Abe Jun’s Manila

John Sypal has just posted an excellent (and excellently illustrated) review of Manila (マニラ) by Abe Jun (阿部淳). Abe’s 2009 book Citizens / Shimin (市民) wasn’t totally unexpected, as his 1989 book Creatures (or Creaturers) had appeared in the pre–Parr ’n’ Badger photobook-book Shashin o yomu: Besuto 338 kanzen gaido (写真を読む ベスト338完全ガイド, vol. 1, p.157). But Citizens was certainly one of the best photobooks of the decade (though of course insuffiently bland, pretty or blank to be modish). John wrote an early review of Citizens and one of Abe’s Kokubyaku nōto (黒白ノート).

I often disagree with John but not when he’s writing about Abe. And when we disagree he may well be right and anyway he’s worth reading. Plus he takes lots of good photos.


2 Comments on “Abe Jun’s Manila

  1. Regretfully with this book Abe Jun seems to try to capitalize on the huge success of his “Citizens” book. This is a frequent phenomenon of the photo-book rush era and something I wish my favorite photographers are less prone to indulge in. As far as I can tell from the samples the book seems inferior to the Citizens. In the said book almost all images have an ambiguity and mesmerizing charm and all are as important as the one next. There are no fillers and no easy snaps as seems the case with the “Manila” book. I think I’ll skip that but thank you all the same for bringing it to my attention.

  2. microcord says:

    True, Manila isn’t as good as Citizens. If it had been, it definitely would have been in my “top three” of the year. But it’s pretty good all the same. (And it feels strange to rank Araki’s Rakuen above it, because Rakuen is so insubstantial. But Rakuen feels right in its insubstantiality.)

    Let’s put this in perspective. Though it may be tempting to think of photobooks as if they were movies or similar (whereby Manila might be Batman/Matrix/Spiderman/Godfather 3), I’d guess that no more than a thousand copies of Citizens were printed. Possibly its success will have led to a 50% greater print run of Manila. But revenues will still be low. Whatever else Abe and Vacuum Press may be doing, they can hardly be accused of cashing in. I’d guess that they’re just a bit more confident of breaking even with Manila than they had been with Citizens.

    Even putting aside cat, puppy, tarento, and girly photography, the money in Japanese photobooks is elsewhere. Here, for example.


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