The top page of Morioka Shoten currently tells us (my translation):
14 January (Mon) – 19 January (Sat)
Exhibition of photographs by Watabe Yūkichi, “Alaska Eskimo”
In this exhibition we’re showing original vintage prints from the series “Alaska Eskimo” (Asahi Sonorama Sensho 20, Asahi Sonorama, 1979) by Watabe Yūkichi, who became much talked about with “Criminal Investigation”.
A postcard elaborates slightly. The prints are from the Asahi Sonorama archives, and are for sale. The hours are 13:00 to 20:00.
Here‘s a map to the refreshingly solid building that houses this and other small galleries.
It’s a bookshop. If you go there, take a look at the book selection, which probably includes items you haven’t seen elsewhere. Don’t miss Mr Morioka’s own book Books on Japan 1931–1972 (日本の対外宣伝グラフ誌), a book that’s all in Japanese but is lavishly illustrated, about books and magazines for the export market.
I picked up my copy of Abe Jun’s Black and white note 2 (黒白ノート2) today, and yes it’s as good as it’s cracked up to be.
If you’re in NYC at the end of September, drop into ICP for a lot of Japanese photobooks, and three impeccably trendy Japanese photo magazines.
It’s billed as 10X10 Japanese Photobooks, and Phot(o)lia explains. Simply: 10 specialists select 10 books each for a pop-up reading room of 100 Japanese photobooks that coincides with the New York Art Book Fair. By my count, twelve specialists, so duodecimal notation.
And then: 10 online Japanese photobook specialists and bloggers recommend 10 books each for an additional 100 books of interest. I count thirteen specialists and bloggers. Yow, tridecimal notation!
One of those thirteen “specialists and bloggers” is Microcord. Being somewhat lazy, I’ll introduce just ten books. (I’m working on it, honest.)
Coincidentally, I’ve also received a second and I think unrelated invitation, viz:
Great Web page, Preserve the great work. Thank you. Also please cover carburetor cleaner ingredients in the future
If the person in charge would kindly inform Microcord, Inc of who my fellow C [base-13] specialists and bloggers would be, and details of a tie-in with a suitably prestigious event in one or more of Paris, Milan, London and New York, I’ll have my staff let you know my decision.
It’s been 24 years since the opening of the Seikan tunnel, linking Honshū and Hokkaidō (Japan’s two biggest islands). The tunnel’s 54 km long, making it the longest rail tunnel anywhere and over twice the length of the longest road tunnel. Planning and surveying took decades, construction started in 1971, and the tunnel opened in 1988. This Aomori government page makes the staggering claim that over time the number of workers totalled 13.8 million.
A search engine will find photographs of the construction of the tunnel. Here’s Jiji’s selection: strong on ceremony but weak on anything else. (The website of the tunnel museum offers stuffed dolls but not a single photo of construction.)
Look up 青函 (i.e. Seikan) in the OPAC of the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, and there are three hits. One’s for a 1988 book about the ferry (now history). The other two are for a book about the tunnel: 男たちの海峡 青函トンネル風雪20年 中田健造写真集 Otoko-tachi no kaikyō: Seikan tonneru fūsetsu 20-nen: Nakada Kenzō shashinshū. (If you’re in the library, the call numbers are P810/N31-2/1 and P810/N31-2/1a.) The title means something like: “Strait of men: 20 years of Seikan tunnel hardships: A photobook by Nakada Kenzō” (“strait” as in Hormuz, not dire). This 1988 book is a very early entry in the BeeBooks series: according to its spine, no. 21; according to the publisher’s list, no. 23. It’s tiny: 17×18.5 cm and about fifty pages. Printing quality is 1980s (some later BeeBooks would have superb printing), and some pages have as many as twelve photos (all B/W). You get the sense that the book doesn’t do the photographs justice, but sometimes the reproductions are so short of detail that you can’t be quite sure.
It’s not that there are other books and the museum’s library is simply weak in the genre of tunnel-construction photography. As far as I know, Nakada was the only photographer to have spent much time in the tunnel before its completion, his is the only sizeable collection of photos of the construction process, and this is the only photobook that exists.
