Recherches - History of Japanese Photography

Café SHS

"Japanese Modern Photography : its Manifeste"

30th of June 2013, Jugend Space, Shanghai


At the beginning of the 1930’s, while Japanese photographers were wondering if photography was an art, Ina Nobuo, a young art historian, wrote a fourteen page text reviewing photography’s history and its contemporary developments in the West and in the East. Today, this text is known as the manifest of Japanese modern photography. Indeed, it defines and defends the movement of New Photography (shinkô shashin). However, this text is published in the first issue of the Kôga review (1932-33) with another text written by Yanagi Sôetsu, the founder of mingei. That second text offers additional thoughts on what is “Beautiful photography”. Consequently, would not it be the first issue of the Kôga review that is the manifest of Japanese modern photography?


Conversations de la Fondation Cartier-Bresson

"Is there Something Specifics to Japanese Photography ?"

20th of June 2012, FHCB, Paris


Concurrently with the Takanashi Yutaka’s exhibition held at the Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation from the 9th of May to the 29th of July 2012, Quentin Bajac (Pompidou Center curator), Antoine de Beaupré (bookseller), Thierry Girard (photographer) and I (Japanese photography historian) discussed the specificity of the Japanese photography.
The photographical books-objects, often cited as a characteristic of the postwar Japanese photography, have been put in an historical perspective. Moreover, the Provoke review, founded in 1968 by Takanashi Yutaka among others, was presented in comparison with both prewar reviews Shinkô shashin kenkyû and Kôga.
The artistic transfers were also broached in particular with the presentation of pictures from Japan, taken by the photographer Thierry Girard and in which the composition is partly inspired by the ukiyoe codes.


Presentation at the Art History Festival, Fontainebleau, 2012

"From Germany to Japan and From Japan to Germany in the Japanese Modern Photography"

3rd of June 2012, Art History Festival, Fontainebleau


During the first half of the twentieth century, travels and exchanges between Germany and Japan were abundant which generated undeniable cultural and artistic transfers in the Japanese photographic creation of the 30’s. In this presentation we will develop three examples: firstly, the modified version of the Fifo exhibition, that was held in Stuttgart in 1929, and made its way to Tokyo and Osaka in April and July 1931. Secondly, Yamawaki Iwao and Michiko, who studied at the Bauhaus in 1930-32, and who, despite their respective training in architecture and textile, started to experiment with photomontage in Dessau. Thirdly, the return of the photojournalist Natori Yōnosuke and his wife Erna Mecklenburg to Germany on the occasion of the Olympic Games of Berlin, 1936, three years after they'd left Germany.


Three must read books


Presentation at INHA, Paris

"Network and Sociality of the Japanese Photography in the 1930's"

9th of June 2011, INHA, Paris


In Japan, a country where the society is based on the group instead of the individual, the notions of “network” and “artistic sociability” are even more important. The networks developing between artists, patrons, gallery owners, and so on, create perennial or ephemeral communities that give the Japanese national artistic scene its tempo. This phenomenon is illustrated in particular by the circumstances of the creation of the review Kôga (image of light, 1932-33), whose first issue was published in May 1932. In this presentation, I will point out the vector role of the photographer and patrons Nojima Yasuzô, the professional relationships between the photographer Kimura Ihee and the graphic designer Hikita Saburô, or the fortuitous encounter of the future critic Ina Nobuo and the philosopher Tanigawa Tetsuzô with the publisher Akiba Kei at the mingei objects’ exhibition organized by the collector and theoretician Yanagi Sôetsu.


Presentations at Waseda University

"The photographer Nakayama Iwata"

10th of January 2008, Waseda, Tokyo


Nakayama Iwata first studied photography with a traditional approach at the temporary department of photography of the Tokyo Art School from which he graduated in 1919. He learned how to use soft focus and found his inspiration in western paintings such as portraits and landscapes.
After he graduated, his artistic and cultural curiosity led him to California, then New York and finally Paris where he encountered avant-garde.
He returned to Japan in 1928 and buoyed by his experience abroad, he became one of the main personalities of the Kansai photographic scene in the 30’s. He founded the Ashiya Camera Club in 1930 and the Kôga review in 1932. He also won the first prize of commercial photography contest in 1930 and he was selected by the tourism bureau of Kobe in 1939 to make the city’s promotional photography.
His talent was his capacity to liberate himself from Tokyo’s academism and to create his own world that he cleverly used in his artistic photography as well as in his studio work.


Three must read books on Nakayama Iwata


"Yanagi Miwa's Elevator Girls"

Abstract of the presentation of the 15th of January 2009


The Elevators Girls series is composed of 26 photographs made between 1994 and 1999. This series concept was born from the installation The white Casket, 1993, which staged two elevator girls sitting down in front of a fake elevator door. The hostesses wearing the same uniform, make-up and hair style, repeating the same gesture all day long illustrates the loss of identity and individuality in their work and daily life. The artist’s total control on the gallery space transformed it into a “white coffin” for these two women frozen inside.
By taking photos of this installation, Yanagi realized photography, an expressive medium in two dimensions, offered her an unlimited control. The space where the hostesses are displayed is even more limited and it forces the viewer to stay outside. Instead of being a “window open on the world”, each photograph is considered a showcase, narrowed to a sterile microcosm. The models, dehumanized, became like mannequins, human-like forms that can be duplicated and frozen forever in a department store space--unreal, depopulated and closed.
This series is the first work Yanagi presented as an artist. I invite you to check her web site (link beside) where you can see the Elevator Girls pictures and her later works, each showing a different facet of women’s role in society.


Three must read books on Yanagi Miwa