands and, moreover, pleasantly warm during the winter. Chibi is a common name for a cat in Japanese, like "minet" or "minou" in French. The black and white cat spread out on a bar bench with a child (Fujita Ayumu, the son of Nishio-Fujita Shimako) is none other than Demachi Komachi. "Demachi" refers to the neighborhood where the Honyarado was located; "Komachi" is a metaphor expressing the idea of a place where there are many pretty women, so hearing this name, the Japanese imagine a very beautiful, very elegant cat. Other felines tried to settle in the Honyarado, like the calico cat that we see sleeping on the crate and the black kitten lying between an ex-girlfriend and her child, but they did not stay long enough to be rewarded with 'a name. Shortly after their arrival, the first was crushed to death by a car and the second was adopted by a patron of the bar. From the window, the top of the exterior sign, or the cash register, Gomi, Demachi Komachi and Chibi were both guardians and actors of the spirit of protest that inhabited the place during the 1970s.
Kai began to take an interest in photography as a child – his older sister gave him a camera when he was 11 – but it was from the late 1960s, when he left Ōita for Kyoto. in order to join Dōshisha University with the idea of becoming a sports teacher, that he began to get seriously involved and eventually became a photographer. Follower of straight photo black and white film, a medium he continues to use today – even if for four years he has also tried digital and color – he turned to what made up his daily life, people whom he met in the street and at the Honyarado. Strangely, he began to look for stray cats in his adopted city. If, in his books, he says he is not a cat man in order to avoid labels, there is no doubt that he was (and still is) in love with these furballs. He has so far published no less than five photography books devoted to cat photos: Pontochō neko no izumi (Pontochō cats, 1994), Neko no izumi (Kyōto cats, 1996), Neko machi sagashi (à Searching for Stray Cats, 1999), Kyōto neko machi sagashi (Searching for the Stray Cats of Kyoto, 2000), and Kyōto neko machi Blues (Kyoto Stray Cat Blues, 2011). Much like the photo, her relationship with cats, whether stray or domestic, dated back to her childhood. Indeed, he grew up on a farm where hens were raised that had to be protected from stray cats using traps. At home they had a calico cat named Lili.
When Kai started photographing the cats of Kyoto, the photographers whose work he liked had nothing to do with the feline race; he particularly liked the works of the Russian Roman Vishniac (1897-1990), those of the Hungarian-French Brassai (1899-1984), and the Japanese Kuwabara Kineo (1913-2007), Ueda Shōji (1913-2000), and Miyamoto Tsuneichi (1907-1981). The origin of his interest in cat photography is therefore to be sought elsewhere and stems directly from his taste for pretty girls. He loved spending time with them and photographing them. To place his models in the streets of Kyoto, killing two birds with one stone, he had the idea of offering them to go together in search of stray cats.
Photos of cats published in Kai's photo books mostly date from the 1970s and early 2000s. When he began photographing stray cats, he noted that in the Kiyamachi–Ponochō neighborhood, a black and white cat nicknamed Fuel (meaning "black" in Japanese), seemed to rule his little world. Relatively imposing, he drove away all the other stray cats in the area. Known to geiko and shopkeepers, at lunchtime he would go to Sakahoko, a restaurant chanko nabe, and in the same neighborhood someone would leave a little cushion on the sidewalk for him to rest on with a note next to it saying "I'm taking a nap, do not disturb". It was popular with traders and each gave it a different name. He answered the same way that we call him Kuro, Gonta or Tarô. In the 1970s, bumping into and photographing Kuro was part of Kai's daily life. They seemed to roam the same neighborhoods and share the same schedules.
Since the 1970s, Kai has walked and wandered the streets of Kyoto every day, his camera around his neck. At the time, he was looking for cats and pretty girls. He also spoke with the people he met during his urban adventures. Then, with his journeys, his schedules and the stories he witnessed, he filled dozens and dozens of notebooks that he stored in the Honyarado. In 2015, he filled around 320 which unfortunately were all lost in the fire. These notebooks contained an incredible mine of information collected daily for more than forty years. Today, Kai continues to write a diary, but he no longer writes in paper notebooks, he has an online site, keeping the contents safe from flames and other disasters.
