Tag Archives: featured

Fujica 35 Auto-M

This ad for Fujifilm’s Fujica 35 Auto-M is from the back cover of the April, 1962 issue of Asahi Camera, and was “on sale now” as the red lettering says in the top left corner. The tag line plays up its magical quality by telling us “You don’t need to touch either the aperture ring or the shutter speed dial.” (Literally, “The aperture, as well as the shutter — No Touch!”). There’s probably a good reason why they balanced the camera vertically on the globe, rather than the more logical horizontal placement, but I don’t quite get it. It does make the ad more interesting though.

Presumably the M stands for “magic” and comes as a result of the Copal Magic B shutter the camera employed, although Copal isn’t mentioned by name in the ad — unlike an ad for Copal in the same magazine, which features a picture of hands assembling a shutter and lens and the caption indicating that the camera in the photo is this same Fujica 35 Auto-M. The Fujifilm ad refers to the Auto-M as the world’s first camera to come with the “magic” shutter.

The text of the copy (more or less) reads “You don’t need to make any adjustments. Both the aperture and shutter speed are chosen automatically so that when you press the shutter button, you get a perfect exposure. In the past this functionality was only a dream, but this is a completely brand new camera.”

Among the Fujica line of fixed-lens rangefinders — there were about seven different models released between 1957 and 1967 — the Auto-M was unusual in that it didn’t have a focusing thumb-wheel at the back of the topcover (an interesting quirk of the Fujica rangefinders that can be seen here on the 35M model). The lens on these was a Fujinon-R 47mm that opened to F2.8 (the text says something lost in the translation about the lens having a sharpness that cuts deep).

The 35 Auto-M listed for ¥14,500 plus ¥1,500 for a leather case. That would have been about $40 US Dollars at the exchange rate of the day. Buying such a camera in Japan today would cost about ¥70,000 if we look at the relative value of the yen. Needless to say, one of these in today’s used market won’t set you back nearly as much.


Elsewhere on the web

There’s not too much specific to this camera out there, but these might be worth a look:

Murakami-san’s “As Is” review (in Japanese, with a few sample shots)
Japan Family Camera (Japanese; see this page for more (!) Fujica cameras)
Sylvain Halgand’s Auto-M page (in French; scroll down page for more Fujicas)
Chris Eve’s old Fujica site (now defunct, but available via the Wayback Machine; see this page for non-SLR Fujicas)

Developing color negative film with the Naniwa Colorkit N


 

Text and images by Christoph Hammann for Japan Exposures

When I took up a new project this fall, I decided to try my hand at developing color negative film. This is supposed to be difficult and prone to developing errors. In fact, though I had bought some Fuji Pro800 rollfilm and a Naniwa Colorkit N C-41 developing kit earlier, I held them back for just such fears. Then when the fall color got very intense this year, I couldn‘t go on photographing in black & white. The first two rolls of 120 film I dropped off at my local photo shop, getting a digi-evangelization in the process. They came back developed rather grainy and the test prints were off-color. Having them developed wasn‘t cheap either!

This I can do better, I thought.

Turns out I was right! Here‘s the material I used:

The temperature was kept constant at 30 °C with a Jobo Temperbox TBE2, essentially a heated water bath with a thermostat and receptables for bottles, graduated beakers and the developing drum. I collected some exposed rolls of Fuji Pro800 and proceeded to mix the solutions.

The Naniwa Colorkit N comes with concise, clear instructions in English in addition to Japanese, for which I was grateful…

Mixing the solutions

The developer takes on an appealing pink color once mixed. The blix (short for bleach/fixer) on the other hand is of an ugly brownish cast and smells bad.

Developer and Blix

Ready to start developing. Times for all C41 process films seem to be the same regardless of ISO, as long as you expose them at their native ISO. So this is how those automatic minilabs work! The kit comes with tables for dev times for push development plus one or two stops, too.

Pouring back the developer and getting ready to blix it.

Watering at about 30 °C and for a defined time, this washes out some of the orange mask. My first two self-developed rolls of color negative film hanging to dry!

Rinsing and drying

This works for sheet film, too. I used Fujifilm 160 NS 8×10 in film, the developing drum this time was an old Durst Codrum originally meant for the Cibachrome process.

