Friday, January 31, 2014

File 4 "Form of Borders" by Motoyuki Shitamichi, 2012

Great photo books don’t have to be produced in lavish editions by large publishers and often times many of the greatest and most renowned photo books have been made by the artist’s own hands within very limited edition print sizes. It is historically well known that photo books and many other printed media have provided the photographers in Japan with more opportunities and freedom to express their creativity than what the exhibitions in the museums or galleries would typically allow.  Therefore, the self published books made in their earlier careers often become an ideal stage to assert their unique originality and affluent imagination.  Many collector’s most favorite Japanese titles include rare artist’s books from the early 70s to the present such as Araki Nobuyoshi’s “Sentimental Journey” (self-published, 1971), Daido Moriyama’s “Another country in New York” (self-published, 1974), Yukikazu Ito’s “Tetsuo” (Wall, 2006, ltd 350) and most recently Toshithugu Yamawaki’s “Dual 1” and “Dual 2” (Studio a la page, 2013, ltd 100) which was nominated for the best book award at the 6th Fotobookfestival at Kessel in 2013. 

Motoyuki Shitamichi’s self published book, “Form of Borders” (Michi Laboratory, 2012), succeeds without exception in Japan’s great tradition of book making and eloquently evolves his life long theme of personal ‘borders’ subconsciously inhabited in landscape.  Shitamichi has been fascinated by those internal borders and has expanded his imagination through interacting with the people who reside in these given locations.  That’s because Shitamichi believes “Scenery is made up of nature and people's lives, like layers on top of one another".  There is no politically evocative element found in his work such as nudity, blood or crying babies, but just ordinary scenery we take for granted such as a beach, staircase, small roadside, sunset or a classroom.  Shitamichi denies any personal concerns with politics as a Japanese national; however, it is rather evident that there is a depth of pain, sorrow, resignation and monotony sowed into the undertones of his dark depiction of landscape that can be exclusively associated with Japanese history/culture and its unique identity. 

“Form of Borders” is comprised of 15 stories collected from the people in Niigata prefecture, text in both Japanese and English, printed in desert tan French fold paper, perfect binding overcoat with amber color glue.


Title: Form of Borders

Artist: Motoyuki Shitamichi

Design/text: Motoyuki Shitamichi

Publisher, Michi Laboratory

Date: 2012

Size: 8.27 x 11.42 inches

Binding/page: French fold, 30 pages (60 pages including text parts inside pages


Motoyuki Shitamichi
b. Japanese, 1978

Graduated from Musashino Art University's Department of Painting in 2001, postgraduate studies at the Tokyo College of Photography. Shitamichi won the Gwangju Biennale Noon Award for emerging artists in 2012.  He has shown his work at the various institutions and galleries in Japan and abroad; “Fantomes” (2008/espase Japon, Paris), “Torii” (2008/Puffin Room, N.Y.), “Sunday Painter” (2010 /Contemporary Art Center, Ibaraki), “Dusk/Dawn” (2011/Nap Gallery, Tokyo). Artist-in-residence programs in: Cite International des Arts (2007-2008/ Paris), Tokyo wonder site Aoyama (2010-2011/ Tokyo), Aomori Contemporary Art Center (2011-2012/ Aomori).  He has published his books thru his own publishing company, Mich Laboratoy and Little More; 
2013 "torii", (Michi Laboratory, 2013)
 "Sunday Painter" (halken LLP, 2013), 
"Form of Border" (Michi Laboratory, 2012)
, "Sunday Painter", (Michi Laboratory
, 2010), "Bunkers" (Little More, 2005)

Saturday, January 18, 2014

File 3 "Circulation: Date, Place, Events" by Takuma Nakahira, 2012

Takuma Nakahira is a well known for being both critical of his own work and an influential member of the provoke movement along with Daido Moriyama and Yutaka Takanashi. Nakahira notably created the images for an installation at the Seventh Paris Biennale in 1971 during his stay in France.  Nakahira deliberately avoided reflecting his idea to his work, instead, he decided to document anything he encountered and install it on the same day.  Nakahira later recounted that this body of work became a turning point of his photographic methodology for attaining to eternity and erasing his own self from his work.
Compared to his Provoke work marked with high contrast, tilted angles, and blurry effects (see “Foe a Language to Come", Fudosha, 1970), “Circulation: Date, Place, Event” looks less intense and internal and it successfully hid his own subjective mind.  However, it can’t simply be regarded as the casual snap-post practice prevalent in our digitally saturated society.  Here, his critical thoughts are still kept deep in his mind and his serious observation is not about the city itself but instead a version of himself who painfully and urgently sought for a new expression.
Needless to say, only through a publisher’s ability to orchestrate the whole process, can his project finally see the light and reach out a wider audience.  The designer, Kazunari Hattori’s choice of a simple font and spine treatment, and same image size throughout the book effectively remind the viewers of Nakahira’s tenaciousness to keep to his own principles as a young artist.  The beautiful printing was made possibly by sincere dedication and respect by an artist, Osamu Kanemura (whose well known work is “Spider’s Strategy”, 2001, Osiris, another masterpiece of history of Japanese photography).  “Circulation: Date, Place, Event” is one of the most successful publications which increases the ‘book’s own life’ long after the artist’s original intent.