Some of the stories and anecdotes he had collected were told in his photo books. Thus, it informs us about the relationship that Kyotoites have with stray cats and sometimes with domestic cats. In Kyoto Stray Cat Blues (2011), he reports for example that a house in the Shirakawa Sanjō district sported a cat flap and under the plates placed on the front door displaying the names of the human inhabitants were also plates with the names of the cats living in the house. : Hotaru, Mikku, Opera and Madonna. He also noted that in Kyoto, two or three people walked around with their cat on their shoulders. One of them, an elderly woman who worked in a Chinese restaurant, regularly took a walk with her cat perched on her shoulders in the Hanami Koji district of Gion. When he met her for the first time, he realized that the cat had a leash and it brought back bad memories, because when he was a child he had a dog, and not having a real collar, he put a rubber band around his neck, which hurt him and made him scream. This cry remains etched in his memory even today. Familiar to his shopping neighbours, he also remembers that restaurant owner Nakajima-shokudō went to the imperial palace around 18 p.m. every day to feed the stray cats and crows. Other traders had domestic cats inside their store. This was the case, for example, of the manager of the Yamaguchi watch shop on Nijō Street. These cats became sort of trade signs, like manekineko, the little statue of a cat with a raised paw that one finds from time to time next to the cash register of Japanese traders.
From the 2000s, more and more people started showing their love for cats and sharing cat photos and videos on the internet. Kai knew the cats of Kyoto well for having photographed them for several years, so he had the idea to create a map that would indicate where to find stray cats in the city. This map was published in Kyoto Stray Cat Blues (2011). For him, it was a bit like doing a favor to cat lovers and to those who, for one reason or another, would like to know where to find stray cats, for example the photographer Iwagō Mitsuaki (1950-). The latter, today famous for photographing cats around the world (even if at the beginning he was an animal photographer without being particularly specialized in felines), came several times to Kyoto to take photos and did not fail to ask advice from Kai to choose his shooting locations. As early as his first cat photo book in 1996, Kai mentioned the idea of a cat map and each photograph was accompanied by a caption informing of the location of the shot. In his third photo book devoted to stray cats, published in 2000, he also wrote a long text which describes nine routes on which it was possible to meet cats. These journeys were those he made himself in his daily life, mainly between his places of work and life. The first route he recommends goes from Demachi to Furukawacho, the second revolves around Honyarado, the third around the Pontochō district, the fourth around Kiyamachi, the fifth is to be done in the evening and is between Kiyamachi and Gion, the The sixth is between Imadegawa and Ogawa Street, the seventh links Demachi, Tadasu-no-mori, Tanaka, Ichijōji Shrine, Shūgakuin, Matsugasaki and Shimogamo, the eighth revolves around Gion Kaogawa, and the ninth around Yamashina. He advances, turns into such and such a street, crosses such and such a bridge, heads north, then east, he stops in such and such an establishment to have a coffee, and here and there he encounters felines. Just as cats had served as an excuse to hang out with pretty girls and photograph them, in describing these routes, cats were again an excuse serving another purpose, namely to provide a kaleidoscopic view of the history of Kyoto by telling historical anecdotes specific to each of these places and by presenting the famous people who lived there.
Kai photographed the streets of Kyoto daily for forty years and thus witnessed the evolution of the city. There is no doubt that the presence of stray cats and their movement over the course of a day, but also over the years, are directly linked to the economic activity of neighborhoods and the city. In the 1970s, stray cats were common in Kyoto. Early in the morning in neighborhoods that had a nightlife, they searched the trash cans when they were barely out. In Pontochō, for example, the streets are very narrow and the garbage collectors moved slowly, giving the cats time to feast for breakfast. Once their bellies were full, they lay down in the middle of these quiet little streets. In front of the porn cinema, it was in the afternoon that we could see some, because the customers of this type of establishment are rather nocturnal. And in the cemeteries, on the contrary, places that are always calm and where offerings in the form of food are left, there were (and still are) cats at any time. Even if stray cats are the most represented animals in the center of the city, it's not just them. In the evening, while being attentive, according to Kai, one can see weasels, nutria, masked civets, tanuki, owls and sometimes snakes. Unlike stray cats, these animals that do not interact directly with humans are still around today. Towards Gion and towards Kyoto University, from time to time you can come across deer or wild boar. In times of flood, we regularly find all kinds of animals in the Kamogawa. With the current, they are pushed to the center. During the July 2018 flood, we saw wild boars and deer. The presence of these animals is explained by the fact that the city of Kyoto is a basin surrounded by mountains and forests. For this same reason, there have also been monkeys recently. Kai would have even heard that about 70 years ago, during a very big flood, several cows would have found themselves carried away in the Kamogawa to the city center. With the bubble, then its bursting, Kyoto has changed a lot. Following the decline in the birth rate, elementary schools in the city center reorganized. Some have closed, leaving empty spaces in which populations of cats have settled. Conversely, with the desire to welcome ever more tourists over the past ten years, there are places that have been deserted by cats, such as the north of the Chemin de la Philosophie. Before, it was a paradise for them but now it's a paradise for selfie lovers. The banks of the Kamogawa have also changed a great deal. When Kai's son was 6 years old, he called the banks of the Kamogawa "neko-chan land (the land of cats)" or "the small path of cats". Under the Kamogawa bridges, there were homeless people. Cats and homeless people shared the space, but about ten years ago, the city decided to carry out embellishment work which dislodged the homeless people. When the latter were moved, the stray cats left with them. In 2015, through an order regulating coexistence between humans and animals, the city of Kyoto also issued a ban on feeding stray cats. neko cafes opened. Today, there must be almost a dozen in Kyoto.