It has ridges inside so the film comes into contact with the chemicals from both sides and takes 200 ml of solutions.
Sheet film processing

Getting it out of the drum without scratching the delicate, wet emulsion is best done with the drum filled with water to the top.

To end with, here are some results.

The shot at the top is the 8″x10″ nighttime shot, I was delighted that the film could render the different colors of lighting and had such a high latitude and subtle graduation of tones. Exposure time was 8 minutes at f/45.

Diffugium

This picture is from the fall colors project called „diffugium“. The Fuji Pro800 rollfilm proved to be quite fine-grained, the negatives were easy to scan and the pictures were versatile in post-processing in Photoshop.
Diffugium

For example, as this picture from the same roll of film (but from a different project) shows, it is easy to increase saturation and still keep good colors.

I will definitely be using these films and the Naniwa Colorkit N for current and future color projects.

Coming soon: Christoph will use the Naniwa Color Kit N to cross-process some slide film.


Christoph Hammann is a fine art photographer from Waltershausen, Germany. He works with traditional film and silver halide papers as well as digital post-processing and alternative printing techniques. His website is “Mostly Black & White”.

Ryuichiro Suzuki’s Odyssey and Druk


Even though Ryuichiro Suzuki has been a photographer for close to 45 years, he has until recently remained relatively unknown and unheralded, even in Japan. However, with the publication last year of Odyssey, a retrospective monograph of Suzuki’s career, as well this year’s release of Druk – both from the Japanese publishing house Heibonsha – this will surely change. Indeed, earlier this year Suzuki was awarded an “Annual Award” from the Photographic Society of Japan in recognition of the work compiled into Odyssey.

Suzuki was born in the Kamata area of Tokyo in 1942. He attended Tokyo’s Waseda University, and it was during this time that the 19-year old student began to take photographs. The first plate of Odyssey is a 1962 photo of a young woman that Suzuki took in Sanya, a slum populated by day workers where Suzuki lived while attending Waseda. The photo’s title claims – perhaps apocryphally – that this is Suzuki’s “first negative”. Whether or not it is his first negative, it is apparently the only one that survives from this early period. The story, as told in Mariko Takeuchi’s essay about Suzuki included at the end of Odyssey, is that Suzuki was so ashamed of sneaking around taking candid shots of his Sanya neighbors that he burned all of his negatives except this one.

After graduating from Waseda (from the School of Political Science and Economics), Suzuki’s work began to be published in various magazines, namely Mainichi Camera, a magazine instrumental in launching the careers of many who would go on to dominate Japanese photography, such as Daido Moriyama. Unlike his contemporaries however, Suzuki was never able – or was reluctant – to turn these opportunities into something greater, preferring instead to work under the radar. From this period three series are included in Odyssey: “Tracer Bullets”, a look at the heated early 60s conflicts between the Left and Right, centered around the nationalist Yasukuni Shrine (1964), “Base”, photos shot at the Yokota American Air Force base (1969-70), and “Banners and Stones”, a look at student protests (1969).

Suzuki was so ashamed of sneaking around taking candid shots of his Sanya neighbors that he burned all of his negatives except this one.

These issues and themes were almost a rite of passage for Japanese photographers who came of age in the 60’s, with Moriyama, Shomei Tomatsu, and Akihide Tamura, among many others, exploring this ground, and to this author, both the “Base” and student protest series suffer by comparison. According to Takeuchi’s essay, the “Base” series was basically shot on one occasion, at a carnival at Yokota base that was open to the public, and so it is no wonder this series lacks substance and the photos feel derivative. The same could be said for the protest photos, although certain individual shots are in and of themselves powerful. Their inclusion leaves the unfortunate impression that they function in this context as more an attempt to add credibility and prescience to Suzuki’s oeuvre, rather than because they help to broaden Suzuki’s photographic odyssey.

1964 photo of war victims, by Ryuichiro SuzukiOn the other hand, the series centered on Yasukuni Shrine, the earliest work presented in the book other than that “first negative” from 1962, reveals a young Suzuki confident enough not to toe the party line. Indeed, which party line Suzuki sympathizes with, if any, is rather unclear from this series, and this unsettling ambiguity gives the photographs a sense of ominousness and foreboding. There are several very strong images here the belie the photographer’s youth. For me, the strongest one is a photograph where the foreground is taken up with the artificial leg of what is presumably a war veteran. The focus point is here, and the hinges where the knee should be seem to gleam and sparkle. In the background, out of focus but very legible, a robed man is on his knees and bowing, propping himself up by two artificial arms. The caption says the location is unknown, and these two men are on the street. We don’t know what they are doing either, but within the context of the series, it’s hard not to see them as praying to a shrine committed to honoring Japan’s disgraced military. For Suzuki, it is enough to put the contradictions out there, and leave it at that.

