Tag Archives: kazuo kitai

Leap Year Sale in Bookstore

Six books on sale for February 2012 The following titles are on sale for February:

Anatolia, by Hiroh Kikai ¥9,490 ¥8,490
Published in January, 2011, this book from Asakusa Portraits-famed Hiroh Kikai is the first ever substantial presentation of his considerable body of work from Turkey. It depicts Anatolia, but also points west and east, and was created during six visits (totaling 45 weeks) that Kikai made from 1994 through 2009. See this review at Microcord for more about the book.

Hana Dorobou, by Eikoh Hosoe ¥2,990 ¥2,490
Undergarment designer Yoko Kamoi (1925-1991) presented to Hosoe a series of her handmade dolls and told him, “Do with them what you want.” For Hosoe, they were more human than doll, and they seemed to take a life of their own, the scenes he eventually photographed them in seemingly situtations these dolls were getting themselves into — or so Hosoe felt, so strong was their human-like nature.

Hana Kinbaku, by Nobuyoshi Araki, ¥7,990 ¥5,990
Published in conjunction with his exhibition at Taka Ishii Gallery (Tokyo) in 2008, this 150-plus full color catalogue brings together two of Araki’s well-known obsessions, flowers and bondage scenes.

Kazuo Kitai in China, 1973, by Kazuo Kitai, ¥2,590 ¥1,990
Kitai, who was born in Anshan, Manchuria in 1944, returned to China in 1973 at the behest of the noted Japanese photographer Ihei Kimura, who assembled a group of photographers to travel the country for two weeks with him. The photos that Kitai took on this trip, which he intended to publish as a book but never did, are now collected in this special publication from Tokyo gallery Zen Foto Gallery.

Lime Works, by Naoya Hatakeyama, ¥4,290 ¥3,590
A much-needed reprint of Hatakeyama’s seminal 1996 Lime Works.

Cell, by Taiji Matsue, ¥4,990 ¥4,490
This book from 2008 by Taiji Matsue features tiny pieces (or “cells” if you will) of larger photos blown up many times over, rendering each photo both abstract and concrete at the same time.

November Magazine Roundup

Nippon and Asahi Camera Monthly Magazines (November 2008)

Visit anywhere in Japan that shows even a hint of autumnal color this Fall, and you’ll probably see as many photographers as fallen leaves. The Japanese call this kouyou (literally red leaves or yellow leaves) and along with the cherry blossoms of Spring, it is the time when the cameras — everything from Mark II DLSRs to camera cellphones — are guaranteed to come out. So, it is no surprise that Japan’s autumnal colors dominate both of the major photo monthlies this November.

Asahi Camera

For me, Asahi wins this month’s head to head competition with Nippon. (Last month I would probably give the nod to Nippon if you’re keeping score at home.)

Asahi starts off the kouyou fest by bringing out some “heavy hitters” from Japan’s photographic past, in a special series they call kouyou yuuyuu or serene autumn leaves, which features one or two photos each from Shotaro Akiyama, Ken Domon, Shinzo Maeda and others. Some of these are known as primarily landscape photographers, but others like Domon are not. Nevertheless, given the over-saturation of this type of photography in Japan, it is hard to appreciate the individual craft of any of them — they all unfortunately turn into nice scenery.

Miyako Ishiuchi's Hiroshima work

Fortunately, it is not all autumn leaves in this month’s Asahi. Miyako Ishiguchi, who has an exhibition at the Meguro Museum of Art in Tokyo from November 15 – January 11, 2009, is featured with a few works each from her Yokosuka and Hiroshima projects (the exhibition is the same). Ishiuchi grew up in Yokosuka, the site of one of the U.S. military’s bases, and her work shot there goes back to the mid to late 70s, while the Hiroshima material (released as a small book this year) is a recent project, focusing mainly on the remnants of clothing that were worn by people when the atomic bomb hit Hiroshima. The clothing is lit from behind in a way that poignantly shows the tattered, ripped apart nature of the clothing and the lives of the people who were wearing it.

Among contemporary female photographers working today in Japan, it’s hard to think of two more contrasting styles than Ishiuchi’s and that of Mika Ninagawa, whose work is presented next in the magazine. Ninagawa will have her first career retrospective exhibition starting this month at the Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery. The exhibition will run from November 1 to December 28 before going to various other cities in Japan for all of 2009.

Eiji Ina has a new book coming out in December from Nazraeli Press entitled Emperor of Japan and 12 images from this work are presented in this month’s issue, along with an interview with Ina. Ina has taken 8×10 photos of all 124 of the extant Imperial burial sites in Japan, and according to the photographer, was influenced by the Typologies of the Becher’s while working on this project.

Veteran photographer Shomei Tomatsu has been living and/or working in Okinawa for over 40 years, and some of his work done there is currently being shown in a “collaborative” co-exhibition with Yasuo Higa at the Canon Gallery in Tokyo (until December 16). Higa is someone I’m not familiar with but it’s clear his main focus is on documenting the unique customs and rituals of the Ryukyu Islands. Tomatsu has also done work similar to this (notably in his book Hikaru Kaze: Okinawa, 1979), but here (judging by what’s presented in the magazine) the work focuses on his “chocolate and chewing gum” work that will be familiar to those who were able to see the Skin of a Nation exhibit that traveled in the US and Europe in 2006-7. In addition to the sampling of work, there is also a short interview with Tomatsu, who is now in his late 70s and who reveals among other things that he recently upgraded his Canon Kiss Digital to a 40D, claiming that the “high amateur” camera is in keeping with his current “amateur” status.

