Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Emerging Japanese Photographer File 1: Kenta Cobayashi

Kenta Cobayashi (b. Kawasaki, Kanagawa-Prefecture, Japan, 1992, male)

Cobayashi was awarded the Bachelor of Fine Arts at Tokyo Zokei University, Tokyo in 2015.  He has organized MMGGZZNN, a project to hand-publish mega-sized zines in collaboration with his international artist friends.  He has shown his work at many group exhibitions in Japan and Europe, including: 'The Devil May Care'Noorderlicht Photogalle, The Netherlands, 2015), 'hyper-materiality on photo' (G/P gallery Shinonome, Tokyo, 2015), ‘New Japanese Photography (DOOMED GALLERY, London, 2015) etc.  

Cobayashi will have his first solo exhibition at G/P Gallery from February 27 to March 27, 2016 (curated by Shigeo Goto).  He is also working on an upcoming publication by NEWFAVE, after self-publishing a zine with Daisuke Yokota last year, and self-publishing two books in 2014.  His new book will include pictures taken at a shared studio (PALAST) he runs in Tokyo, where he has lived and worked with his artist friends since January 2015.

Cobayashi is highly inspired by Douglas Adams’s “The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy”.  He acknowledges the fact that we live in the world where everything arises from chaos, and he hopes that his work reflects the current state of society you would perceive if you could use a time machine and visit.

Kenta has collaborated with Daisuke Yokota, NORIKONAKAZATO (fashion designer) and Yuki Takada (programmer) for his exhibitions, and plans to work with the other artists and creators in the future.

Monday, October 6, 2014

File 8: "Kamagasaki" by Seiryu Inoue, 1985, reviewed by Natsuko Oda

“Kamagasaki”, an ambitious photographic project that Seiryu Inoue embarked when he was only in his twenties, took him five years to complete.  The resulting book, originally published in 1985, was the only book of Inoue’s photography published during his lifetime.

The part of Osaka City known as Kamagasaki has a negative image for most Japanese because unemployed people gather from all over in Japan and reside in this area.  Kamagasaki has been either avoided as an object of dread or sought out as an object of curiosity for a long time.  Although it has improved slightly over the years, poverty and thus discrimination against Kamagasaki still exist in Japan.

The book, which revolves around the riot that happened in Kamagasaki in 1960, is comprised of three parts: the first part, “Ningen Hyakkei” (A Hundred Views of Humans), show the lives of the residents before the riot; the second part, “Arashi no Yume” (Dream of Storm), the four days of the riot; and the last part, “Zekkyou no Ato” (After Screaming), the reconstruction after the riot.

Inoue and Shinichi Tsukasa, a labor union activist in Kamagasaki, wrote the postscript for the book, and Osamu Higashibuchi, a poet based in Kamagasaki, inserted fourteen verses throughout the book and provided Inoue's project with lyrical effects. 

The book's first part, "Ningen Hyakkei", was originally exhibited in his solo show, "Ningen Hyakkei Kamagasaki" at Gekkou Gallery, Tokyo in 1960.  Unfortunately, his exhibition was not featured in any of the professional photo magazines.  But after a riot actually occurred in the next year, his work finally received a significant amount of attention  He also received two prestigious prizes, The Fifth Japan Photo Critics Association New Face Award and Camera Art New Face Award in 1961.

Social Documentary was one of the most popular subjects in Japan in the 1950s and 60s.  Ken Domon’s “Chikuhou no Kodomotachi” (Children in Chikuhou Prefecture), published in 1960, left a strong impact among Japanese photo community, so Inoue could more comfortably take the themes of poverty and unemployment for his project.  “Kamagasaki" was not merely objective documentary, but it explored Inoue’s personal concerns about social contradictions, and his strong and deep perspective on human beings.