Title: Circulation: Date, Place, Events

Artist: Takuma Nakahira

Design: Kazunari Hattori

Publisher, Osiris

Date: 2012

Size: 5¾x8¼ inch

Binding/page/printing:  320 pp, 257 images in black and white, softcover with slipcase

ISBN: 978-4-905254-01-0


Takuma Nakahira
Japanese b. 1938

Takuma Nakahira was born in 1938 in Tokyo, and lives and works in Yokohama.  Upon his graduation from the University of Foreign Studies with a bachelor's degree in Spanish in 1963, Nakahira began his career as the editor of the new-left magazine, Contemporary Eye. That same year, he met photographer Shomei Tomatsu, whose association later encouraged Nakahira to become a professional photographer.  In 1968, Nakahira teamed up with Yutaka Takanashi, Takahiro Oakada and Koji Taki (Daido Moriyama joined later for its 2nd issue) and published the magazine provoke.  Nakahira wrote his critical essays in art and photography, although it lasted for only two years.
In 1969, Nakahira participated in the Sixth Paris Biennale, and in the same year he received the Newcomer Award from the Japanese Photography Critics’ Association. His publications include For A Language to Come (Fūdosha, 1970), Why an Illustrated Botanical Dictionary?, (Shōbunsha, 1973),  A New Gaze (Shōbunsha, 1983), Adieu à X (Kawade Shobō Shinsha, 1989), Hysteric Six, Nakahira Takuma. (Hysteric Glamour, 2002), Degree Zero: Yokohama, (Osiris, 2003), For A Language to Come, (Osiris, 2010), Toshi fūkei zukan, (Getsuyōsha, 2011), Takuma Nakahira Documentary (Akio Nagasawa Publishing, 2011), Circulation: Date, Place, Events (Osiris, 2012) and Gecko (Little Big Man with Takashi Homma, 2013).
The numerous exhibitions held at the Yokohama Museum of Art (2003), ShugoArts in Tokyo; The Art Gallery of Chukyo University in Nagoya; and the Hachinohe City Museum of Art.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

File 2: "Shukei" by Nobuyoshi Araki, 1995

In 1973, just one year after his resignation from Denysu (large Japanese advertisement agency), Araki showed his unique body of work at the gallery of Kinokuniya Book Store in Shinjyuku, Tokyo. Created from the artificially manipulated, damaged negatives, his work of nude, portraits or landscape appeared very abstract and distorted.  Achieving a highly experimental effect, the work possibly surprised many viewers at the exhibition and successfully introduceed another side of his artistic expression.

With the title and his name artfully embossed on a silver-white metallic cover, all images of “Shukei” (meaning 'last scenery') are delivered from this exhibition in the early 1970s.  A book designer, Seiichi Suzuki who worked for an expanded edition of Hiromi Tsuchida’s “Zukushin” by Tosei-sha in 2004, conceived the book design.  “Shukei” was published for 1,000 editions by Araki's own publishing company, AaT Room. 


Title: Shukei

Artist: Nobuyoshi Araki

Design: Seiichi Suzuki Design Room

Publisher: AaT Room

Date: 1995

Edition: 1,000

Size: 147.63 x 100.39 inches

Binding/page/printing: saddle stitched, 32 pages, off-set printing


Nobuyoshi Araki

Japanese, b. 1940

In 1964 only one year after his graduation from Photography, Painting and Engineering Department at Chiba, he received the prestigious Taiyo Award from his “Satchin” project. Since then, he has been very active in making many publications and exhibiting his works both at home and abroad.  His often overly sexually pronounce work challenges social taboos surrounding sex and death and it has successfully received highly critical attention.  His main subject matters include female genitalia, Japanese bondage, flowers, food, his cat, faces and Tokyo street scenes.   "Sentimental Journey" (1971) and Tokyo Lucky Hole (1985) are considered to be ones of the most famous projects.  

His solo exhibitions include “Nobuyoshi Araki Photobook Exhibition: Arākī”, IZU PHOTO MUSEUM (Shizuoka, 2012), “NOBUYOSHI ARAKI: Self, Life, Death”, The Barbican Art Gallery (London, 2005), “Hana- Jinsei” Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography (2003), “Suicide in Tokyo” Italian Pavilion, Italia, Giardini di Castello (Venice, 2002), “Tokyo Still Life” Ikon Gallery (Birmingham, 2001), “Nobuyoshi Araki” Stedellik Museum voor Actuelle Kunst (Gent, 2000), “ARAKI Nobuyoshi Sentimental Photography, Sentimental Life” Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo(1999), “Tokyo Comedy” Wiener Secession (Vienna, 1997), “Journal intime” Fondation Cartier pour I’art contemporain (Paris, 1995), “Akt-Tokyo: Nobuyoshi Araki 1971-1991″ Forum Stadtpark (Graz, 1992). Araki was a recipient of the Austrian Decoration of Honor for Science and Arts (Austrian Embassy, 2008) and the 54th Mainichi Art Award (2012).