Nippon Camera

Unfortunately, this month’s Nippon Camera is on the whole rather disappointing compared to its breathren.

Shinichiro Kobayashi, who as the photographer behind Deathtopia and many other similar books has established himself as the leading practitioner if not the founder of the ever-popular “Ruins” or “Urban Exploration” genre of photography, has recently issued a book of rather different work entitled Umihito: 1977 – 1988. The book consists of photographs taken in black and white along Japan’s beaches and coastal areas during the years in question, and a few pages worth of these are in this month’s Nippon Camera. Unfortunately for me, while the photographs are admittedly nice to look at and Kobayashi is certainly a very proficient photographer, the book comes with a healthy dose of saccharined nostalgia that ultimately is not very different from the Ruin books.

Russell Scott Peagler is an American living in Japan, and his work shot in Tibet is given a few pages. Given to blown out Tri-X that would make many a Japanese photographer proud, the work was unfortunately just okay for me. Judging from his modest Flickr stream, clearly the magazine didn’t pick the best representations of his work.

Lastly, Kazuo Kitai has a few pages for his “Out walking with my Leica” series, and this time he visits the printing company in Nagano that did the printing for his latest book of photographs shot in Germany, The Journey Into 1920s German Expressionism.

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October Magazine Roundup

The photography magazine market is alive and kicking and we will periodically take a look at what is being featured in these magazines. Here’s a look at recent issues from the two “biggies” of the market, Nippon Camera and Asahi Camera, with a focus on the photography. Both magazines are almost carbon copies of each other, at least visually, with the same thickness and size even. They both, like any self-respecting mass-market publication, of course feature lots of advertisements, as well as “features” which feel like advertisements, which is no different than American magazines like Popular Photography or Shutterbug. They both feature extensive reader-submitted photos. And the both cost exactly the same.

Nippon Camera (October, 2008)

Among the photo essays published this month — each issue of both Nippon Camera and Asahi Camera feature 5 or 6 short photo essays at the beginning of the magazine — are a couple of series from veterans Kazuo Kitai and Shu Sakurai. Kitai’s photos focus on different forms of vegetation shot in low contrast black and white, and for me were not overly interesting when compared to his more familiar work. Sakurai — who was employed as the darkroom operator for the short-lived but highly influential VIVO photographic cooperative of the early 60’s, developing and printing the work done by members such as Shomei Tomatsu, Ikko Narahara, and Eikoh Hosoe — has just released a book of black and white work he shot in the American West (titled American West) and the photos in the magazine are stark landscapes from the same group. The book has short introductory statements from members of the VIVO agency, all praising the darkroom craft of Sakurai. Hosoe tells the story that when William Klein came to the agency asking for help in dealing with all the material he was shooting for what later became his book Tokyo, Sakurai was enlisted and he processed all the work from that book. After VIVO, Sakurai joined the Hakuhodo advertising agency on the recommendation of Tomatsu. Upon retiring from there in 1997, he embarked on his project to document the American West.

There’s a retrospective series of photos by Haruo Tomiyama entitled “1964 – 2008”. Most of the photos are well-known ones from the 60s, but I really like the last image, which is of a snowy Shinjuku (Tokyo) scene taken in February of this year. I also liked a series of 8 x 10 head shot portraits done in black and white by Gen Mitsumata, a few of which can be seen here but to less impact than in the magazine.

Asahi Camera (October, 2008)

The series featured in this month’s Asahi weren’t as strong for me. There were several travel photo-esque series of fall colors or enticing islands that were nice to look at for about 5 seconds. But fortunately, there were two series I was interested in: Keizo Motoda’s panoramic shots of 50s-style rock and rollers that hang out in Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park, and Kosuke Okahara’s b/w shots of former Hansen’s Disease patients isolated in remote Chinese villages.

Motoda is known for edgy street work shot mostly in Osaka and collected in books such as Blue Water and Snap Osaka. Here, however, he looks at the people who gather on Sundays decked out in 50s rockabilly wear (or approximations thereof) and dance to 50s music. It’s a well-known Tokyo phenomenon that I frankly had thought no longer existed. Another apparent departure for Motoda is the use of a panorama format (using a Panon Widelux F7 according to the notes). The photos have a nice balance between Motoda’s in-your-face aesthetic and a distant, observant feel produced by the wide-angle panorama format. You can see about 13 photos from this ongoing series at Motoda’s web site. The photos in the magazine spread were all taken on one August Sunday this past summer.

Kosuke Okahara is a young 28-year old documentary photographer based in France who has done extensive on assignment work in Asia, Africa, and South America. In the series published in Asahi Camera, he looks at so-called “leprosy villages” in China where, though cured of the disease, ex-Hansen’s Disease patients continue to live in isolation because of discrimination. Many are disabled and old and receive little assistance from the government. Okahara has put up 24 images along with a text intro to this series on his extensive web site.