Most of the photos were taken secretly, or taken without looking at the viewfinder, in order to avoid any possible conflict with Kamagasaki residents. The photos are therefore out of focus, and the compositions are often not fixed, although they successfully deliver the emotions of residents living in tough situations. The captured images are sensational; a woman, maybe a sex worker, is loitering on the street. A man, who maybe relieved himself, is exposing his back hip on the side of the road. A thin, malnourished girl has vacant eyes. Numerous hands of unemployed people looking for work float across the pages.

Through these straightforward and cruel close-up shots, we experience the actual events as they were. We feel the dust and smell the odors in the streets.

Inoue stated in the postscript: “What I thought about in taking the photos while living at a doya (cheap and neglected hotel for unemployed people) was that they made me realize that I liked myself so much, enough to make me cry, and that I hated myself so much, enough to make me want to die.” Inoue was looking at human weakness and wretchedness in an extreme situation while seeing himself in those he photographed, and he felt deep despair. The photographs are living documents about the relationships on the street, and Inoue wanted to affirm through them the human condition he found in Kamagasaki.

Natsuko Oda: photobook writer, currently based in Hiroshima, Japan, specializes in Japanese photobooks in the 60s-70s, earned the Master of Arts in Photography and certificate of Museum of Art Counsil from Nihon University in 2000.  Master thesis on Diane Arbus.

Book Info:

Title: Kamagasaki
Artist: Seiryu Inoue
Design: Haruo Shimonaga
Text: Seiryu Inoue, Shinichi Tsukasa, Osamu Higashibuchi
Publisher: Ginga Shobou
Date: 1985
Edition: 500
Size: 7.87×11.81 inches 
Binding: hardcover
Page: 129 images in 180 pages

Artist Info:

Seiryu Inoue

Japanese, b. 1931- d. 1988

Born in Kouchi prefecture to a farm family, Inoue lost his left index finger and the middle finger of his dominant hand while cutting fodder when he was six years old. When he was in junior high school, he had to support his family as the eldest son because his father joined the military. At the age of fourteen, his mother died before his father came back. After his father’s remarriage, Inoue ran away from home because of a feud with his parents. In 1951, at the age of nineteen, his uncle introduced him to Takeji Iwamiya, a renowned photographer in Osaka because he was worried about his emotionally distressed nephew.  Inoue became Iwamiya's apprentice.  Inoue later went back to his hometown because of pleurisy,  although he never go back home and lived alone in a cave for a year. He then returned to Osaka and began working at Iwamiya Photos, a commercial photography studio.

In 1958, when he was twenty-seven years old, Inoue happened to visit Kamagasaki, which immediately attracted him, and he began to take reportage photos.  He moved to Kamagasaki and lived in a doya where unemployed people resided. He wore shabby clothes like the others, and drank and communicated with them. He did not take a single photo for a year since he wanted to lower the residents’ defenses.

Two years later, in May 1960, Inoue mounted his first exhibition, “Ningenhyakkei Kamagasaki,” at Gekkou Gallery in Tokyo. The following year he won two prestigious prizes for his exhibition: The Fifth Japan Photo Critics Association New Face Award and Camera Art New Face Award. In August of the same year, a huge riot occurred in Kamagasaki. More than ten thousand people fought with the police for four days.  Inoue got into the center of the arson, rock-throwing and vandalism. He wrapped a towel, which had a hole for the camera lens, around a compact camera with his hand and pretended to throw rocks while he took pictures. After the situation calmed, Inoue joined a Kamagasaki labor union as an official  photographer and covered news in the town.

Beside his Kamagasaki project, Inoue made social documentary of Koreans people who lived in Japan (after his death, published as “Hokkikou”(Return to the North) in 1994), but he remained connected to Kamagasaki for life by joining a literary circle, “Hadaka no Kai” (Naked Club) where people talk about Kamagasaki, and cooperated with television documentary programs.