To conclude, note that Kai did not limit himself to photographing the stray cats of Kyoto. He has also photographed them in other cities in Japan, such as Nagasaki, and abroad, for example in Portugal in Porto and Belmont, in India in Calcutta, Cochin and Mattancherry, or in Amsterdam. Unconsciously looking for cats everywhere he travels, he realized that the cities in which there were many stray cats were cities where the houses were old and where it was good to live. So it would seem that the next time you move, you should ask our feline friends for advice on choosing your neighborhood.
To go further in the discovery of Kai Fusayoshi and his universe, do not hesitate to consult his site by clicking here
Kai Fusayoshi, Cat in Honyaradō, 1976-77 © Kai Fusayoshi
Kai Fusayoshi, Izumojikagurachō District, 1976 © Kai Fusayoshi
I would like to thank Sophie Cavaliero for inviting me to take part in Neko Project, and also Kai Fusayoshi (photographer), Sachiko Hamada (photographer and Kai's assistant), Oussouby Sacko (President of Seika University), Inoue Shō.ichi (Professor and friend of Kai), Sylvain Cardonnel (Professor, friend of Kai and regular customer of the Hon.yaradō and the Hachimonjiya), as well as Shuntō Ken.ichi (PhD student and photographer specializing in the political treatment of animals in Japan, particularly in Kyoto), for the time and help they gave me when writing this text.
Note to readers
Japanese names are written in the Japanese sense, namely the surname followed by the first name.
The transcription of proper names is done using the modified Hepburn system.
- Some useful bibliographical references
Kai Fusayoshi, "Hon.yaradō et la contre-culture", translated by Sylvain Cardonnel, unpublished French version
- "Interview of Kai Fusayoshi by his assistant Hamada Sachiko", translated from Japanese by Sylvain Cardonnel, published on echo.hypotheses.org (Original text in Japanese published on Kai Fusayoshi's website, on his profile page, 2010)
- Inoue Shō.ichi, "Sexology of manekineko", The temptation of dolls: from manekineko to Colonel Sanders » ed. Sanseido, Tokyo, 1998, p. 179 - 262
- Shuntō Ken.ichi, “The Changes of Stray Cats Policy in Kyoto City. Stray Cats Are Denied by Logic of Animal Management and Animal Welfare”, Japanese Journal of Human Animal Relations, March 2017, no 46, p. 53 (春 藤 献 一 「京 都市 に お け る 野 良 猫 に 関 す る 政策 の 変 遷 一 動物 の 管理 と 愛護 の 論理 に よ る 野 良 猫 と い う あ り 方 の 否定 一」 「ヒ ト と 動物 の 関係 学会 誌」 2017 年 3 月 号 (46 号))
- Shuntō Ken.ichi, "History of Relationships Between People and Stray Cats in Kyoto", in Inaga Shigemi (ed.), A Pirate's View of World History: A Reversed Perception of the Order of Things From a Global Perspective, ed. Shibunkaku Shuppan, Kyoto, 2017, p. 569-580 (春藤 献 献 「の 人 史 賊 賊 繁 から み 賊 賊 史 の 再 賊 賊 交易 と 情報 流通 思 思 を 問い 直す」 思 思 思 問い 直す 直す 思 思 思 思 問い 直す 直す 思 思 思 閣 問い 直す 」思 思 思 思 出版 直す」 思 思 思 思 直す 直す 」思 思 思 思 直す 直す」 思 思 思 出版 直す 直す 思 思 思 思 出版 直す 直す 思 思 思 思 出版 直す 」思 思 思 思 直す 直す 思 文閣 出版
- Shuntō Ken.ichi, “Establishment of the Japanese Association for the Protection of Animals under the Occupation”, Nihon Kenkyū, no 57, March 2018, p. 189-219 (春 藤 献 一 「占領 下 に お け る 社 団 法人 日本 動物 愛護 協 会 の 成立」 「日本 研究」 第 57 語 2018 年 03 月 30 日 p. 189-219)
KIMIKO YOSHIDA (吉田公子) 🖋
Self-portraits of what is no longer… or almost!
