Oka Tomoyuki’s spoil

Oka Tomoyuki, "Bota"
A botayama is a slag heap, so bota is slag — but no, Wikipedia says that the content of a “slag heap” isn’t slag; the whole thing is more properly a “spoil tip” and its content is spoil.

After explaining the word bota, the front of the obi says 石炭から石油へ、そして電子力へと移り変わってきた時代と、そこに暮らす人々をボタ山は静かに映し出す; or something like “At a time when coal has changed to oil and then to nuclear energy, spoil tips reflect the people who live there.”

The very first photo (like the very last) of this new book by Oka Tomoyuki is surely of coal. And there follow views of spoil tips. There are some dilapidated buildings, people walking over what might be spoil tips with sparsely added topsoil, people walking along country lanes, thicker vegetation, people taking naps, details of gardens, portraits. Some of the same people reoccur — surely these must be the photographer’s parents, this his brother. . . .
Oka Tomoyuki, "Bota"
Oka Tomoyuki, "Bota"
Oka Tomoyuki, "Bota"
Oka Tomoyuki, "Bota"
Oka Tomoyuki, "Bota"
Oka Tomoyuki, "Bota"
Oka Tomoyuki, "Bota"
This hardback has 140 photos or so, each numbered. On a double-page spread in the back is a two-page memo of which photo is what — or rather, where and when. A typical example:

         22   桂川町天道      1980

meaning that plate 22 is of a photo taken in Tentō, Keisen in 1980. And we’re told that the prefecture is Fukuoka when (as here) not otherwise noted. There’s never any explanation of what it is that we see, let alone any comment on it — just where and when.

But at least we have the placenames. A first glance suggests that most are in Fukuoka and the rest elsewhere in Kyūshū. Not so: a bunch of photos are from the coalmining area of Hokkaidō; and some are from such obviously coal-free areas as Okinawa and Tokyo. So instead the book seems to be a collection of whatever was important to Oka in almost forty years of photography, notably life above or near a coalfield that hasn’t been worked for over thirty years but was still being mined when he started out. It’s not in chronological order, and as constantly looking up the years of photos is tiresome the reader stops — or anyway, I stopped bothering, and instead did some more thinking for myself, noticing changing shapes of car, changing fashions and more before looking in the back.

Thanks to its format — 19 × 22 cm (and thus close to that of The Americans) — this intriguing book is very portable and I’ve enjoyed reading it on the train.

Oka Tomoyuki (岡 友幸). Bota. Tokyo: Shashin Kōen-rin, 2013. ISBN 978-4-9906656-4-7

Shashin Kōen-rin (写真公園林) means “photograph park wood” (“wood” as in “this dark wood“). It’s run by the photographer Hama Noboru (perhaps best known for his giant book Vacant land 1989). On the rear of the book, the obi proudly lists two other books from the same publisher: one (by Hama) was published in 1990 and the other (by Ōshima Hiroshi) in 1987. Sales are via Sot l’y laisse (ソリレス書店), which hasn’t yet got around to mentioning Bota on its Facebook page. The book is distributed in Japan by Tsubame (ツバメ出版流通) (whose name means “swallow”).

Sales page at Nite-sha; sales page at HMV.

The only biographical info I can find about Oka is on this PDF from Tsubame about the book. My translation:

Photographer. Lives in Fukuoka city. Participated in the founding and running of Photo Gallery PUT (Shinjuku, Tokyo), 1976–79. From 1984 to 1986, engaged in the editing and production of the ten-volume Shashin-man’yō-roku Chikuhō (写真万葉録・筑豊) [overliterally, "Ten-thousand-photograph record of Chikuhō"]. Author of Ueno Eishin no shōzō (上野英信の肖像) ["Portrait of Ueno Eishin"] (1989), Boku no Ajia chizu (ぼくのアジア地図) ["My map of Asia"] (1995), the five-volume digital photo collection Asia in my eyes, and (jointly) of Kaze no michizure (風の道づれ) ["Companion(s) of the wind"] (1991). Author’s web page “Gallery 36EX”: http://www.36ex.com.