Nakada very generously gave me a copy of this rare book when I visited his current exhibition. Today’s the last day of this show at JCII of a different selection of the same title (男たちの海峡 青函トンネル風雪20年 Otoko-tachi no kaikyō: Seikan tonneru fūsetsu 20-nen). The wall-space isn’t wasted, but the prints are big enough (and excellently printed). And there’s a 32-page booklet of the kind that normally accompanies a JCII show, a booklet that like the earlier book is rather too full, with as many as six photos per page. Again, some do little more than jog the memory of what you’ve seen. Gems among them: top left on p.11, top left on p.16, bottom of p.22.
Not all the photos are of work. There are perhaps one or two too many of work-related celebrations and ceremonies. But there are also good photos of family life: p.27 of the JCII booklet has two in particular: one of a couple of boys nonchalantly dragging their bags along the road and another of a mother and two young children that might be one of the high points of an early book of Araki’s.
But mostly they are of work. When Douglas Stockdale recently asked about photobooks about work, I had trouble coming up with Japanese examples. Two generations ago Japanese photographers whether international (Hamaya Hiroshi) or local (Shimizu Bukō) photographed work, but there’s little sign of this among the contemporary Japanese photobooks at London. Predictably, a visit to NADiff two days ago brought nothing related; instead, I was mostly treated to photographers artists working in lens-based media tastefully exploring and exhibiting their sensibilities (which tended to resemble each other). All very worthy, but my own tastes instead run to Yamamoto Sakubei.
Paging photobook publishers: If there were a well-edited, sensibly-sized collection of Nakada’s photos in duotone, I’d buy a couple of copies.
All the images above are copyright © Nakada Kenzō.
The Contemporary Japanese Photobooks exhibition in London turns out to have its own Tumblr, clearly showing plenty of the books that are on display. This renders pretty much superfluous my previous, laboriously constructed post. But at least its images are easily pillaged. What with (i) this, (ii) my very recent discovery of Book of Days (another English-understanding, PayMate-using source for Japanese books), and (iii) a certain lack of energy to write anything original — well, today I’ll shamelessly attempt to wring a bit more about of Contemporary Japanese Photobooks.
If your browser works like mine (or your computer has as little memory), you’ll wait a long time while all those cover images tumbl in. And even then, you’ll often not know which cover image is of what, or of course which books are worth looking at — let alone what to do if you like the book and want a copy of your own. So below are a handful among the exhibited books. I omit some that don’t interest me but also a lot that are unfamiliar and a few that I know are good, so don’t be dismayed by the paucity of what’s below; go to the show (and escape the jamboree to the east).
In the Tumblr, imposing a standard width for images makes sense. Below the fixed width makes no sense at all, but it leads to possibly amusing illusions, such as that the slight Umimachi is bigger than the hefty Taigan. Click on each image below to get you to its page within the Tumblr, whereupon — well, I don’t know what, but Ghostery tells me it has zapped Disqus, Facebook Social Plugins, Google +1, Google Analytics, Pinterest, Quantcast, Twitter Button from the blank pages I view. With enough wittering, you can give some of these books the finger.
Not listed as a source for any of the books below is PH, simply because I don’t think it’s a source for any of them. However, PH can supply you with either Showa 88 or Modern Times (both of which are in the show) and also “volumes” (fascicles) 1 and 2 of Ariphoto Selection (which ought to be in the show even if they aren’t).
Were I in London I’d head to the Photographers’ Gallery, for the show Contemporary Japanese Photobooks, advertised as presenting over 200 rare Japanese photobooks.
A slightly more informative page of the Photographers’ Gallery says that these are over 200 Japanese photobooks that are virtually impossible to find in the West, all produced within the last ten years.
It’s not surprising that Japanese photobooks are virtually impossible to find in Britain. French, German, Italian, Swiss, and perhaps even Spanish and Czech books circulate in western Europe; but Lithuanian, Taiwanese, Greek and Japanese ones tend not to. So the books will be rare in Britain. Undoubtedly this event gives Londoners and visitors a chance to see photobooks that they’d otherwise have trouble seeing, unless they were in Japan (now with added caesium). Still, it was imaginable that there would be some genuinely (even in Japan) rare Japanese photobooks from the last decade; I wondered just what Jason Evans and Ivan Vartanian had amassed.
They don’t say. But they do show a weighty pile in a single photograph. Some of the spines are easy to read, some a little harder . . . once I’d started the job of squinting for characters and clues, I found myself hooked.