by Charlene Veillon
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« Everything that is not me interests me. »
These were the first words of Japanese photographer Kimiko Yoshida when we met.1. Declaration beforehand surprising in view of his work essentially consisting of self-portraits! We therefore understand that the narcissistic representation of her figure is not the aesthetic challenge of Kimiko Yoshida's work.
Since his very first series of self-portraits started in 2001, the artist has actually sought to disappear from the image by using various artifices. Beyond a reflection on the vanity of self-representation, the photographer meditates more broadly on the vanity of images which, by definition, can only show an absence: a snapshot can only capture an image of the subject and not the same subject...
With Kimiko Yoshida, there is a mise en abyme of disappearance that even threatens the image itself. Indeed, his portrait, this intangible and precarious reflection, tends to dissolve into the monochrome background or to hide under the rare accessories (objects, masks or fabrics) that escort the figure. Kimiko Yoshida's photography aspires to abstraction, when the self-portrait genre, by definition, refuses it.
Speaking of his works, the artist evokes "failed monochromes", but whose "failure" or "imperfection" constitutes precisely the point defined by Roland Barthes in La Chambre claire , that is to say this point in the image which challenges the gaze and testifies to the presence of this figure which has already disappeared. Beyond any anecdote, beyond the illustration of the temporality of a story or a narration, Kimiko Yoshida's photographic self-portraits aim at timelessness, hieraticism, intangibility.
Among the first series of the artist is the one entitled Single Brides. Self-portraits2. From the outset, with this series, the conceptual and formal protocol that defines the work of Kimiko Yoshida is put in place. This protocol, which also governs subsequent photographic series, is marked with the seal of minimalism: always the same subject – the artist is his own model –; the same framing – on the face or the bust from the front and centered –; the same format – square-shaped prints –; the same size – squares of 142, 120, 110 or 28 centimeters on a side, depending on the series –; the same color, almost monochrome, uniting the background and the naked or adorned figure (make-up, wig, clothing); the same indirect lighting – fixed neutral light from two 500 watt tungsten bulbs –; the same title specifying the series.
For example, with Single Brides. Self-portraits3, the title is always divided into three parts: in The Widowed Bride. self-portrait (which dates from 2001 and is the very first self-portrait in the series), the term “Bride” introduces fiction; the second term (here "widow", but it can also be the name of an ethnic group, a famous character or a painting) represents the interval between truth and falsehood: it is a starting truth, a reference, an allusion, but the "bride" is not really a "widow"; finally, the last term, “self-portrait”, the most essential according to the artist, establishes the only reality in the fundamentally fictional work of Kimiko Yoshida, while introducing the functions of transformation, otherness and hybridization. This figure who can be both "married", "single" and "widowed" is a constant pictorial paradox, where the artist's personal obsession with marriage intersects4 and her freedom to “put on” multiple identifications as easily as the costumes she puts on.
Kimiko Yoshida's photography, which falls neither within the tradition of reportage nor that of the avant-gardes, but which is so reminiscent of painting5, must be considered both in its symbolic representation, its intellectual allusions and its material support. Because it is certain that, as for most painters, the work of this artist is carried out mainly - which does not mean only -, before the shooting, in the conceptual process and the intellectual preparation of the painting. image that the photographic act concretizes and fixes. The reference to pictorial art established here is not insignificant since Paint. self-portrait6 is precisely the name that the artist gave to a new series started in 2007.
In addition to this title, which explicitly refers to the genre of painting, the printing technique of this series supports this parallel with the painting. Indeed, these photographs are not prints on paper, but prints by archival digital pigment printing on cotton canvas stretched on a frame. The photographic medium is therefore hybridized here with the canvas, originally reserved for painting.