– though 36ex.com doesn’t seem to mention the book or even its photographer.

Japan’s coalmines have given rise to a great amount of rewarding photography and art (as well as film and more). The best one-volume introduction I know of is the hefty 2009 exhibition catalogue の美術・写真・グラフィック・映画 ‘文化’資源としての展 (“Yama” no bijutsu, shashin, gurafikku, eiga: ‘Bunka’ shigen toshite no “tankō” ten) = The coal mine as cultural resource: Art/photography/graphic arts/film of Japanese coal mines (OCLC 525397491, mostly in Japanese only, but partly also in English translation). If the “Superflat” drivel currently feted by Fine Art idiocracy has you nodding off, wake up with Yamamoto Sakubei, Senda Umeji and more.

Almost totally irrelevant to anything above, but demanding a link all the same: Tokyo Photo Travel Guide part 2: Shinjuku Camera Shop walk. Excellent! Come to Japan and bring your monies. Somewhere in that same area thirty-something years ago was Photo Gallery PUT.


no vacuum

The way to keep up with Osaka’s Vacuum Press is via its website. Obvious but wrong: while the website sleeps, Vacuum is pressing out more books. Two are Noguchi Yasuko, The noon moon; and Abe Jun, 2001. I haven’t yet seen either, but both are described at Japan Exposures.


yet more opportunities for spending your cash

A belated discovery that the Daikan’yama branch of Tsutaya is open from 7 a.m. had me heading there (rather later) this morning, because why not. I emerged after no mammoth expense; in part because I missed (or perhaps because they didn’t have) Suda Issei’s latest: the pair of Tokyokei (here at its publisher, here at Nite-sha) and The journey to Osorezan (here at Nite-sha).

Later I might get one or even both; because after all I’m not yet bankrupt and the price of a copy of every one of these Japanese/Taiwanese Suda books from the last couple of years adds up to less than that of one sixth (the Suda part) of this plutocrat pack. And the new pair probably have photos that are a lot more rewarding than the average in the pluto-pak, too; though the latter does come “on [Nazraeli's] exclusive heavyweight Japanese paper and bound in Japanese cloth”. (Me, I’m less interested in the nationality of binding material than in the degree of welcome it provides for mildew spores.)

So anyway, Daikan’yama Tsutaya. This store has new copies of She dances on Jackson (whose cover makes it the perfect complement to Watanave’s Hito), of the Super Labo zine Wild flowers, of Stakeout diary, and of other much-discussed books that I’ve read are out of stock elsewhere.

How can this be? I’d guess because this branch of Tsutaya is designed to “navigate the lifestyles” — really! that’s what they say — of the moins de vingt dents: people sufficiently sprightly to be cruising for photobooks while the youthful and civilized are still having breakfast, but lacking the energy to have gone to the vernissages months earlier and picked up the free booze and tips on who’s hot and who’s not.


swell photobooks of 2013

Approaching the end of another year: it’s the season for photobooks roasting on an open fire, and lots more mutual encouragement to acquire more stuff and make the year’s consumption more conspicuous. I’m tempted to do a world survey, but I haven’t seen enough of what my fellow bloggers prattle about, let alone of the many more books that largely go unmentioned but that sound interesting (example). So I’ll do a _Valerian and look at Japan and not sekai (as the rest of the world is called hereabouts).

I thought that Abe Jun’s Black and white notebook 2 came out this year, but its colophon tells me December ’12. So that’s out. I solemnly swear that all the below are from 2013, honest. (Except for one that might be older than you are, but this is clearly so identified.)