Below is my attempt to list what’s in the pile. For each, the order is (i) author (roman and Japanese), (ii) title (roman, if available, and Japanese, if available), (iii) ISBN, (iv) price new. “O/P” means out of print. The underlined name is the surname. When the roman-letter name of the photographer is significantly different from the expected romanization, I add the latter in parentheses. If I don’t see a roman-letter title, I provide one in parentheses. If I don’t know the ISBN, I give the CiNii entry (if I find one).
With trivial exceptions, new book prices in Japan are fixed. But of course used copies can be cheaper. And they often are cheaper, though I don’t bother to point this out below.
So here we go, from top to bottom:
- Syoin Kajii 梶井照陰 (Kajii Shōin), Kawa, ISBN 4902943581, ¥2625
- Suzuki Shin 鈴木心, 写真 (Shashin), ISBN 4902519046, ¥6090
- Ishikawa Naoki 石川直樹, New Dimension, ISBN 4903545180, O/P. Original price ¥5250; Amazon.co.jp has used copies from ¥6740. Book Off doesn’t have a copy right now, but when it does the starting price is ¥3400 (from where it may sink).
- Asada Masashi 浅田政志, New Life, ISBN 4903545571, ¥2730
- Takimoto Mikiya 瀧本幹也, Sightseeing, ISBN 4898152031, ¥2940
- Yoshida Ruiko 吉田ルイ子, Harlem Black Angels ハーレム 黒い天使たち, ISBN 4861138531, ¥2940
- Sakaguchi Tomoyuki 坂口トモユキ, Home, ISBN 4-94120-00-0, ¥3990. Here in CiNii.
- Sanai Masafumi 佐内正史, Trouble in Mind, ISBN (if any) unknown, ¥4725. Signed copies available from the publisher (here) for the same price. Here in CiNii.
- Nomura Sakiko 野村佐紀子, 夜間飛行 (Yakan hikō), ISBN 4898152570, ¥2940
- Kanemura Osamu 金村修, Spider’s Strategy, ISBN 4309904408, O/P. Original price ¥3780; Amazon.co.jp has used copies from ¥17,900. (And Kosho.or.jp is a bit more expensive.) Yes, this book does cost a lot (see below).
- Hatakeyama Naoya 畠山直哉, A Bird: Blast #130, ISBN (if any) unknown, O/P. Here at CiNii. This further installment of stuff being blown up is elusive, but before you pay a lot for a copy NB it runs to just 35 pages (says Google).
- Utsu Yumiko うつゆみこ, Out of Ark はこぶねのそと, ISBN 4902080273, ¥3675
- Kawai Takuya 河合竜也, Blue Garden ISBN 4898151574, ¥2625
- Ishikawa Naoki 石川直樹, Mt Fuji, ISBN 4898152562, ¥2625
- [unidentified × 2]
- Nariai Akihiko 成合明彦, 空を見上げた日 (Sora o miageta hi), ISBN 486219026X, ¥3360
- [unidentified × 2]
- Shioda Masayuki 塩田正幸, Animal Sports Puzzle, ISBN 490492102X, ¥3990
- [unidentified × 2]
- Yasumura Takashi 安村崇, Domestic Scandals 日常らしさ, ISBN 499012393X, ¥3780
- Obata Yūji 小畑雄嗣, 二月 Wintertale, ISBN 4904120019, O/P. New copies are getting hard to find, but Sokyusha 蒼穹舎 (Sōkyūsha) has them for ¥3990. (However, Sokyusha doesn’t send outside Japan.)
- Ishikawa Naoki 石川直樹, Vernacular, ISBN 4903545393, ¥8400
- Ōta Kazuhiko 太田和彦, Alternative Advertising for Shiseido: Works of Kazuhiko Ota 異端の資生堂広告 太田和彦の作品, ISBN 4763004026, ¥5040
- [unidentified × 3]
- Nakahira Takuma 中平卓馬, Documentary, ISBN 4904883349, ¥3990
- Takahashi Munemasa 高橋宗正, Sky Fish スカイフィッシュ, ISBN 4903545563, ¥2940
- Eye Ohashi 大橋愛 (Ōhashi Ai), Unchained, ISBN 4902943395, ¥2625
- [unidentified × 2]
- Takashi Homma ホンマタカシ (Honma Takashi), New Documentary ニュー・ドキュメンタリー, ISBN 4900050563, O/P (I think). Original price ¥2500; Amazon.co.jp has new copies from ¥2500.