The rendering of the work is upset. Whereas, in the previous series, the photograph is printed on a satin (chemical) photo paper laminated on a Plexiglas plate – whose brilliance allows various plays of reflections of light, decor or the viewer superimposing the image –, the canvases of Paint. self-portrait have a softer, more velvety, more matte finish, annihilating these reflective effects and the parallels with the mirror. Painting also marks, in 2009-2010, the artist's transition to digital (even if this has not changed the fact that Kimiko Yoshida never retouches her photographs).
The hybridization of techniques and media in this series also contaminates the distinction between genres that ordinarily marks the hierarchy in the fine arts. Indeed, the title of each self-portrait in this series refers to a masterpiece of art history: for example, Painting (Mme de Pompadour by François Boucher). self-portrait from 2010 (ill. 1) evokes an oil on canvas by the painter François Boucher, entitled The Marquise de Pompadour seated in the open air of 1758, kept at the Victoria & Albert Museum. It is not a copy, even less a pastiche that Kimiko Yoshida is trying to make, but a mental allusion to the painting she is quoting: here, the fullness of the white dress signed Paco Rabanne floating above her head and of the artist's shoulders could recall the vast and enveloping white silk toilet that spreads out in the painting around the favorite of Louis XV.
The field of fashion – more precisely haute couture – is therefore also mobilized by the series Painting, which first includes, from 2007 to 2010, 38 portraits of the artist using clothes and accessories from different designers, then enriched in 2010 with 82 self-portraits made with couture dresses borrowed from the Paco Rabanne Heritage.
In this series as for single brides, Kimiko Yoshida imposes the same minimalist protocol on herself: the background of the photograph is always a large monochrome field (in reality, a fabric stretched against the wall of the studio) in which the figure, made up and dressed in finery in similar colors , tends to merge to disappear. However, with Painting, Kimiko Yoshida gave a new direction to her aesthetic posture. This is no longer solely intended to convey the intangibility of Marie and the fragility of the figuration, but also proceeds from the practice of "diversion" according to the term chosen by the artist in reference to Guy Debord.
Indeed, the photographer works in this series to divert from their ancient meanings both the practice of photography itself and fashion and the masterpieces of the history of art, mainly pictorial. This is how she can become the time of a photograph, the model of Painting (Judith of Cranach the Elder). self-portrait from 2010 (ill. 2), taking up a characteristic (Jacques Lacan says a “unary trait”) and arbitrary trait of a personal memory of the artist concerning the oil on wood entitled Judith, painted by Lucas Cranach the Elder around 1530, and kept at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. By diverting Paco Rabanne's accessories and dresses (as here, where a metal skirt is improperly worn around the neck, and what seems to be a black horsehair accessory oddly placed on the side of the face), the artist's self-portrait becomes a mental allusion in which the black background of the photograph and that of the painting, the ample dark headdress of Kimiko Yoshida and the large feathered hat of the painted model, or even the heavy necklaces shared by the two portraits are hybridized.
With this new series, by combining within the same image different media (photography/canvas), disciplines (fashion / painting / photography), genres (self-portrait / portrait of a biblical figure) and space-time (France / Japan / Germany; XXIe / XVIe centuries), while mixing a memory of her own with the masterpiece of another artist, the Japanese photographer manages to create a new singular artistic syncretism, characterized among other things by the notions of transitory and impermanence, with a hint ofukiyō. This Japanese "floating world" highlights earthly pleasures and the delicate beauties of nature, while emphasizing the extreme fragility and transience of these pleasures which, like the figures in Kimiko Yoshida's self-portraits, are doomed to disappear.
1: The information presented in this article comes from writings published by the artist and from a series of interviews conducted with Kimiko Yoshida and her husband Jean-Michel Ribettes (who actively participates in the development of the work) between 2008 and 2012 as part of the writing of my thesis devoted to the photographer, entitled “Personal myths and plural myths in the work of Kimiko Yoshida – An aesthetic of the in-between – 1995-2012”.
2 Single Brides. Self-portraits, the first series of the artist known to the public, started in 2001 and still in progress, composed of Lambda prints on Kodak Endura satin paper, mounted on Dibond and under Diasec, 120 x 120 x 2,5 cm.