Onaka Kōji, Lucky cat

Onaka Kōji, Lucky cat
Onaka Kōji, Lucky cat
Onaka Kōji, Lucky cat
The lucky cat of the title is the maneki-neko; but fear not, there are only two of these in the book. Both are distinctly old and worn, as is just about everything else depicted in this collection of musty and rusty nooks of Japan, each somehow with its attractions.

Plenty of photos of this here at Onaka’s site, here at atsushisaito’s, and here at Josef Chladek’s. Here’s a video flip-through of the book.

Onaka Kōji (尾仲浩二). Lucky cat. Matatabi Library. No ISBN. I think “Matatabi Library” means Onaka. (Trivia lovers: matatabi means this.) Anyway, the book is available from the man himself (rather stiff postage charges) as well as booksellers.

(For this and the other books below, potentially helpful booksellers are linked to at the bottom of this post.)

Adou, Samalada

Adou, Samalada
Adou, Samalada
Adou, Samalada
Adou was a new (Chinese) name to me when I saw a show of his work this year at Zen Foto Gallery (Roppongi). The prints were big and murky (neither of which normally attracts me); S(h)amalada (here) looked bleak, but the photographs were compelling all the same.

You can see them on Adou’s site and also here at M97 Gallery (Shanghai).

Adou (阿斗). Samalada = 沙馬拉達. Zen Foto Gallery. ISBN 978-4-905453-28-4.

The booklet (shown above) from Zen seems to be at least the third major publication of these photos: they have also constituted one volume out of the five of a boxed set, Outward expressions, inward reflections (外象, here); and earlier this year the larger half of a book, Adou & Samalada (阿斗 · 沙马拉达, here). I haven’t seen the former, but the printing in the latter is so different from that in the Zen booklet that somebody (and not only a collector fetishist) might actually want both. If (more sensibly) you want just one, perhaps get the Zen version if you’re in Japan, one of the two Chinese versions if you’re in China, and compare airmail charges etc if you’re elsewhere.

Suda Issei, Early works 1970–1975

Suda Issei, Early works
Suda Issei, Early works
Suda Issei, Early worksHere’s one for you rich people! Yes, over two hundred photos taken by Suda in his early thirties (and thus allowing for at least one volume of very early works). A lot of these appeared in photo magazines at the time. So let’s correct the above: this horribly expensive book is for the middle-income, the rich being able to afford places large enough to house complete runs of 1970s’ Asahi Camera and its rivals. Some is rather “street”, a lot is close to Fūshi kaden. Most is 35mm (or anyway isn’t square). Not every plate is of a five-star photo, but enough are, and the reproduction is excellent.

As if there weren’t already enough gimmickry in the wacky world of photobooks, this one comes with a choice of five cover photos.

Suda Issei (須田一政). Early works 1970–1975. Akio Nagasawa. No ISBN.

The same publisher recently decided that its Fūshi kaden wasn’t expensive enough already, and raised the price by 50%. That might happen with this book too.

Suda Issei, Fragments of calm

Suda Issei, Fragments of calm
Suda Issei, Fragments of calm
Suda Issei, Fragments of calmThe Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography is of course a wonderful institution but it has recently taken to devoting an entire floor to this or that exhibition of overly reproduced or modishly boring photos. But now and again it has an excellent exhibition of the first-rate; and this year’s big Suda show was one. (With a modest entry price too.)

And here’s the catalogue. The idea seems to have been that of a tolerably good package of decently sized plates, held down to a very palatable price. So many pages are rather cramped, the printing quality is distinctly twentieth-century, and the result would never win any photobook award. Don’t complain, because you get decent reproductions of over two hundred good photos at a keen price.

(For those interested in these matters: Suda seems to have signed hundreds if not thousands of copies, which, as is normal in Japan, go for the list price. Indeed, a recent book by Suda that doesn’t have his signature might be a “collectibly” rare variant.)

Here’s a video flip-through of the book.

Suda Issei (須田一政). Fragments of calm = 凪の片. Tōseisha. ISBN 978-4-88773-145-5.