Since 1976, Inoue had taught a photography course at Osaka University of Arts, and was engaged in the education of young photographers such as Kou Inose and Gen Yamaguchi.  In 1986, he began to photograph traditional life and the natural features of the Amami Islands located in southwestern Japan. He often went to the islands and developed a relationship with their residents, but unfortunately, he died in a drowning accident in the sea while taking photographs. This unfinished series was published as “Amami” with a help from people who were very close to Inoue.

Thanks to Daido Moriyama and Kou Inose, Inoue’s works are now being re-evaluated. Especially, Daido, who was Inoue’s younger apprentice at Iwamiya Photos, greatly admired Inoue so that he reminisced, “I could understand what street photography was only through my relationship with Inoue.”  Osamu Wataya, a fashion art director with Hysteric Glamour, reorganized Inoue’s work, and thanks to Wataya, Inoue’s photography was reborn with modern sensibilities and gains more attention.


1985  Kamagasaki, Ginga-shobou
1990  Amami, Soubun-sya
1994  Hokkikou (Return to the North), Remembrance of Seiryu Inoue
2001  Hysteric One Seiryu Inoue, Hysteric Glamour
2003  Irresistible Steps Seiryu Inoue 1956-1988, Soukyuu-sya
2007  Seiryu Inoue/Ichirou Kojima, Rat Hole Gallery
2011  Hito to Ishi (Man and Stone), Zen Foto Gallery
           Kamagasaki Kodomo (Kamagasaki Children), Zen Foto Gallery


1960  Ningen Hyakkei Kamagasaki (Hundred Views of Human) Gekkou Gallery, Tokyo
1962  Zekkyou no Ato Kamagasaki (After Screaming Kamagasaki) Osaka city, Airin Hall
1962  ’61 Japan Photo Critics Association Awarded Photographers Exhibition, Fuji Photo Salon, Tokyo
1970  Warera Nippon Dochakumin Ten (We are the Indigenous Peoples of Japan Exhibition) Kobe Gallery, Kobe
1971  Takeji Iwamiya Clan Photo Exhibition, Hankyuu Department Gallery, Osaka
1977  Document of Sinking Kunisaki, Ikeda Bank Yamashita Branch, Hyougo
1984  Association of Japanese Photographer 1984 Members in Osaka Exhibition, Fuji Photo Salon, Osaka
1985  Seiryu Inoue Exhibition, Ginga MiniHall・House of Poet Kamagasaki, Osaka
           Seiryu Inoue Photo exhibition Kikoku (Return to Country) Cafe Dorumen, Osaka
           Human Rights Week in Collage Seiryu Inoue Photo exhibition Ningen Sengen (Declaration of Humanity)
1987  Art Information Center Exhibit Hall, Osaka University of Arts
1996 Seiryu Inoue Photo Exhibition Kamagasaki, Konica Plaza Shinjuku and Osaka (Organized by Daido
           Moriyama, Kou Inose and Gen Yamaguchi)
2001  Seiryu Inoue Kamagasaki/Daido Moriyama Cherry Blossom, Place M, Tokyo
2004  1956-1988 Seiryu Inoue Exhibition, Place M, Tokyo
2005  Seiryu Inoue Photo Exhibition, Amagasaki Cultural Center Art Hall

Monday, June 23, 2014

File 7: "Stripper Zukan" by Yoshiichi Hara, 1982, reviewed by Natsuko Oda

Since 1975 Yoshiichi Hara has made more than fifteen hundred photographs of strip-tease artists – and Stripper Zukan is regarded as the starting point of this lifelong project.  In 1981 Hara held his first 'stripper' exhibition at the Ginza Nikon Salon Gallery in Tokyo – featuring the photographs of two hundred strippers created after visiting some three hundred Tokyo-area strip clubs.  The next year he published Stripper Zukan, which comprised of only sixty-five portraits from that series, a book inspired by E.J. Bellocq’s Storyville Portraits (Little Brown & Co, 1970, with images championed – and posthumously printed – by Lee Friedlander).

