Bernard Yenelouis on Found Photos in Detroit

Arianna Arcara’s & Luca Santese’s Found Photos in Detroit is a collection of damaged Polaroids, snapshots and forensic images collected by the authors in Detroit. The poor condition of the images, the grime and wear kept intact in the scans made for the book, emphasizes a sense of abandonment and crisis, which when pinpointed as being from Detroit, allies it with other photographic projects done in Detroit in recent years, which most commonly are of the architecture of the city, viewed as an obsolescent shell of an archetypal industry-based (American) urbanity of the twentieth century.

The images in Found Photos in Detroit are also almost entirely of African Americans, which gives a racial specificity to the project which is missing in books of the now abandoned factories, office buildings, and houses. Arcara & Santese suggest a loss of personal experience, mirrored in the abandonment of these private photos, and in the privatized segregation operative in the once thriving industrial economy of Detroit. There were two major race riots in Detroit, in 1943 and 1967, and in general I would cite a lingering hypersensitivity about racial inequities that have functioned as a kind of denial or partial erasure of discord, the abject being mediated towards resolutions of some sort. The “flip” side to liberalism is its Puritanical tidiness in shaping experience towards a shared unity of purpose, a futurity of accord. Questions emerge out of this quandary: how can inequality be represented? Can it be addressed directly? Is it inscribed obliquely in ordinary things? How do we unpack the ordinary for it to reveal meaning? Does that meaning have to be clear?

The intensely racialized aspect of Found Photos in Detroit could be perceived as driven by Orientalist fantasies on the part of the Europeans Arcara and Santese, which also brings to mind that beyond its industrial exceptionalism, Detroit is known in the world for music, for Motown, for techno, which imply a spirit outside the deterministic order of the factory. It could also be seen as an acknowledgement of an economic system based in imbalances of race and class. The ragged condition of the photos implies that daily life itself has been a kind of hell, in which the images float as small talismans of pathos in an otherwise indifferent cycle of fate.

In the photographic library of Detroit there is now a compendium of astonishing architectural ruins, which is joined by the abject and obsolescent medium of print-based photography itself as seen in Found Photos in Detroit. We still do not have an outcome to the question: is this current incarnation of Detroit part of a boom-and-bust cycle of Capitalist economy that will re-emerge with scandalous profits and good times once again? Is there a future to the city, as we have known it? There is also now a substantial library of vernacular photographic practices, which as out-of-date forms enter into the limbo of historical overviews. Often this can take on a nostalgic character, nostalgic in a sentimental, retrograde manner. Found Photos in Detroit invokes a dystopic nostalgia of cruel optimism. This is an archive that has lost all agency other than as a site of haunting. Ostensibly found in scrap heaps, in the garbage, its immediate referents lost, there is no thread with which to find a way out of this labyrinth. It is a kind of sick irony that the motto of the city of Detroit, which references a total conflagration of the city in 1805 is: We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes. 

-Bernard Yenelouis

Images from Arianna Arcara’s & Luca Santese’s Found Photos in Detroit

Dora Apel, Imagery of Lynching: Black Men, White Women and the Mob, Rutgers University Press, 2004 TR187 .A64 2004

J. Edward Bailey, The City Within, Detroit Institute of Arts, 1969 TR647 .B35 1969

Nancy Watson Barr, Motor City Muse: Detroit Photographs, Then and Now, Detroit Institute of Arts, 2013 TR659.8D47 .B37 2013

Beatriz Colomina, Domesticity at War, MIT, 2007 TR659 .C65 2007

Michael Kenna, The Rouge, Ram, 1995 TR660 .K46 1995

Andrew Moore, Inside Havana, Chronicle Books, 2002 TR659.C9 .66 2002

Douglas R. Nickel, Snapshots: The Photography of Everyday Life, 1888 to the Present, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1998 TR646.U6 S62 1998

Robert Polidori, After the Flood, Steidl, 2006 TR820.5.U38 2004

Camilo Jose Vergara, American Ruins, Monacelli Press, 1999 TR820.5 .V47 1999

Posted in Unpacking the collection | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Even Dwarfs Started Small

And the sun never goes down. Someone sings i don’t sing to be heard or because i know how…in the open, a chicken bites another chicken, a broken voice opens up and sings…i don’t sing to be heard or because i know how.