In 1975, Suzuki was awarded the prestigious Taiyo-sho (The Sun Prize) for his series of photographs entitled “Pilgrimage to India.” For better or worse, India has been a fertile ground for Japanese photographers – Kikai Hiroh being one prominent example – looking for “other” photographic subject matter away from the home front. Suzuki mentions in his brief intro to the India work presented in Odyssey that his 100 days in India was his first time outside of Japan. While not about confrontations like his previous work, ironically the photos see a more confrontational Suzuki. Away from home, Suzuki starts to engage his subjects in a more direct and open manner, and often they stare back.

I had pleasant dreams and nightmares, looking through a frame measuring just 6cm x 6cm.

The India work seems to have presented Suzuki with a turning point, a chance to re-assess his photography up to that point, and the work that comes after and extends up to the present day has a different feel to it – almost a melding of the distant, observant Suzuki of the 60s and the in-your-face quality of the India work, a happy medium as it were. For this writer, the most interesting series in Odyssey is one entitled “Fables”, a modest grouping of images shot in Japan using the square 6cm x 6cm format. Whether this was an actual project Suzuki was working on at the time, or merely an arbitrary bringing together of disparate work for the purposes of this book, the series helps to show how Suzuki’s odyssey changes after India. It is not just a return to Japan that sets it apart, but for the first time, domestic scenes – most likely Suzuki’s own home, his own children – become a subject. Suzuki captions this series by writing, “I had pleasant dreams and nightmares, looking through a frame measuring just 6cm x 6cm”, and indeed there is a dreamlike quality to the work here, photographs taken out of context as it were. Children appear with masks, or they are shot behind screens or from behind, and there are a couple of portraits that would not be out of place in a Diane Arbus monograph. This collection of nine images finds Suzuki embracing artifice in a way he only had hinted at in the past.

Suzuki is still traveling though, with most of the post-India work presented here taken in places outside of Japan. Suzuki has made several trips to Ireland, and there are two different series of this work in Odyssey, including his most recent work shot in Dublin in 2004 and 2005, using a panoramic format. Suzuki prefaces this last series as one finding him alone in the streets of Dublin, “looking for traces of the Ireland from the days of James Joyce’s Ulysses”. A lot of Suzuki’s travels have been to other parts of Asia, work that is collected in the series entitled Druk (Bhutanese for “dragon”), which was released as a book earlier this year. (A vastly reduced sampling of this work is presented in Odyssey.)

Druk features work Suzuki shot in Singapore, Taiwan, and Shanghai, and the book is divided along these lines into three sections. It’s hard to avoid the realization that these three places were all occupied by Japan during World War II, although there are only a few images that seem to consciously point this out. Nevertheless, by focusing on these three locales, there is a sense that they allow Suzuki to satisfy his wanderlust yet remain somehow tied to Japan.

All of the photos in Druk (about 130 in all) were taken using the square format, which helps to make the work cohesive despite the different locales and the years when the material was shot. More than that, the square frame serves the material well, imposing an artificial, formal order on the often chaotic life occurring both within and out of the frame. Although there are no portraits per se in the book, there are quite a few shots of individuals, most caught in un-posed reflection or curiosity directed at the photographer. More than a few are captured behind sunglasses, lending them a slighly raffish air.

Actually, “raffish” is probably a good word to describe a lot of the city scenes in Druk, though I’m not sure how good a thing that is. I have no doubt that there is plenty of blight to go around in the places Suzuki has taken his camera, even in a place like Singapore which tends to be perceived by the West as more “like us”. And to be sure, there is a substantial amount of photos that can be said to be capturing that crossroads of developing and developed — a theme of the book in and of itself. But there is also the inescapable feeling that Suzuki was, if not exactly looking for the “old world”, certainly attracted by this aspect of it. You wonder if Suzuki is traveling to these places not so much to capture a bit of what life is like there as to capture what life used to be like here, in Japan.