Hara Yoshiichi, Tokoyo no mushi

Hara Yoshiichi, Tokoyo no mushi
Hara Yoshiichi, Tokoyo no mushi
Hara Yoshiichi, Tokoyo no mushiThe title means something like “eternal insects” or “insects from the realm of the dead”, and a prefatory note by Hara says he’s heard stories that after death people are transformed into insects. There follow photos incorporating insects, photos of (a non-entomologist human’s idea of) an insect’s view of the human world, photos alluding to birth and to death, photos of models of the human world at a (large) insect’s scale, and more. The religious may make sense of this; I just enjoy the results in my atheistic way.

There are plenty of photos of this book here on Josef Chladek’s site and here on atsushisaito’s.

Hara Yoshiichi (原芳市). Tokoyo no mushi = 常世の虫. Sōkyūsha. No ISBN.

Nuno Moreira, State of mind

Nuno Moreira, State of mind
Nuno Moreira, State of mind
Nuno Moreira, State of mindThis book is going to puzzle whichever poor librarian is the first to provide Worldcat with a record for it: no publisher is specified, let alone place of publication. Actually it’s published by its creator, who (mostly) lives in Tokyo; so despite its Portuguese ISBN it’s at least as Japanese as it is Portuguese or anything else.

It’s a collection of “solitary moments of disconnection” (in the photographer’s words), or perhaps of indecisive moments (not his words). We see individuals thinking, individuals not thinking, scenes likely to start one thinking — yes, it’s free-ranging. There’s even the occasional crowd, though the individual seems in a pocket of space within it. And many pleasing plays of light and shadow.

Many photos from the book here; and here’s a video flip-through of the book.

The printing could be better, but it does the job. (Certainly the book makes a refreshing change from the piles of exquisitely printed books of boring photos.)

Nuno Moreira. State of mind. Self-published. ISBN 978-989-20-4151-3. Available from the man himself.

Suda Issei, Waga Tōkyō 100

Suda Issei, Waga Tokyo 100

Looking a bit tired, with its dated cover design? Well yes — it’s over thirty years old.

And yes, it’s Suda again. The title can be loosely translated as “a hundred views of my Tokyo”. More square B/W, from shortly after what’s in Fūshi kaden, and similar to that and almost as good. The book shown above is printed well for its time, there are seemingly thousands of copies available, and (other than from the dealers with the slickest websites) these are cheap.

Or so I had thought. But I now realize that copies now cost about three times as much as they did just three years or so ago when I bought mine. (At hermanos Maggs, ten times as much.)

And so it makes sense for a new edition to come out. But this is a bit on the pricey side. If I lost my copy of the old one I don’t know which edition I’d replace it with. For those who don’t happen to be in Japan, a copy of the new edition (details below) would be easier to obtain than a reasonably priced copy of the old one.

The new edition is a kind of hardback/paperback hybrid. (Unkindly, it’s like a hardback whose front hinge has been neatly sliced through.) It’s shorn of a lot of the (Japanese) text of the first edition, but it has some new text in Japanese and English. And it’s well printed. The plates are (trivially) smaller than those in the original. Although the sequence of plates is different, I think that the same hundred are used in both.

Suda Issei (須田一政). Waga Tokyo 100 = わが東京100. Zen Foto Gallery. ISBN 9784905453314 (I think). The price is being held down for some time, whereupon it will jump 25% or so (to about half of the current price of Early works 1970–1975).

Watabe Yūkichi, Stakeout diary

Watabe Yūkichi, Stakeout diary
Watabe Yūkichi, Stakeout diary
Watabe Yūkichi, Stakeout diaryYou know the story, or bits of it: For twenty days in 1958 a youngish photographer was allowed to photograph two cops hunting for a suspect in a grisly murder; some of the resulting photographs were published in a magazine in 1958, they were then largely forgotten; somebody bought prints half a century later and turned them into the only non-Japanese book by this “unknown” photographer; the book was much feted outside Japan (and an unusual and expensive import within).