One immediately sees that each of the book’s portraits is from the clubs’ 'greenrooms'. The greenroom functions as a portal between the stripper’s often-mundane life and the bright stage-lights – a place where a woman metamorphoses into a stripper. Despite the photographer’s presence the women of Stripper Zukan appear relaxed, innocent, and defenseless – alone in their greenroom, protected from the outside world, their true selves before becoming fantasy objects.

Stripper Zukan presents a variety of images of women comfortably napping or lazily smoking – often with too much makeup on a stressed face, but posing proudly with a cheerful smile. There are also various body-types, with too small breasts, fat bellies, skinny arms and legs, and peculiar tattoos – in underwear or showy sequined costumes. In the background may be club notices stuck on the walls or an unmade futon. One discovers the strippers’ fatigue, bravado, sadness, and coquetry throughout Hara’s work. You cannot help but wonder how Hara achieved such free and relaxed expressions – and why he chose to show us these greenroom scenes instead of more typical stage shots.

When Hara was eighteen-years old he traveled to an old spa town in northern Japan and found a strip-club there. A middle-aged stripper, with her fat belly, was standing on the stage – at the side of stage a child (possibly her own child) was roaming about. Hara lost any sexual desire associated with this art because this stripper remained him of his mother – and that the child could be himself. This triggered his introspection and empathy that – under different circumstances – she could have been his mother. 

In short, Hara understood that strippers each have individual lives behind the bright lights – and he recognized that behind their attitude and toughness, these women, who used their own bodies to earn a living, had everyday, often ordinary, lives, needs, and dreams.

In 2013 Hara held an exhibition of vintage prints at Gallery Sekka in Tokyo. As he looked back on his early days he said, “Most of the strippers I met in the past were older than me. And now they are growing older, but I’m sure they still strive to maintain a shadow of how they once looked. I also have aged – I’m already sixty-five years old. I want to show you how the photographs I made and those days haven’t changed. They remain portraits of proud strippers who I love very much”.

Hara’s sincere respect for strippers and their lives can be felt in these words. He praises their spirit and intellect as they try to first be authentic women before dancing as (male fantasy) strippers. In addition he admires their courage as they live hard lives while conscious that they are regarded only as sexual objects to their viewers.

With his sympathy for every stripper he met – and for her life behind the stage, Hara persistently focused on the greenrooms, where strippers show their naked faces as real women. By arranging their portraits in a simple 'zukan'-style (illustrated reference book) Hara presents anonymous identities, but elevates these lives, and their special occupation, into the universality of being any women.

(English translation by Masato Fukuda, Michael Lang, Miwa Susuda)

Natsuko Oda: photobook writer, currently based in Hiroshima, Japan, specializes in Japanese photobooks in the 60s-70s, earned the Master of Arts in Photography and certificate of Museum of Art Counsil from Nihon University in 2000.  Master thesis on Diane Arbus.


Title: Stripper Zukan

Artist: Yoshiichi Hara

Designer: Yoshiichi Hara

Publisher: Del-sha (self-published)

Date: 1982

Size: 31×26 cm

Binding/pages: softcover/128pp


Yoshiichi Hara

Japanese, b. 1948

Born in Tokyo, Hara grew up near the theater house where his parents used to take him.  Later the theater became his life long fascination for his work.  Hara was first introduced to camera at his early age and he used to take pictures of his cat, family and any surrounding with a camera that his elder brother won as a prize.  In 1971 he entered Chiyoda Design Photography school.  He held his debut exhibition, “Touhoku Zanzou” (Afterglow of the North Eastern Province), at Ginza Cannon Salon Gallery in 1973. During this period he also joined a circus in Miyazaki prefecture and he took many photographs of their performers. In 1974 he became a photographer for a tabloid paper that was the only newspaper featuring strip-clubs in Japan at the time. After leaving this newspaper company, he devoted himself to photographing strippers around Tokyo – and he has taken their portrait photos as his main subject ever since.