These three locations, each with complicated relationships to their former occupier, are certainly a fertile ground for Suzuki’s traveling dragon, and for the most part you feel Suzuki is aware of the contradictions even if he isn’t fully capable of harnessing them. That he isn’t may be down to a subconscious desire to find again that young girl of Sanya that opened the Odyssey collection. I for one would rather have Suzuki looking ahead and therefore, as much as much of the photos themselves in Druk are wonderful, the book as a whole doesn’t wholly satisfy.

Book recommendations

Both Odyssey and Druk are published by Heibonsha, a publisher with a long history and a strong pedigree in photo book publishing. The books are well-printed, and feel sturdy and substantial. The photo captions, as well as the essays about Suzuki and his work, are translated into English in both books. The Druk book is a bit larger, as are the photos themselves. Pricing for both is identical.

As detailed above, Odyssey is a retrospective look at Suzuki’s career up to the present. Druk, on the other hand, is a body of work that Suzuki shot in Singapore, Taiwan, and Shanghai, and is grouped as such in the book. Odyssey features approximately 150 photographs, mostly one to a page, although for the later work done with a panorama camera, sometimes a single photo is spread over two pages, or there are photos printed two to a page. Druk, on the other hand, features 132 plates, all one photo to one page. The images are all in a square 6cm x 6cm format.

If you were to limit yourself to one, then it is a bit of a toss-up as to which one to get. Odyssey is of course an obvious choice, since it is a retrospective look at Suzuki’s entire career from the early 60s up to the present decade. Those who enjoy what they find in Odyssey could then add Druk to their collection. On the other hand, it must be said that in this writer’s opinion, the sampling of the “Druk” work in Odyssey is not as strong as it could be, and it would be a shame for people who like Suzuki’s work to pass on Druk because of it. Furthermore, of the two, Druk feels the more substantial, and the more likely to reward repeated viewings, despite my misgivings noted above.

Ryoichi Aratani

I saw a a gallery of photos in the underground walkway between Hibiya and Ginza station. Not the most glamourous exhibition space I suppose. Nonetheless, the prints were nice to look at (taken on film, printed digitally as it turned out) and I recommend looking at the website. Might be a little difficult to navigate without understanding Japanese, just click on the photo next to the camera for the series. Oh, and don’t bother with the cats.

Photobook: Merry House

Merry House Cover

This book was not planned to happen. It was created somewhat accidentally, without a concrete result in mind. In spring 2006 I went out with a then new digital camera and came up with the idea to a flash project, essentially a fancy term for a collection of photographs on a specific topic to be created within a short period of time. Evaluating the appearance and other formal qualities of digital images, I set out to emulate Japanese photography or at least what was my impression of it. Seemingly arbitrary photos of environment and people, high in colour saturation, film grain and often out of focus, low in formality and overall a highly subjective and personal assessment of the immediate and trivial.

 The shallow mystery of the Japanese photobook has been revealed and it is time to move on.

The results somewhat surprised me. Perhaps an overall disrespect towards the photography style I had in mind and the consequent effect to not take the subject matter and even the image-making process itself too seriously helped producing the imagery involved. Looking at the results as a series of photographs, it appeared that in a particular way the aggregate result was greater than the sum of its parts. Once again, a surprise. The Japanese photobook, a small format book with the images printed in full bleed i.e. without image borders or explanatory captions seemed the natural way forward. The result to which you see here.

While it is perhaps not breaking new ground photographically, the book is an attractive artefact and is pleasant to read through and enjoy the images. At the same time it feels that the shallow mystery of the Japanese photobook has been revealed and it is time to move on.

Photobook, soft cover, 8 inch x 6 inch, 54 pages, 52 colour images.

Click to purchase book SOLD OUT

Second edition available on Blurb

By Dirk Rösler

Our Day 1960 – 2004

Tomiyama Haruo - Our Day

An analog photograph and a digital photograph cannot be compared. It is because their images are completely different. I like to call the photographic image of the digital camera an “optical picture.” It is not easy to recognise that an analog photograph and a digital photograph are completely different images.

The above words and the photo are those of Haruo Tomiyama, another lucky find at my local library who always seem to be able to surprise with photo books. But maybe it is also just me making an extra effort looking at Japanese books right now and learning from this country’s visual artists. This book is called Our Day and features the photos of a series of the same name conceived in 1964 by the Asahi Journal.