Well, here’s a Japanese edition, from prints freshly made by Murakoshi Toshiya; and from a brand new publisher, Roshin Books. It has a larger format than A criminal investigation and contains photos that aren’t in that; and the package doesn’t try so hard to be remarkable but I prefer it. “Landscape” photos are either broken across the gutter or squeezed into half a page; I’d have been happier if they’d been rotated to fill the single page. But a large percentage are “portrait”, and this is a fine book.

Plenty of photos of this are here at atsushisaito’s site, and here’s a video flip-through.

This book too has front cover variants. All variants of the regular version are sold out (at Roshin, if not necessarily at retailers), but Roshin still has copies of the version that comes with a print.

Watabe Yūkichi (渡部雄吉). Stakeout diary = 張り込み日記. Roshin Books. ISBN 978-4-9907230-0-2.

I’m looking forward to the appearance in January of Roshin’s second book. (And I wonder if there’ll be a second book from Plump Worm Factory, publisher of Murakoshi’s Prayer & bark.)

Kai Keijirō, Shrove Tuesday

Kai Keijirō, Shrove Tuesday
Kai Keijirō, Shrove Tuesday
Kai Keijirō, Shrove TuesdayThe photos here are alarming. They’re obviously of somewhere in Britain. There are many young and middle-aged heads glaring, gasping for breath, or just looking lost; they’re all male, many are shaven, they’re all “white”. Yet there are no flags of Ingerland and so it can’t be the EDL.

It’s sport(s), but far from what you might see on the telly. It is instead the Shrovetide football match of Ashbourne (Derbyshire): one of the most physical of Britain’s quaint provincial customs. Just good testosterone-powered fun! Somewhere in the middle of all this, there must be a ball — though since most of the players themselves are just blindly following other players (and trying to infer who’s on which side; there are no uniforms), perhaps there isn’t after all and instead it’s far away.

All very exciting, and I hope that Kai follows it up with more revelations of the exotic occident (but pauses before his camera or head collides with a boot).

Photos here, review here.

Kai Keijirō (甲斐啓二郎). Shrove Tuesday. Totem Pole Photo Gallery. No ISBN. Available from TPPG if you go there in person.

Arimoto Shinya, Ariphoto selection vol. 4

Arimoto Shinya, Ariphoto selection vol. 4
Arimoto Shinya, Ariphoto selection vol. 4
Arimoto Shinya, Ariphoto selection vol. 4The fourth fascicle of . . . I don’t quite know what, after the third (of Tibet) showed I was wrong to think it was Tokyo.

They’re probably not fascicles at all, and should be enjoyed independently. And enjoyable they are. They’re “street”, street portraits, things seen in streets. In the first three photos in vol. 4, an elderly, heavily bejewelled gent fishes change from that relic of the last century, a payphone; a contortionist performs in mufti, no, she’s just a normal girl trying to shake a tiny stone out of her boot; a young transsexual happily displays her new breasts to a friend (out in the street, in daylight). True, there aren’t many more photos, but each is big and well printed.

Arimoto Shinya (有元伸也). Ariphoto selection vol. 4. Totem Pole Photo Gallery. No ISBN. Available from TPPG if you go there in person, or from the man himself over the interweb. Or from PH, which still seems to have copies of vol. 3 (out of stock elsewhere).

Kurata Seiji, Flash up

Kurata Seiji, Flash up
Such an opulent slipcase. It looks like a lot of the big photobooks from the sixties that gather dust in Tokyo’s used bookshops: you see a familiar name on the spine — Iwamiya or Midorikawa, perhaps — and look inside to discover that it’s all about Japanese gardens, is in muddy colours, is deadly dull, and cost 38,000 yen (of 1960s money) when new. (Did companies buy them up to hand them out as trophies?)