3: The publication of Brides is mainly divided into three books published by Kimiko Yoshida at Actes Sud: Marry Me!, 2003; All That's Not Me, 2007; where I am not, 2010.
4: In her texts as in our interviews, the photographer evoked at length the traumatic memory of her seven years, when she learned from her mother's own mouth of the forced marriage of her parents in Japan.
5: The expression "visual photography" could have been appropriate if this terminology had not already been used by Dominique Baqué in his works devoted to contemporary photography, in a sense so precise and oriented that it is almost impossible to dissociate it from his writings.
In 6: Paint. self-portrait, archival pigment prints on canvas, anti-UV matte varnish, 142 x 142 x 3,6 cm.
Artist's website: https://kimiko.fr/
© Kimiko Yoshida
Courtesy Heritage Paco Rabanne
ill.1 (white background)
Kimiko Yoshida, Painting (Marquise de Pompadour by François Boucher). Self-Portrait, 2010.
ill.2 (black background)
Kimiko Yoshida, Painting (Judith of Cranach the Elder). Self-Portrait, 2010.
PROVOKE the effervescence
by Sophie Cavaliero and Valérie Douniaux (article written for artpress N°437)
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Evoke the adventure of the magazine Provoke requires the Western reader to go well beyond a classic "passive" reading, the discovery of Japanese photographic production having been made in France in an obvious chronological disorder, according to the exchanges, exhibitions or publications that have reached ours. It then seemed vital to restore the event in its political, social and economic context before contextualizing it in an artistic period beginning in the 1950s.
Japan experienced a strong economic and industrial boom during the 1960s. In the field of photography, the production of equipment developed and, with it, the practice, both professional and amateur. Japanese brands made themselves known abroad: Canon, which launched its first SLR on the market at the start of the 1960s; Nikon, from the Korean War, through international reporters based in Tōkyō, or thanks to its partnership with NASA during the epic of the conquest of the moon. The Japanese photographic scene was also dominated at that time by photojournalism with emblematic figures such as Ken Domon, Ihei Kimura or Yōnosuke Natori.
Despite this economic growth, the country is experiencing a social and political crisis. On the one hand, an imported culture, mainly American and introduced with the post-war Occupation, is essential in the archipelago; on the other, this period begins with the much-contested signing of the mutual cooperation and security treaty between the United States and Japan, (ANPO, signed in 1951 with the Treaty of Peace), and ends with student movements and protesters of great violence. The United States is certainly the first target of these protests, but they are also aimed at representatives of national power or local projects, such as the construction of Narita airport in Sanrizuka, expropriating hundreds of farmers, an ongoing struggle. All these events are the subject of publications, coming from trade unions or professional photojournalists, but also from photographic artists or student associations. The prolific nature of these publications in no way detracts from the quality and importance of their discourse, their main objective being to mobilize public opinion. In order to capture the attention of readers, the photographers devise an innovative language, playing with composition, framing, contrasts, and a radically different layout.
The foundations of this new language were already largely laid in the late 1950s with the short-lived agency Vivo, founded by Shōmei Tōmatsu, Kikuji Kawada, Akira Satō, Akira Tanno, Ikkō Narahara and Eikoh Hosoe. The members of Vivo produce both documentary and commercial imagery, while also devoting themselves to creative research. Their paths often cross those of artists from other disciplines, as is recalled by the photographs by Hosoe of butō dancer Kazuo Ôno, currently presented at the Rencontres d'Arles together with images of the same dancer taken in Japan by William Klein, a Western photographer. having strongly influenced Japanese photographers during this period. This particular example of Hosoe's photographs also proves to what extent the rupture then experienced by the Japanese photographic scene was concomitant with a rise in performance art. Photography becomes an integral part of the performance, the presence of the camera influences the action of the performer. The photograph documents the performance, while the latter in turn becomes a material for the photographer, allowing the development of a new aesthetic. The last photographic exhibition proposed by Simon Baker at the Tate Modern, Performing for the camera, which also gives pride of place to the Japanese, clearly shows this powerful link between performer and photographer, between photography and performance.
This creative bubbling of the 1960s, supported by numerous associations (Japanese artists having the habit of meeting in groups), added to galloping urbanization and industrialization, in an explosive and complex social climate, undeniably forms a fertile ground for the birth of Provoke. Japanese photography is entering with this magazine one of the richest periods in its history. Still, Provoke will be almost as short-lived as its predecessor, Vivo. Only three issues of the magazine were published altogether, between November 1968 and August 1969.
