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.