But a gaudy kind of opulence is appropriate here. Cabaret packaging, indeed (preferably reeking of old cigarette smoke). Because it’s for:
Kurata Seiji, Flash up
Yes, this is a long overdue second edition of a boss photobook. (Don’t recognize the title? Check your Parr ’n’ Badger, I:305.)

Kurata Seiji, Flash up
Kurata Seiji, Flash up
Kurata Seiji, Flash up
Kurata Seiji, Flash up
Kurata Seiji, Flash up
Kurata Seiji, Flash up
Kurata Seiji, Flash upNo blurring or other Provoke-ative devices here; instead, it’s a 6×7 or 6×9 and flashgun used fluently in Weegee/Moriyama territory, delivering more immediacy and happy surprises than most photographers can manage outdoors in daylight. The most Weegee-like photos are gruesome but the others are among the most enjoyable photos anywhere.

And more prints, and bigger ones, than you’ll find in the first edition. Which anyway costs about twice as much as this second one costs — which is a lot, but justifiably so. (NB the new edition is so big and heavy that postage could be considerable.)

Plenty of photos of this here at atsushisaito’s blog.

Kurata Seiji (倉田精二). Flash up. Zen Foto Gallery. No ISBN.

Plus special pats on the back for three books that I didn’t buy and therefore can’t plonk on the rug in front of my camera:

Watanave Kazuki, Hito. The title means “people” (or “person”), and the book follows pigs from happy life to merchandise: in colour, with all that this entails. It’s neither sensationalist nor sparing, and comes with thoughtful afterwords (in English as well as Japanese) by two of the men whose work is depicted. Here it is at atsushisaito’s blog. An admirable book, one I’d recommend for any library, but (sorry) not one I’d often want to look at, and so space constraints rule it out.

Watanave (Watanabe) Kazuki (渡辺一城), Hito (人). 4×5 Shi no go. ISBN 9784990559816. According to a page within the website of the publisher (a group or company of four photographers), the address to ask about it is contact [at] shinogo.com

Kōriyama Sōichirō, Fukushima. Straight but thoughtful documentary photography of the effect (social and only indirectly medical) of radiation in Fukushima. Slim, but well done, informative, excellently printed, and modestly priced. I’m not getting a copy only because I OD’d on similar (if mostly inferior) books last year, and because plenty of libraries here should have it.

郡山総一郎, Fukushima × フクシマ × 福島. 新日本出版社. ISBN 978-4-406-05673-1.

I don’t remember Kōriyama’s book as providing English captions, but there are hints here that it does (and that it has an alternative title, Fukushima black rain).

Shiga Lieko, Rasen kaigan: Album. The ghost of Nickolas Muray appears to the young Naitō Masatoshi, prods him to watch Eraserhead and gives him some bricks of infrared Ektachrome. Or something like that. This book, which you’ll have read about already, has some fascinating photos (the ash or snow covering the car interior, the glittering disposable plates, etc). I suppose it’s something like a feature film on paper . . . but a feature film fits handily into a DVD (or of course a few square nanometres of a hard drive) whereas this is a considerable slab of dead tree. And while I might flick through the (many) photos of stones, I wouldn’t want to examine them. Also, when I open the book wide to get a good view of the photos across double-page spreads, the spine makes an ominous cracking sound. But yes, the best of it is very good, so I look forward to Shiga’s Greatest hits.

