four photo shows, and probably one more

A mild headache yesterday was my excuse to knock off work early and go to a couple of photo shows. And with no particular excuse today I saw a couple more.

Tokyo is brimming with photo shows (many of which are listed here); even if the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography (Syabi) is unadventurous, there’s plenty on elsewhere. (And to give Syabi its due, it hasn’t yet hosted a giant Shinoyama tarento retrospective.)

First destination yesterday: Christopher Shore’s exhibition “Antediluvian”. Uh-oh, Crossroad Gallery wasn’t where I’d misremembered it as being, so a very short walk to Totem Pole for Ariphoto 2012 vol. 1 by Arimoto Shinya (有元伸也). John Sypal has already written up this show; in short, it’s of B/W square prints of street scenes and street portraits, mostly taken up close, and (a new development, I think) some with flash, and one of them (pace John) even rather Gildenesque. Good work, excellently printed (as always): I’d seen it a week previously but I wanted to see it again and also lend the man my copy of The History of Photography in Pen & Ink. Here’s a map to get to the gallery, and TAB’s page about the show (with another map). Until 29 January.

Having picked up from Totem Pole’s side-table another postcard for Christopher Shore’s show Antediluvian (a postcard conveniently reminding me of where the gallery was), I went along. It’s only been a few weeks since I first met the man, but two or three weeks ago I got to see some of the photographs that would be exhibited. He’s exhibiting one photo that I impertinently suggested should be omitted, but the other thirty, showing Tokyo, Berlin and Nawlins, are good. (And the 31st is too.) The small prints fit the small gallery space. They’re mostly B/W but there’s some colour as well. The photographer has taken them over the years, so we’re spared the filler that’s rather too common in photo shows. Here’s a map. There doesn’t seem to be an entry at TAB, so no map there. Until 29 January. Simply, Totem Pole and Crossroad are very close to each other and to Yotsuya Sanchōme and Shinjuku Gyoen-mae stations (both on the Marunouchi line).

While I was at Crossroad, in came Amanda Lo from Zen Foto (Roppongi). She and Chris Shore were talking about the show there. It’s Thirteen Orphans (国士無双), by Yamagata Tsutomu (山縣勉), and it sounded/looked good. It’s tied in with a slim book; the PDF introducing this had me want to go along and take a look. And so I did, today. “Thirteen Orphans” seems to be the English version of a mah-jongg term whose Chinese name is 十三幺 (thirteen singletons) and whose Japanese name is 国士無双 (peerless patriots). Anyway, it’s here used metaphorically. The show, in a small gallery within a newly built gallery/restaurant souk, presents a small number of handsome square prints, each showing one person with a distinctive character. Everyone is photographed next to Shinobazu Pond (Ueno). Sometimes the photographs show little more than head and shoulders, more show the whole person. Yes, there’s a resemblance to Kikai Hiroh — whose influence Yamagata credits (with that of Diane Arbus, improbably) — but the way Yamagata has gone about it is slower than Kikai’s and the results look different. (And the backdrop isn’t fixed.) Definitely worth seeing. Here’s a map for Zen. Until 1 February.

Another show I’d wanted to see was Asakusa Zenzai (浅草善哉), by Koga Eriko (古賀絵里子). The title means something like “Hooray for Asakusa”, Asakusa of course being Kikai’s stamping ground (and so close to Shinobazu Pond that one of Yamagata’s subjects appears twice in Kikai’s Persona, 2nd ed), and zenzai being half the meaning of that in Oda Sakunosuke’s “Meoto Zenzai”. The book is an intimate portrait, made over six years, of an elderly couple living in and over the small café in Asakusa that they’d once run. (A description in English is here.) The photography is excellent and I wanted to see the photographs rather larger than they appear in the book. The show, in Hiroo, has a dizzying number of them, rather small. I was enjoying them when invited to a side room to meet the photographer; as she sits behind a large desk this momentarily gives the impression of being called for an interview. (She’s so friendly that the impression dissipates very quickly.) This room and its anteroom have larger photographs of Kōya-san, but unfortunately I forgot to look at these; I’ll have to pay a second visit. The Emon Gallery’s website uses Flash, which none of my computers handles well, but TAB provides a map and more. Until 20 February.

One other show with a photobook tie-ins I’ll try to go to is Taigan (対岸), by Dodo Arata (百々新). Book and show (with a title meaning “opposite shores”) are about the shoreline of the Caspian Sea, and their hinterlands. Dodo visited all the nations surrounding it, including the surreal Turkmenistan. The book is excellent, but the show is in a bookstore and previous bookstore shows I’ve been to have been very small, so I’d limit my expectations for this one. Here’s a map. Until 31 January.


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