- Nariai Akihiko 成合明彦, 揺れる彼方 (Yureru kanata), ISBN (if any) unknown, O/P. Kosho.or.jp shows used copies from ¥1575.
- Nagashima Yurie 長島有里枝, Swiss, ISBN 4903545598, ¥5250
- Nakahira Takuma 中平卓馬, For a language to come 来たるべき言葉のために, ISBN 4990123980, ¥6930
- Koyama Taisuke 小山泰介, Entropix, ISBN 490208015X, ¥5040
- Kawauchi Rinko 川内倫子, Aila, ISBN 4902943107, ¥3675
- Noguchi Rika 野口里佳, The Sun 太陽, ISBN 4904257049, ¥10,500
- Syoin Kajii 梶井照陰 (Kajii Shōin), Nami, ISBN 4902943212, ¥2940
If you’re unfamiliar with yen, convert the yen prices via for example xe.com.
Of the 31 books I’ve identified, new copies of all but six are straightforwardly available from any Japanese book retailer. Most of the remaining six are also easy to find at a sensible price. One is easy to find at a silly price; perhaps less because it’s rare (it isn’t) or particularly interesting than because it’s been Badgered: Yes, Spider’s Strategy is on p.318 of The Photobook: A History, vol. 2. (Oddly, Carl De Keyzer’s excellent Zona, on the facing page, is 11 years old but was still available at the RRP the last time I looked.) Spider’s Strategy presents utility poles and suchlike street clutter (there’s a good sample in Street Photography Now): you get the same kind of thing in Kanemura’s more cheaply buyable Happiness is a Red Before Exploding (a respectable second place in the Photobook Title Grand Prix behind The Palace Explodes the Shrimp Bail, When the Flower Want to Oxygen and Nutrition, I Will Help Too Much).
Which of the books are rare (in Japan)? Depends what “rare” means, but it can easily cover Nariai’s Yureru kanata (which like Spider’s Strategy is over ten years old) and Hatakeyama’s booklet . . . although not much else.
And my recommendations? Certainly some of the books are mildly interesting but I can’t strongly recommend any. (I possess two, but might well sell off both.) I don’t think I’ve ever seen a dozen among them; all twelve might be excellent, and of course it’s possible that I got the wrong impression when I flicked through the other twenty or so in this or that bookshop. If I were at the Photographers’ Gallery show, I’d certainly want to look at several (let alone at those that aren’t in the photographed pile).
If you see something in the show that’s good, and want to see the same book later (or even buy it), where should you start? ISBNs are more useful than roman-letter data (unless roman lettering is all there is). Wikipedia has an ISBN-driven book search tool. (If you need to convert from 13- to 10-digit ISBN or vice versa, use isbn.org’s ISBN converter.) Books published by Sokyusha, Rat Hole, Hysteric, and tiny publishers tend not to have ISBNs, and exhibition catalogues also tend not to.
Ordering books? There are several obvious options:
Junkudo–Maruzen is a large book chain that lets people order books for delivery by mail. In Junkudo search page, 書名 means title, 著者名 means author (including photographer), 10- or 13-character ISBNs should be entered after stripping hyphens or similar).
Kinokuniya is similar. Its website does have pages in English but they don’t actually present anything of use. Here’s the search form (ISBNs may have hyphens but needn’t; 書名 means title; 著者名（漢字）means author).
Book Off is a chain of inimitable used bookshops. (These are excellent sources for books by Habu, Miyoshi, and Shinoyama. Uhhh. Still, I’ve found Tony Ray-Jones’ A Day Off there for a thousand yen or so, and just last week I got Hashiguchi’s Zoo for ¥105.) At the top of the main page of its website, for 商品検索 select 本・書籍; add the author or title in the longer field, and hit the yellow button next to it if you’re interested in anything, the blue one for only used examples.
JADOB’s kosho.or.jp is a book search website. On its search page, type the title after 書 名 and/or the author after 著者名; when you’re ready, hit the button below marked 検索開始.
Sūpā Genji is another book search website. On its search page, 書籍名 means title and 著者名 means author; hit the brown 検索 button below to start searching.