There are some patterns here:

  • Every one of the book(let)s above is published in Tokyo (except perhaps Lucky cat). Seigensha and (I think) Foil are based in Kyoto, but recently haven’t excited me. Vacuum Press (Osaka) has been quiet, Mole (Hakodate) is either dead or long dormant, and I haven’t noticed anything new like Kojima Ichiro photographs (nominally published in Tokyo but really a production of Aomori).
  • Mostly B/W. This is odd: Most of the new non-Japanese books that interest me are colour.
  • Overwhelmingly by men. Very bizarre, as plenty of the new non-Japanese books that interest me are by women.
  • Mostly by old geezers (if not necessarily old when they took the photos). Really sad, this. I do see some excellent little shows by young photographers.
  • Skewed toward one photographer, Suda. If any septuagenarian Japanese photographer merited a raise in exposure, it was him. I don’t begrudge him it at all. Still, it’s amusing to see the star-making system in action. (And of course I’ve added my unimportant croaks to the chorus.) This year there’ve also been two other books by Suda that I haven’t mentioned above, and in the next few weeks there’ll be Tokyokei and, I believe, one more. Good! But . . . enough for now? Attention Roland Angst: Could you now please (re)discover Nagano Shigeichi?

Again inspired by _Valerian, some (more) words on books I didn’t buy:

Araki seems to put out a new book every couple of weeks, and I only look into a copy in a bookshop if its cover is both unfamiliar and arresting. Some I didn’t notice at all. Shi-shōsetsu (死小説, perhaps also titled Death novel) would have been one of these. I normally don’t bother looking at anything by Moriyama unless somebody is particularly enthusiastic about it, but View from the laboratory (実験室からの眺め, on Niépce) looks interesting and I look forward to examining it. Kawauchi’s Ametsuchi seems to have some good material, but I wasn’t much tempted even by a pile of half-price copies (here) of the Japanese edition, in part because this shares the perverse design of the Aperture version.

And then there are — I infer from word of Einmal ist keinmal — more books whose existence I haven’t even noticed.

Plus my taste is probably defective.

If you’re in Japan, you’ll probably already know where to look for books; if you aren’t, duckduckgo for them. If you want new books to be sent out of Japan, aside from tips above there’s Shashasha, Flotsam and Book of Days (none of which I’ve bought from), and Japan Exposures (which I have); if you want used books there’s Mandarake.

You’ll find more “best of 2013″ lists here.

PS (28 Dec): A disproportionate number of the most rewarding among these are by some bloke in Eugene. And among them — well, see for yourself.


late Gochō, and Suzuki

Gould asks: “What about Gocho’s Familiar Street Scenes reprint?”

If you want a copy of Familiar street scenes, then a copy of the 2013 edition is likely to be cheaper than a copy of the 1981 original. And the reproduction quality, etc, could be better too, perhaps; though as I’m not familiar with the old one I don’t know.

Apologies to Gochō fans, but I’m not at all tempted. A couple of years back I got Gochō’s Retrospective catalogue, in part because it was only a thousand yen. This has 47 of these colour street photos, one to a page. (They include the colour photos here.) They’re big enough and well enough printed, but to me they seem humdrum. They’re of some historical significance and of course it’s remarkable that the dying Gochō took them, but I wouldn’t want to pay even a humdrum price for a book of them. If I understand Yagisha’s page about the new book right, the Retrospective catalogue has the entire content of the original book, to which the new book adds another 27 photos, all for eight times what I paid for the catalogue. Perhaps this should excite me but it doesn’t.

For anyone who does want to see the 47 photos (and much more by Gochō) for a sensible price: I got the Retrospective catalogue at the Yamagata Museum of Art. It’s for a show that went there and also to the Mitaka City Gallery of Art and the Niigata City Art Museum. Only the third of these appears to have a web shop; and although this lists many old catalogues it doesn’t list this one. But I wouldn’t rush to infer that cheap copies are no longer in either of the other two museums, just because some dealers are already asking silly prices for it at Amazon. Indeed, yesterday I saw a pile of them at Nadiff (Tokyo photo museum branch) for 5250 yen a pop.

