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Takeyoshi Tanuma (1949)

Metamorphosis of Japan after the war

I visited the Open Eye Gallery (http://www.openeye.org.uk) in Liverpool on 10 April 2015 to see the exhibition of post-war Japanese photographs, dating from 1945 to 1960. Here is the description of the exhibition from the Open Eye website:

This new exhibition reflects on the turbulent period that followed the war, exhibiting over 100 black and white photographs by 11 leading post-war Japanese photographers, including Yasuhiro Ishimoto, Shomei Tomatsu, Eikoh Hosoe and Ken Domon. Rather than arranging the works by period and author, this exhibition is divided into three sections – “The Aftermath of the War,” “Between Tradition and Modernity,” and “Towards a New Japan.”

Although the arrangement may seem arbitrary, the sequence provides a vivid narrative of the convoluted aspects of this complicated era.

I enjoyed the powerful images, often with strong geometry drawn out by large areas of light and shade, and the effective use of a thematic layout. However, I felt the exhibition would have benefited from more context around the images, which are not only historical but from a very different culture. I later found that this context was provided in pdfs created by the Japan Foundation (who organised the exhibition) on the Open Eye’s website, but the gallery had not made hard copies available. Disappointing.

The gallery guide and artist guide are uploaded and linked here: Japan-gallery-guide – focuses on the exhibition and  JAPAN_artists – provides a collection of articles and commentary on Japanese photography and photographers.

Eikoh Hosoe’s work ordeal by roses impressed me in particular, with its dark, surreal feel. With further research, I located a interview with him that also shows more of his work.

He explains how he was not a good documentary photographer, but wanted to find a way to express himself through photography in a different way. The highlight of the expedition for me was discovering his work.



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