When he worked as a photographer for adult magazines, he had taken, on average, photographs of three strippers per week for forty years, which he used to consider to be his duty.

In addition to this photography books, Hara has published many books about the culture and history of the vanishing world of striptease.

Recently he stopped to take any assignment for adult magazines (because of heart illness) and devotes himself only to his own personal projects. Especially his later work was created from his view of life and death and his understanding of life’s uncertainty. Hara continues to pursue the question of “what is life about?” and always goes back to the days when he first took photographs of strippers.  His photography has been recently reviewed favorably in Japan.


1978 Fuubaika (Wind-pollinated Flower), Del-sha, self-published
1980 My Gypsy Rose, Yagenbura Sensyo, Bansei-sha
1982 Stripper Zukan (Strippers Illustrated Book), Del-sha, self-published
1984 Shyukujo roku Hara Yoshiichi Collection (Documents of Ladies in Yoshiichi  Hara Collection), Bansei-sha
1988 Mandara Zukan (Illustrated Book of Buddhist Visual Schema of the Enlightened Mind), Bansei-sha
1994 1994 Strippers Meikan (Directory of Strippers 1994), Fuuga-shobou
1995 Kageyama Rina Densetsu (The Legend of Rina Kageyama), Seijin-sha
1999 The City Where Strip Club (Stripp no Aru Machi)Jiyuukokumin-sya 
2000 The Strippers, Futaba-sha
200The Strippers 2, Futaba-sha
2001 The Strippers 3, Futaba-sha
2008 Utsutsu no Yami (The Darkness of Reality), Soukyuu-sha
2010 Showa Strip Kikou (Travel-writing About Strip in Showa Era), co-published by Tetsuhiko Sakata & Pot Publisher
2011 Hikari aru uchi ni (While It Is Still Light), Soukyuu-sha
2013 Tokoyo no Mushi (Insects in the Eternal World), Soukyuu-sha
2013 Tenshi Mita Machi (In The City With Angel), PlaceM 


1973 Touhoku Zanzou(Afterglow of the North Eastern Province) Ginza Cannon Salon Gallery
1980 Stripper Zukan (Strippers Illustrated Book) Ginza Nikon Salon Gallery and Osaka Nikon Salon Gallery
1981 Nobori No Enkei (A Distant View of Flags Flying)group exhibition Sinjuku Nikon Salon Gallery
1983 Shyukujo roku  (Documents of Ladies ) Shinjuku Minolta Space Gallery
1986 Mandara Zukan (Illustrated Book of Buddhist Visual Schema of the Enlightened Mind) Shinjuku Nikon Salon Gallery and Osaka Nikon Salon Gallery
1987 Mandara Zukan Ⅱ(Illustrated Book of Buddhist Visual Schema of the Enlightened Mind Ⅱ) K Gallery Fukushima 
1993 Eros No Kokuin(Carved Seal of Eros)Ginza Nikon Salon Gallery and Osaka Nikon Salon Gallery
2002 Utsutsu no Yami (The Darkness of Reality) Ginza Nikon Salon Gallery 
2008 Utsutsu no Yami Ⅱ(The Darkness of Reality Ⅱ) Soukyuu-sya Gallery
2009 Maboroshi no Machi(The Lost Illusional Citys) group exhibition Third District Gallery Shinjuku
         Maboroshi no Toki(The Lost Illusional Times) Soukyuu-sya Gallery
     Tokoyo no Mushi Ⅰ(Insects in the Eternal World  Ⅰ)Third District Gallery Shinjuku
2010 Hikari aru ichi ni Ⅰ (While It Is Still Light Ⅰ) Third District Gallery Shinjuku
2011 Hikari aru uchi ni Ⅱ (While It Is Still Light Ⅱ) Totodo Gallery Shibuya
        Hikari aru uchi ni Ⅲ (While It Is Still Light Ⅲ) Ban Photo Gallery Nagoya
2012 Hikari aru uchi ni (While It Is Still Light ) Ginza Nikon Salon Gallery  and Osaka Nikon Salon Gallery
         Shashin no kai syou ten (Exhibition of the Prize of “Society of Photography) Place M Gallery Shinjuku
   Tokoyo no Mushi Ⅱ (Insects in the Eternal World Ⅱ )Third District Gallery Shinjuku
2013 Participated in Japanese Art Photographers 107 at Tokyo International Forum
    Tokoyo no Mushi (Insects in the Eternal World ) Ginza Nikon Salon Gallery  and Osaka Nikon Salon Gallery
   Tenshi Mita Machi (In The City With Angel) PlaceM Gallery, Shinjuku
   Stripper Zukan(Strippers Illustrated Book) Sekka Gallery, Ueno