1_Herzog 2_Herzog3_Herzog

And to wake up and have an idea…we’ll tear down his favorite palm tree…and someone sings i don’t sing to be heard or because i know how…and its important to be heard and not care, even if you do care and fall from the frame.


Film stills from Even Dwarfs Started Small, directed and produced by ©Werner Herzog in 1970

 Of Walking in Ice : Munich-Paris, 11/23 to 12/14, 1974 / Werner Herzog
TR140 .H472 2007

Posted in ICP alumni | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Miyako Ishiuchi Wins 2014 Hasselblad Award

On March 6th, the Hasselblad Foundation presented Japanese photographer Miyako Ishiuchi with its 2014 annual Hasselblad Award. In conjunction with the award, an exhibition of Ishiuchi’s work curated by Dragana Vjuanovic and Louise Wolpers of the Hasselblad Foundation will open on November 7th at the Gothenburg Museum of Art, Sweden. The curators will also edit an accompanying publication, which will include essays by Dr Lena Fritsch, assistant curator at the Tate Modern, and Christopher Phillips, curator at ICP.

Ishiuchi, who has spent the past 40 years pursuing a photographic vision that explores time and surface filtered through memory, is among only a handful of well-known female photographers from Japan’s postwar scene of the 1970s/80s. Born in 1947, Ishiuchi was raised in Yokosuka, a city southwest of Tokyo with a large American naval presence since the late 1940s. Often devoid of people, her images of fortified military buildings, streets and social clubs possess a quiet power and are containers for Ishiuchi’s highly personal childhood memories of place. They also speak to a sense of loss and resentment that is reflective of a national sentiment towards the continued postwar American militarization in Japan.

In 1977 I photographed the town where I formerly lived…At the time I knew nothing about photography…but there was only a fervor that I could not place, as well as a certain acuteness that had grown on me, so I walked these streets once more, as if to reconfirm the hurt that I could not help but recollect with such sharpness…The photographs, with memories smeared starkly into each and every grain in the texture, where combined with the characteristic strength of ignorance (Yokosuka Again 64).

Her first three books are considered a loose trilogy arising from her haunted childhood memories of Yokosuka. The ICP Library has copies of all three in its rare book section: Apartment (1978), Yokosuka Story (1979), and Endless Night (1981).

Apartment (Tokyo: Shashin Tsushinsha, 1978)

Apartment (Tokyo: Shashin Tsushinsha, 1978)

Yokosuka Story (Tokyo: Shashin Tsushin Co., 1979)

Yokosuka Story (Tokyo: Shashin Tsushin Co., 1979)

Endless Night (Tokyo: Asahi Sonorama, 1981)

Endless Night (Tokyo: Asahi Sonorama, 1981)

Later works address the passing of time through its imprint on our physical bodies. In 1•9•4•7 (1990), a photobook titled from Ishiuchi’s birth year, she presents images of the hands and feet from woman also born in the same year. In Hiroshima (2008), Ishiuchi photographed the clothing remnants worn by atomic bomb victims. Spread out like corpses on an autopsy table, these stark images document horrific tragedy through a quiet beauty. Other books that speak to time’s mark on our bodies are: 1906: To the Skin (1994), Nail (2000) and Scar (2005).