NADiff has a branch in the Tokyo photo museum (Ebisu) and thus should be fairly cosmopolitan.
Although the recent history of the book biz in Japan is mostly a gloomy one of bankruptcy and collapse, a bright spot is Tsutaya in Daikan’yama. And yes, it sells over the web. Here’s the place. Its rather primitive search facility doesn’t seem to understand ISBNs, but if you type a title or photographer’s name in the little white box at the top of the page (the one with a stylized magnifying glass) and hit the dark grey button to its right marked 検索, you may get a result.
When you search within any of the above, don’t use the roman-letter form of the photographer’s name, and (unless there is no conventional Japanese title) don’t use the roman-letter title either. Roman-letter alternatives tend to be supplied for export and decoration only.
It’s not obvious that any of the enterprises above realizes that people who don’t happen to have Japanese addresses or to be fluent in Japan may nevertheless want to exchange their cash for Japanese books. But with all the talk in Japan of internationalization, nay, globalization, my impression must surely be wrong. You, dear reader, may wish to check with the particular company. (Please be polite!) Here’s how. For Junkudo–Maruzen, info at junkudo.co.jp (from this page) . For Kinokuniya, go to this page, hit the orange button under the box full of legalistic mumbo-jumbo, and on the next page give your mail address for メールアドレス, your name for お名前, the lowest option for 件名, and write your question at お問い合わせ内容, and when you’ve finished hit the button below this. For Book Off, go here; choose the lowest option for お問合せの種類, give your email address for 返信用メールアドレス and your name for お名前, write your question in 内容, and when you’re ready hit the yellow button at the bottom. For kosho.or,jp, the address for questions (from the foot of the page) is info at kosho.or.jp. For Sūpā Genji, info at murasakishikibu.co.jp (from this page). NADiff’s address (from the foot of its pages) is artshop at nadiff.com. Tsutaya Daikan’yama’s contact form is here: for お問い合わせ内容の種類, choose the lowest option; for お名前, give your name; for メールアドレス, give your mail address; in お問い合わせ内容, write your message; check the box at the bottom left (allowing the recipient to use your personal info for this or that); and click the red button at the bottom.
But there are anglophone-user-friendlier options.
A branch of Mandarake まんだらけ manages both to be one of the most depressing places in Japan and also one of my favourite bookshops. Depressing, because of all the manga, anime and other kiddie stuff that’s avidly consumed by adults. (I say this despite enjoying some comic books myself.) Favourite, because once I get to the photobook section it has good stuff, reasonably priced. (Often, as-new copies of new books, reduced.) Yes, I’ve just discovered that Mandarake lists its photobooks (or some of them), explains itself in English, ships abroad, and takes PayChum. The site has a search engine that I can’t get to work (e.g. although it obviously has books by 荒木 [i.e. Araki], searching for 荒木 brings no hits). But a bit of ingenuity can surmount this. (For example, save each 100 hits to a text file, concatenate these into one giant text file, and search within this.) I notice used copies of a few of the books in the pile above, at well below the list price — and if you must acquire something famous and expensive (say, Fukase’s Karasu, 1st ed), you’re unlikely to find better value anywhere else.
There’s also the Japanese branch of a certain US book monopolist and purveyor of small tablets and other sundries for modern life, a company that surely needs no additional advertising from me.
There are Japanese and other stores that sell via abebooks.com and the like; most that more than occasionally carry Japanese photobooks cater for people with more money than brains. (The prices of Borrelli, Gyozando and AboveParBooks are always good for a chuckle.)
The occasional publisher will sell direct. Here for example is Akaaka — in English, talking about sending abroad, and accepting PayPal. Publishers that don’t seem to offer this may have email addresses you can try.
And there’s Japan Exposures (and particularly this). There’s PH, too. You’ll probably find each a lot easier to use than most of the options above. NB for most of its titles, Japan Exposures must itself buy from a retailer, not a wholesaler, and therefore it must charge more.
PS See Fred Butler’s description of the show, complete with one photo showing a lot more spines.
Yesterday I had half an hour to kill in Nishi-Shinjuku and decided to go again to Ahn Sehong (安世鴻, 안세홍)’s show 重重 (Layer by Layer, 겹겹, Gyeobgyeob, Jūjū).