File 6: "Bible" by Momo Okabe, 2014, reviewed by Betsy Clifton

If God is dead, he’s surely rolling in his grave. Momo Okabe’s Bible, in both stature and spirit will not fit into your bedside table, although its alluring gold foil stamping and crimson suede cover will persuade you to keep it close. Juxtaposing images of underground Tokyo nightlife and the destruction wrought by the tsunami in Miyagi, and India between 2008 and 2014 Bible is a testament to the unwavering complexity of Momo Okabe’s everyday life with her lovers and friends. Alongside their pursuance of a genuine identity and sense of belonging, Okabe unfolds the “sad, yet beautiful scenery that they could perceive after overcoming the long and difficult struggle out from their traumatic past.” The sincerity and depth of Okabe’s work unwinds a sweetness within the tension of collective alienation; a window into a kaleidoscopic heart.

 Bible is published by Session Press as a part of an ongoing, earnest mission to acquaint Japanese artists to an international audience. This is Okabe’s second US monograph published by Session Press following her unique artist book Dildo, an incredibly labored small edition in 2013. Okabe has been highly acclaimed by Nobuyoshi Araki at New Cosmos of Photography in 1999 and Masafumi Sanai at Epson Color Image in 2009 as well as by many other prestigious competitions in Japan. It is difficult, however, to position Okabe’s work into the norm of contemporary Japanese photography often associated with its perfection in composition and quiet meditation with subjects. Outside of the mainstream photo community, Okabe has pioneered her own electric yet sensitive color pallet to convey her overflowing emotions onto her work. It’s the kind of color that reminds me of what wandering around a desert would look like; the purples your eyes find after you’ve stared at the sun, the reds that hover over hot sand, and the depths of blues and greens that are only remembered through your imagination.

Since I first finished Bible it continued to swim around my head and churn up a poignant realizations of all how so few things are our own that we can really talk about. Take our designated terms — a mother, a father, a family — words that describe what we already know as feeling above all.  The language in Bible — of a boy, a girl — struck this same cord as a visceral dichotomy, headlining what photography handles that words cannot. Okabe has brought a new breed of personification forward to a Japanese subculture long deserving of a platform. Her pulse between landscape and body imagery is not for the faint-of-heart, Okabe’s intimate access to gender identity (both pre and postoperative) is as urgent as it is courageous. Her rhythm continues to kick up the sediment of my mind once settled in the overtly intellectualized practice so prevalent in today’s contemporary photography scene, and begins to reposition critical perspectives towards compassion, intimacy, and camaraderie. Momo Okabe is enlightened over the weight of the history and tradition that stands before her, and keeps dear a why to live that endures almost any how.

Betsy Clifton is a book designer and distribution manager at Dashwood Books in New York, NY. She has contributed to numerous Dashwood publications over the past three years, most recently with artists Jason Polan, Stefan Marx, and Ari Marcopoulos. She received her BFA from the School of Visual Arts and is currently an M.Arch candidate at the University of California, Berkeley.