Provoke magazine is the materialization of interdisciplinary crossings, and counts as founding members the two photographers Takuma Nakahira and Yutaka Takanashi, the critic Kōji Taki and the poet Takahiko Okada, joined in the second issue by the photographer Daidō Moriyama, who was the assistant of Hosoe in the early 1960s. Not defining itself as a testimony in words and images of the prevailing spirit of protest (Moriyama moreover proclaims himself fundamentally apolitical, unlike Nakahira), Provoke appears rather as a manifesto thus establishing a unprecedented aesthetics - “provocative materials for thought”. However, one should not expect to discover in the pages of the magazine a photograph with a conceptual tendency. The Provoke publication seems to invite the reader to let go, to be overwhelmed by the density of black, by saturated contrasts, to be disturbed by the blurring of focus, which is not a technical error but a a pure intention of the photographer, who does not hesitate to "forget" to look into the lens or to frame the image. This desire to break with old practices is also found in the printing of the photographs, with their grainy appearance. We are thus talking about an are-bure-boke aesthetic (raw, blurry and grainy), an expression now consecrated to refer to the vocabulary put in place with Provoke.
A detailed study of the three editions of Provoke reveals their common characteristics. Three covers, one style: one color per issue and the title of the magazine. In the mind of a dōjin-zasshi, a sort of amateur magazine aimed at a small number of readers (in the case of Provoke, the number of circulations goes from 300 for the first issue to 1000 for the third), this revolutionary publication offers, as we have seen, a photography that no longer has the vocation to bear witness to its time, but to question the very function of photography. Inside, the shots are not presented in chronological order, but assembled according to the intention of the photographer and perceived as a whole, a concept reinforced by innovative graphics put at the service of the image, with the aim of sublimating the power of it. Printing choices also play a huge role in enhancing visual effects. The use of rotogravure frees photographers from the precision and tonalities of classic prints, offering them great density in the blacks and a wide palette of grays, from the lightest to the darkest, which are found in particular in the later editions by Nobuyoshi Araki and Daidō Moriyama, future accomplices (also with Hosoe and Tōmatsu) in the adventure of the Workshop Photography School from 1974 to 1976, and both exhibited in spring 2016 at the Musée Guimet and the Fondation Cartier.
It is important to keep in mind that the format of Provoke reflects the explosion of the photography book and the proliferation of publications in the 1960s-1970s., and to place the publication in the context of publishing in Japan. This importance given to the book in the archipelago remains alive, young Japanese photographers offering, often from their beginnings, a large number of books (Nobuyoshi Araki has published more than 400). It must be said that in Japan the possibilities of exhibiting are limited and that, even if it is now called into question by new practices such as mobile telephony and the Internet, the Japanese publishing market is colossal. The practice of the photographic book, often experimental and distinct from the prints themselves, is not limited to Japan, and we have recently seen a significant increase in awards of the " Dummy book award “, highlighting the books of “handmade” photographers. The career of the participants in the Provoke adventure themselves has also been extremely rich in publications integrating the new visual language introduced with the magazine. We can thus cite essential works such as For a future language (1970) by Takuma Nakahira, Towards the City (1974) by Yutaka Takanashi, Bye Bye Photography (1972) by Daidō Moriyama.
 Ref. Japanese Photography Books of the 60s and 1970s, written by Ryuichi Kaneko and Ivan Vartanian published by Seuil.
Let us end by emphasizing that the members of Provoke and its predecessor Vivo were not the only ones to energize Japanese photography of their time, and we can also cite the Konpora movement (Contemporary Photography), placing themselves at the opposite of Provoke, with photographers adept at the "banality" and "neutrality" of images, such as Kiyoshi Suzuki, Shigeo Gochō, and Masahisa Fukase, who are all enjoying renewed attention today.
Nevertheless, the historical importance of Provoke magazine remains undeniable, all the more evident with the passage of time. Provoke still fascinates and inspires the younger generation of photographers today.
NB of authors
This article is taken from artpress magazine n°437 – October 2016 in reference to the exhibition BETWEEN CONTESTATION AND PERFORMANCE – PHOTOGRAPHY IN JAPAN 1960-1975, presented at the BAL in the fall of 2016, provides clear evidence of this.
To know more about this exhibition: click here
Otherwise do not hesitate to watch the video of the BAL