There were fewer security guards this time, but instead of (very politely) going over visitors with a metal detector, they now (very politely) asked these to put baggage and the like to the side, and to walk through an airport-style security gate. This device pleasantly added to the general surrealism of the whole affair. Fewer visitors this time than last, but still a lot for a show at Nikon during working hours on a weekday.
Not only the uniformed people were extraordinarily polite, all were. The Nikon staff in particular seemed alert to the slightest possibility that they might be in my way, deftly stepping aside when I even started to approach. At least one of them magically combined this with an impression that he was avoiding looking in my direction. Extraordinary peripheral vision there.
And so the Nikon staff helped me concentrate more on the photos than I could the previous time. The best of these are good, but I was less satisfied with some others. It’s just that they don’t all have much visual interest. As for other interest, there’s probably plenty — but because there are no captions, one can only guess. Or one can’t — yes, I see (for example) that a lady is holding what I suppose is a Chinese ID card; but I can’t make out what’s written on it, and don’t know what other significance it may have.
I hope that an informative booklet eventually comes out of this work. (There’s already a modest brochure.)
The news today is that the Tokyo District Court turned down Nikon’s appeal against its provisional ruling and instead ruled that the exhibition should go ahead as planned (Asahi [at WebCite], Mainichi [at WebCite]).
All the best to Ahn and, despite its recent aberration, my thanks to Nikon for mounting shows such as this.
Though it thrilled the small, photobook-obsessed corner of the blogosphere, the book of Watabe Yūkichi’s series A Criminal Investigation whelmed me. It’s pretty, even elegant; but the printing doesn’t show detail (and doesn’t make up for this in any obvious way), the elastic band is going to age, and it costs a lot. It contains material for perhaps one quarter of some other, excellent book; but I give it three stars out of five.
Still, I do like the photos, and atsushisaito tipped me off to a show of the series at the TAP Gallery (map, map), running till 8 July. He was most (politely) persuasive, so Mrs microcord and I went out to see it.
As we got out of the train I heard my name called and there was a friend I hadn’t seen for over a decade, together with a handsome young man. After a short chat we emerged. Featureless at first glance, the neighbourhood quickly turned out to have a lot of fascinating corners. The weather was glorious. So I was already in a good mood as we walked in the door.
I forgot to count how many photos there were around the small room. Not too many. The small prints — I think what are quaintly called “8 by 10″ — are large enough. They’re darker than the reproductions in the book, more detailed, and (something I always like) sometimes from different frames. “Vintage prints” (not exhibited) cost peanuts by DLK Collection’s standards but major moolah by mine. But the prints exhibited were priced so reasonably that I peeled notes from my tight wad. Yes, I bought a print (of a frame that doesn’t appear in the book); here’s an atrocious reproduction.
Like many photo galleries, TAP has a shelf of books and so on of particular connection to its regular exhibitors. These shelves are usually of interest (notably signed yet slightly discounted copies of Dodo Shunji’s Ōsaka at Totem Pole). TAP doesn’t disappoint: it has issue number zero of a new photo magazine, Ima. This has a bit too much of an emphasis on names (Ryan McGinley etc) amply hyped elsewhere, but all the same there’s good stuff. At 1500 yen a pop the magazine won’t be cheap, but this is only 60% or so more than the cost of Asahi or Nippon, which don’t offer many good photos these days. (The current Asahi has Bangladesh by Kikai and a good series by Someya Manabu, but little else. A high percentage of the nudes show industrial-strength retouching, but there’s no hint of ironic intent.) It’s a brave or insane publisher that starts a magazine in Japan, where the more interesting new magazines (e.g. Kaze no tabibito) reliably shrivel and die; let’s hope that this Ima lasts long and without becoming just yet another shoppers’ guide.
Here’s TAP (counting down to a party):
Seeing Watabe’s good photos put me in the mood to take some crap photos. I took a very slightly roundabout route to the nearest station and encountered these sights on the way:
Reading material in the train on the way back home. TAP Gallery obligingly has not one but three postcards for the show.
Go to TAP Gallery for your free set of postcards, but buy a print (or three) while you’re there.
Today I went to see Ahn Sehong (安世鴻, 안세홍)’s show 重重 (Layer by Layer, 겹겹, Gyeobgyeob, Jūjū), on Koreans in China who had been “comfort women” for the Japanese military about seventy years ago.