Title: BIBLE

Artist: Momo Okabe

Design: Momo Okabe

Text: Ko Kosugi

Translation: Daniel Gonzalez

Publisher: Session Press

Date: 2014

Edition: 300, SIGNED, regular edition 
Edition: 20, with an archival color C print SIGNED, NUMBERED by Artist

Size: 9.84 x 14.17 inches

Binding/printing/weight/page: hardcover, off-set color printing, 95 color images in 122 pages, 7 pounds.


Momo Okabe

Japanese, b. 1981

Momo Okabe was born in Tokyo in 1981 and received her B.F.A. in photography from Nihon University of Art in 2004.  Her work has been nominated by many prestigious competitions in Japan including:

-Special Award “The 8th Exhibition of New Cosmos of Photography selected  Nobuyoshi Araki “, P3 art and environment, Tokyo, 1999.
-Fine prize for” the 19th 3.3㎡ Exhibition”, Guardian Garden Tokyo, 2002.
-Excellent Work Prize “Color Imaging Contest of EPSON”, Tokyo International Forum, 2004.
-Fine work prize “The 30th Exhibition of New Cosmos of Photography ”,  Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, 2007.
-Special Jury Prize , “Color Imaging Contest of EPSON selected by Masafumi Sanai” EPSON, Tokyo, Japan, 2009.
-Selected for Yokohama Photo Festival Exhibition, Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse, 2010.
-Selected for Tokyo Portfolio Review Exhibition, NADiff A/P/A/R/T,Tokyo, 2010.
-“DILDO” (session press, 2014) selected for 2013 PHOTOEYE BEST PHOTOBOOK by Hisako Motoo.


Artbeat publsiher, Tokyo, 2010, 100 ltd edition

UNSEEN/TSUMAMI (with Kokey Kanno)
Dashwood Books, NY, 2012, 200 ltd edition

Session Press, NY,  2013, 55 ltd edition

Saturday, March 1, 2014

File 5 "Nagare no Uta / soul and soul” by Kiyoshi Suzuki, 1972, reviewed by Natsuko Oda

"Nagare no Uta / soul and soul" by Kiyoshi Suzuki, 1972 

"Nagare no Uta / soul and soul" is the first self-published book made by Kiyoshi Suzuki in 1972.  It is comprised of four sections from “Series: Tankou no Machi” (the colliery town) and his other projects.  “Series: Tankou no Machi” was originally commissioned by a photo magazine, “Camera Mainichi” and the article was issued six times from 1969 to 1970 right around the time he graduated from Tokyo College of Photography.

Suzuki started taking pictures for this project in Tokiwa coal mine while he was still a student at photography school. The idea came naturally to Suzuki since he was in fact born and raised in the same town.  In addition, Ken Domon's “Chikuho no Kodomotachi” (Patoria Shoten, 1960: Chikuho was another large coal mine town in Fukuoka) was so aspiring to him that it was a reason why he wanted to become a photographer.  Compared with the documental style of Domon, Suzuki’s work looks extremely personal.

Suzuki wrote ‘For my sister’ at the beginning and ‘so far days in my home town’ in the first chapter of the book.  They clearly indicate an autobiographical aspect of his work. Through his book, he tried to regain the fleeting memories of his own childhood as if a projector showed records of his earlier days.

Like the excellent first books by many other master photographers,  “Nagare no Uta” established his own unique style that was applied to his following projects. 

The image of a basin on the book cover is regarded as a prime example.  Suzuki repeated the motif of the round container filled with water in his other projects:  “Tenchi Gijou” (92), “Syura no Tani” (94) and “Durasu no Ryoudo” (98). Especially in “Tenchi Gijou” Suzuki was fascinated with an erotic element of a basin and introduced verse by his favorite poet, Mitsuharu Kaneko (1895-1975). (Kaneko made it when he was dreaming of traveling around Asia.)  In Kaneko’s poem ('Washbasin' in "Elegies to Women", Sogensha, Tokyo, 1949), a basin was depicted for cooking by people living in a small town in Indonesia and it was symbol of sturdiness and poverty. Kaneko also implies sentimental eroticism because prostitutes used a basin as a tool for making a quiet sad sound by urinating in front of their guests. 