When first flicking through the book, I was a bit mystified by the titles of the pictures, such as Overcrowding, Independence, Fixation or Allowance. It is suggested in the good foreword of the book, that Tomiyama is a socially critical photographer, but since most of the time is rather difficult to associate the content of the pictures with the titles, one feels a bit left out like when being confronted with a very long series of inside jokes. Later, in the epilogue it is revealed that the words were made up combinations of a series of Japanese characters (Chinese of you want to be really precise) by established writers and the like, and the intention was to parody society using those expressions. For me, this is a rather risky way of starting out, and there is a discreet underlying sense of disconnection due to the permanent fear of not getting the joke. Strangely I found this rather distracting from the photographs. Page for page one wonders whether one can decipher the next Sphinx-like riddle and I had a hard time focussing on the images first time round.

It is not easy to recognise that an analog photograph and a digital photograph are completely different images.

Looking at the photos, however, there is some really exquisite material featured in the book, a witness to the great timing and general mastery of the craft that Tomiyama is capable of. On his website you can run a commentated slide show of some of the featured images. There are many pictures that are a joy to look at many times over, and given enough sensitivity on part of the viewer, the critical or tongue-in-cheek message will reach its destination without the repeated imaginary subtitle these are critical photos from and about Japan. In other circumstances of life in Japan I learnt that while the Japanese don’t like directness and are masters of subtlety, they just often need seem to need obviousness. This may be one of those occasions.

I think there is a strong need for portraying Japan in the way it is being done here. In my opinion the population of this country seems to be accepting to suffer too many disadvantages all too willingly in exchange for the well-being of the Japanese collective or the elite classes. Examples are crowded and often outdated housing, ruined landscapes and cityscapes, and a completely hopeless work-life-balance resulting in a drastically inferior quality of life when compared to other industrial nations. Photographs like Tomiyama’s can help bringing these conditions into our consciousness, provided there is an audience out there that wants or at least is ready to hear it. This is doubtful and could explain the cynic undertone that I feel I have detected here.

Could Tomiyama be an outsider? Some anecdotal stories in the preface of the book about his biography seem to indicate that this is the case. It is emphasised as a virtue, but as we all know, there is a delicate line to tread between the detached outsider (that we also often are as non-Japanese) and the uncritical and immersed insider. Pronouncing the outside view may make you more relevant and to the point elsewhere, but may alienate the subject of criticism back home where it is most needed. I am not saying this is the case here, and I am certainly not the one to judge, it is merely and observation and lesson for at least myself.

Tokyo 1934-1993

This is an interesting and rather hefty book with street photographs by Kineo Kuwabara. One of the ever-returning realisations about photos about Japan is, that often you simply cannot tell the day and age that the photos were taken in. So even though the photos are in roughly chronological order, the reader is sometimes challenged to guess – until you read the caption (and the image on the left is also not one of them, of course). Another very prominent aspect in the photos is the heavy feature of written text, of shops, posters, signs. This is rather appealing, equivalent to looking at unknown products in a Japanese supermarket, attractive even if the meaning of the text is not completely comprehended by a non-Japanese speaker.

A surprising, if not somehow disappointing omission are photographs from the period of WW2. I can only think that either the photographer was in the military as well and had no opportunity to take pictures, or photographic materials became too scarce to continue taking photos. In the middle of the book there is a section of Kuwabara’s colour photographs, while the rest is in black and white. The colour work seems a little haphazard, however. Coming to the 1970s, Tokyo is more and more becoming the town we know today, while up to the 1960s some views of the town seem rather shabby, and still we see some traces of that nowadays.

My only gripe with many of the photos is that too often they seem to display a little too much timidness of the photographer. We see many backs of people or people in the distance, sometimes both. Formally speaking there seems rather little personal visual language in the photos, although I may be applying a value system of the year 2004 with this statement. Kuwabara was after all an amateur as a photographer (if that means anything, apart from only taking pictures for himself), even though a photo editor by profession. The images are however getting a large lift by their documentary value, by showing things as they used to be. Whether that’s enough is for the reader to decide. For me this is probably a “borrow” book, not a “buy”, although there is enough material in the book to encourage the occasional browse if you own it, and I admit I find myself drawn to it in a nice way. Alternative review here.