It’s an odd show: one passes by three security guards on the way to the room, and is given a once-over with a metal detector when entering, and in the room there are security guards, Nikon employees, and also other staff affiliated with Ahn. But everybody is very polite, and trying not to get in others’ way.
The photos are good. Some of the subjects are very frail indeed, making Ahn’s task difficult; but all in all the photos are satisfying. They’re on warm paper and are somewhat mushy (which is surely deliberate): I wish they’d instead been on the kind of paper usually used for exhibitions (deep black, etc), but perhaps that’s just me. The photos don’t have explanations or even captions, which seems a pity. There’s a text in Japanese and English on the wall. This is so political that, um, the Japanese version at one point euphemistically describes the women as 朝鮮人元日本軍慰安婦 (i.e. Korean comfort women of the former Japanese military) but makes no other mention of Japan; while the English text doesn’t mention Japan at all. Note for the slow-witted: This means that (contrary to what has been claimed) the exhibition isn’t political in the slightest, though I suppose that if you’ve been a credulous consumer of the kind of whitewashed histories that most Japanese governments have more or less openly wanted taught in Japan, or if you have somehow managed to take far-right haranguing seriously, you might hallucinate something political about the show.
Here’s a report from Fotgazet about yesterday. For those who can’t read Japanese text: the first three photos there are of the exhibition space (on the 28th floor); the fourth is I think of the second floor (thanks to elevated walkways outside, perhaps a more widely used way in than the first floor), and the point is that Nikon is advertising the other, smaller show (see below) but not mentioning Ahn’s show. This was unchanged today.
As usual the exhibition space is divided into two. Ahn has the larger room. The smaller one is for this, by ten members of the Department of Photography, Nihon University. The only way you can enter the smaller show is via the larger one. When planning their show, the Nihon University team can hardly have imagined that would-be viewers would be subjected to a security check (however polite). I felt a bit sorry for them and went in. There’s plenty of technique on view there; what’s done with it is of widely varying appeal to me. I enjoyed the works of four of the exhibitors, which is pretty good going — four out of ten is a far higher success rate than I get from, say, books published by Akaaka. This exhibition runs till 3 pm on Monday, so be sure to see it when you see Ahn’s.
More to look at and read:
- some of the photographs
- “Court orders Nikon to allow ‘comfort women’ exhibition”, Asahi Shinbun, 23 June; here, WebCite backup
- Olivier Laurent, “Judge rules against Nikon in controversial ‘comfort women’ case”, British Journal of Photography, 27 June; here
- Miho Inada, “Judge orders Nikon to hold ‘comfort women’ photo exhibit”, Wall Street Journal, 25 June; here, WebCite backup
- Antoni Żółciak, “Sąd w Tokio nakazuje Nikonowi otwarcie wystawy ‘comfort women’”, SwiatObrazu.pl, 26 June; here
- “‘Comfort women’ exhibition goes ahead amid protests”, Asahi Shinbun, 26 June; here; WebCite backup
- Jung Nam-ku, “Amid tension, Nikon photo exhibit goes ahead”, The Hankyoreh, 27 June; here
- “‘Comfort women’ show makes Nikon uncomfortable but not Tokyo courts”, Japan Subculture Research Center, 28 June; here
- “Comfort women photographer pleased by Japan court”, Bangkok Post, 28 June; here
- right-wing fantasists
Ahn Sehong’s show should start at the Shinjuku Nikon Salon tomorrow. But Nikon says (here):
In short, no show. However, it also says (here):
The phrasing is a bit obscure, but Nikon is “provisionally” showing the work, because it has been ordered to do so. However, it’s appealing against this order.
So if you want to see the photographs, better go there earlier rather than later.
On 22 June the Tokyo district court ordered Nikon to do what it said it would do, and show Ahn’s photographs. (This Mainichi story is one of several that report on this decision.) Nikon does not seem happy, which is not surprising as its employees will probably be subjected to harassment and amplified wobbly natsumero tunes from the loony right.
I look forward to seeing the exhibition, wearing earplugs if necessary.
If Nikon puts on the show with good grace, I might buy a Nikon camera. No, wait, I really don’t need another camera. Well then, Nikon spectacles or whatever.