What did interest me at Nadiff yeserday was Suzuki Kiyoshi’s Mind games. Especially the very first photo:

photo by Suzuki Kiyoshi

But such a price for such a slim booklet? Thanks but I’ll wait till Suzuki gets the Steidl treatment (whether or not from Steidl).


great photobooks of 2013 that I didn’t buy

Carolyn Drake, Two rivers. Apparently promoted via Kickstarter during one of those long periods when I avoid Kickstarter because the last screenfuls I saw were too dreary. Now that I learn of it, just months after publication, already out of print. This is a great shame as the subject is most interesting and what JPEGs I’ve seen of the photos look excellent. I hope Drake follows the Sochi Project in bringing out a second edition — perhaps a regular paperback so as not to upset collectors thrilled by the (artistically!) wrong-sized cover of the first edition.

Kurata Seiji, Flash up. The original is a routine sort of paperback that contains the most enjoyable photos ever of this (rather overdone) sleaze genre. (Don’t be put off by the front cover of the original, which oddly has one of the least interesting photos in the book.) One of my rare intelligent bookshop decisions decades ago was to buy it when it came out. My copy resides in an actual bookshelf with glass doors, and when I want to look at it I have to shovel piles of other books off the floor in order to open and close these doors. I haven’t seen the new edition, which may be worth its high price; but I think I’ll just keep on shovelling.

Martin Kollar, Field trip. Though I was disappointed by Kollar’s Cahier I liked his Nothing special. JPEGs of the content of the new book looked intriguing and I recently came across a copy. The photos are just as good as I’d hoped. A lot are mystifying, which is fine with me. But for the price, I want explanations after I’ve enjoyed the mystification. True, explanatory text isn’t a trendy notion; but David Goldblatt for one provides explanations and these don’t seem to deter potential buyers or indeed award committees. If Kollar rectifies the omission (and all this needs is a web page), then I’ll buy a copy.

Seto Masato, Cesium 137Cs. Anthropomorphic branches and other mysteries of the freshly irradiated forest, a fascinating example of a kind of book that usually holds little interest for me. Expensive, but yes I can stump up the cash. It’s B4 format, which may well be justified — but I’ve simply run out of niches for the storage of books that big. ….. PS There’s currently a 20% discount if you buy the via the internet from Place M and a 30% discount on the book if you buy it at Place M.

Suda Issei, Waga Tokyo 100. Good stuff in this book, but I have one of the thousands of copies of the original, whose printing quality is tolerable.

Zhang Xiao, Shangxi. I bought Zhang’s two previous books and enjoy them both. I don’t know how many photos there are in this third one, but the photos I’ve seen of it make it look slim, and its RRP is $75 even before postage is added. And it’s got an (artistically!) wrong-sized cover. Zhang kindly provides thirty of the photos on his website, so I’ll enjoy them there. For his fourth book I hope he returns to Jiazazhi, which did a very handsome job for his They, and which sent me a copy efficiently and inexpensively.


18 October: Stadsschouwburg Amsterdam / Sakharov Centre Moscow / lenta.ru

First Rob Hornstra was refused a visa for Russia, then Arnold van Bruggen was refused one, then the Moscow exhibition of the Sochi Project was cancelled.

However:

On Friday 18 October at 5pm, two alternative openings of The Sochi Project’s cancelled Moscow exhibition will be organised simultaneously in the Stadsschouwburg Amsterdam (Pleinfoyer) and the Sakharov Centre / Fotodok Центр Документальной Фотографии (in collaboration with Lenta.Ru) in Moscow. A small part of the cancelled exhibition will be shown in Moscow. At the same time, an online version of the cancelled exhibition will go live on Russia’s largest news portal, Lenta.ru.

For more, see this.

If (unlike me) you’re somewhere between Yaroslavl and Kiev, or somewhere between Bretagne (regular or grand) and Copenhagen, then consider going along and seeing some photos. And if (unlike me) you’re into “social media”, then book the face of the exhibitions or twatter them or something.

Meanwhile, from darkest Tokyo, I raise a glass of Dutch beer to the success of the exhibitions. (Or rather, I’ll do so twelve hours from now.)


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