Review by Lars Epstein for Japan Exposures.
The photographer Hiroshi Hamaya (1915-1999) was only 16 years old when in 1931, with his then-new Leica camera, he took the oldest of the pictures displayed in the photographic exhibition “Tokyo Stories”, which opened at the Kulturhuset (House of Culture) in Stockholm on March 6th. Hiroshi Hamaya was the youngest and perhaps the first Leica owner in Japan (the Leica appeared in 1929), according to Marc Feustel of Studio Equis in Paris, which has produced an exhibition which provides a composite picture of Tokyo’s development from the pre-World War II period to the super-modern society it is today. In addition to images by Hiroshi Hamaya, documentary photographs by Tadahiko Hayashi (1918-1990) and Shigeichi Nagano (born 1925) are also on display.
Hiroshi Hamaya (who received the Swedish Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography in 1987) strolled around in Tokyo with his camera in the 1930s and took a kind of “westernized” pictures, although he had no contact whatsoever with western photography. He documented a traditional Japan with geishas, rikschaw drivers and fortune-tellers, but also the emerging modernity of the city, and always with nerve and empathy.
“Shigeichi Nagano’s photographs, also never shown before in Sweden, depict the emergence of modern Tokyo”
Tadahiko Hayashi’s images, never previously exhibited in Sweden, focus on the period just after the Second World War when Tokyo was in ruins and misery and poverty was widespread in the city. They form a deeply moving document of this period in Tokyo’s development. Shigeichi Nagano’s photographs, also never shown before in Sweden, depict the emergence of modern Tokyo, with students protests and the new emerging management philosophy.
The famous Swedish photographer Anders Petersen is a great friend of Japanese photography. He inaugurated the exhibition and expressed his delight that we now in Sweden have the opportunity to see some of the rich Japanese photographic tradition that foreshadowed photography giants such as Daido Moriyama and all his followers. You just have to agree with Anders Petersen. Those who miss this exhibition only have themselves to blame. The exhibition continues until May 2.
Lars Epstein is a Swedish photographer and journalist, now retired. He has worked for 35 years at Sweden’s biggest daily morning paper Dagens Nyheter (Daily News), where he now has a photo blog.