Another important subject matter for Suzuki’s work is the circus.  Suzuki took a photo of a barnstormer in “Nagare no Uta” and, circus and homeless people in “Tenmaku no Machi.”  Suzuki discussed later that an idea came from the vivid memory of his childhood when his father brought him to a circus. He had a strong empathy and longing for lives of the people who moved aimlessly from place to place without any attachment.

(English translation by Alan Masters and Miwa Susuda)

Natsuko Oda: photobook writer, currently based in Hiroshima, Japan, specializes in Japanese photobooks in the 60s-70s, earned the Master of Arts in Photography and certificate of Museum of Art Counsil from Nihon University in 2000.  Master thesis on Diane Arbus.

Alan Masters: Photographer, photobook collector.  "Vers l'Est", his new monograph will be published in Spring 2014.


Title: Nagare no Uta/soul and soul

Artist: Kiyoshi Suzuki

Designed: Kiyoshi Suzuki

Publisher: Self-published

Date: 1972

Size: 9.52×8.26 inches


ARTIST INFO: Kiyoshi Suzuki

Japanese, b. 1943-2000

Born in the Tokiwa coal town, Iwaki city, Fukushima.  After his graduation from a high school as a part-time student, he went to Tokyo and tried to become a cartoonist.  However, he soon gave up that option.  Meanwhile, Suzuki was highly influenced by Ken Domon’s photobook, ”Chikuho no Kodomotachi” (Patoria Shoten, 1960, “the kids in Chikuhou” / Chikuho was another large colliery town in Fukuoka) and he decided to become a photographer.  He entered Tokyo College of Photography and completed his study in 1969.

In 1970, he accomplished his first official work, “Series Tankou no Machi” for the photo magazine “Camera Mainichi” in 6 series (Tankou means coal mine).  For this project, he had the opportunity to travel all over the Japan and take many pictures in the several coal mines. Based on the project, he self-published “Nagare no Uta/soul and soul” in 1972.

Suzuki supported his own personal projects and family by working as a commercial sign painter and photography teacher at the Tokyo Collage of Photography over the thirty years.

He had published seven photobooks while he was still alive and "Shura no Tani" (Finish Dying) was nominated for the prestagious photo prize, Domon Ken award in 1992.  Except "The Ship of Fools" (IPC), all his books are self publications.

In 1976 “Braman no Hikari” (The light that has lighted the world)
In 1982 “Tenmaku no Machi  (Mind Games) (received 33rd photographic association of Japan newcomer award).
In 1988 “Yume no Hashiri  (Street Shuffle) 
In 1991 “Gusha no Fune” (The Ship of Fools) published by IPC.
In1992 “Tenchi Gijo / Kiyoshi Suzuki Photographs 1990–92 ” (Southern Breeze)
In 1994 “Shura no Tani”(Finish Dying) (received the 14th Domon Ken award) 
In1998 “Dyurasu no Ryodo”. (Durasia)

Bookmaking played a central role in Kiyoshi Suzuki’s career. He applied the same type of binding technique as the Japanese old literature book since literature is very important for his artistic development.  

Recently, Suzuki’s work had been reevaluated at the large institution in the world. In 2008, Machiel Botman, one of renowned Dutch photographers, curated the exhibition, “Kiyoshi Suzuki – Soul and Soul 1969-1999” at Noorderlicht Photo Gallery in Groningen, the Netherlands. His "Soul and Soul" was republished in 2008 by Aurora Borealis for this exhibition.  

In 2010, the other Suzuki’s important retrospective, “Suzuki Kiyoshi Hundred Steps and Thousand Stories" was held at the National Museum of Modern Art Tokyo.  In 2011, “Nagare no uta” was republished by Hakusui sha, Tokyo.