I cannot stop [taking photographs of scars] because they are so much like a photograph… They are visible events, recorded in the past. Both the scars and the photographs are the manifestation of sorrow for the many things, which cannot be retrieved and for love of life as a remembered present. (sepia Eye magazine)

Innocence (Tokyo: AKAAKA Art Publishing, 2007) and Nail (Tokyo: Heibonsha, 2000)

Innocence (Tokyo: AKAAKA Art Publishing, 2007) and Nail (Tokyo: Heibonsha, 2000)

Mother's (Tokyo: Sokyusha, 2002) and 1906: To the Skin (Tokyo: Kawade Shobo Shinsya, 1994)

Mother’s (Tokyo: Sokyusha, 2002) and 1906: To the Skin (Tokyo: Kawade Shobo Shinsya, 1994)

Ishiuchi has a long association with the International Center of Photography; with her first exposure to American audiences in a 1979 ICP group show Japan: A Self-Portrait. More recently, her work was included in Dress Code: The Third ICP Triennial of Photography and Video (2010). As a result of this 35-year history, the ICP Library has an extensive collection of Ishiuchi’s photobooks. Listed below is the complete catalogue of photobooks by Miyako Ishiuchi available for viewing at the library. We invite you to come by and spend some time with them.

Pictured are ICP Library staff, friends and visitors holding up Miyako Ichiuchi’s photobooks.

Hiroshima Yokosuka: Ishiuchi Miyako Ten (Tokyo: Meguro-ku Bijutsukan, 2008) and Club & Courts Yokosuka Yokohama (Tokyo: Sokyusha, 2007)

Hiroshima Yokosuka: Ishiuchi Miyako Ten (Tokyo: Meguro-ku Bijutsukan, 2008) and Club & Courts Yokosuka Yokohama (Tokyo: Sokyusha, 2007)

Suidobashi Tokyo Dental College (Tokyo: Issei-Shuppan, 1981) and Time Textured in Monochrome (Tokyo: Kokuritsu Kindai Bijutsukan, 1999)

Suidobashi Tokyo Dental College (Tokyo: Issei-Shuppan, 1981) and Time Textured in Monochrome (Tokyo: Kokuritsu Kindai Bijutsukan, 1999)

Apartment (Tokyo: Shashin Tsushinsha, 1978)
TR659.4 .I74 1978

Yokosuka Story (Tokyo: Shashin Tsushin Co., 1979)
TR820.5.J3 .I74 1979

Suidobashi Tokyo Dental College (Tokyo: Issei-Shuppan, 1981)
TR659.4 .I842 1981

Endless Night (Tokyo: Asahi Sonorama, 1981)
TR659 .I74 1981

1906: To the Skin (Tokyo: Kawade Shobo Shinsya, 1994)
TR681.A35 .I84 1994

Inside Out: Contemporary Japanese Photography: An Exhibition of Five Japanese Photographers (Charlotte, N.C.: Light Factory Photographic Arts Center; Santa Monica: Distributed by RAM-USA, 1994)
TR646.U6 I57 1994

Te, Ashi, Niku, Karada, Hiromi 1955
Miyako Ishichi photographs and Ito Hiromi, text (Tokyo: Chikuma Shobo, 1995)
TR675 . I842 1995

Sawaru: Chromosome XY (Tokyo: Shinchosha Company, 1995)
TR681.M4 . I842 1995

Yokosuka Again: 1980 – 1990 (Tokyo: Sokyusha, 1998)
TR659.Y65 .I84 1998

Miyako Ishiuchi: Time Textured in Monochrome (Tokyo: Kokuritsu Kindai Bijutsukan, 1999)
TR647 .I84 1999

Nail (Tokyo: Heibonsha, 2000)
TR674 .I83 2000

Renya no Machi: Ishiuchi Miyako Shashinshu (Tokyo: Waizushuppan, 2001)
TR659 . I84 2001

Mother’s (Tokyo: Sokyusha, 2002)
TR140 .I842 2002

Scar (Tokyo: Nihon Bunkyo Shuppan, 2005)
TR140 .I842 2005

Mother’s 2000-2005: Traces of the Future (Tokyo: The Japan Foundation, 2005)
TR655 .M59 2005

Ishiuchi Miyako: Innocence (Tokyo: AKAAKA Art Publishing, 2007)
TR674 .M59 2007

Club & Courts Yokosuka Yokohama (Tokyo: Sokyusha, 2007)
TR659.4 .M59 2007

Hiroshima (Tokyo: Shueisha, 2008)
TR179.5 . I84 2008

Miyako Ishiuchi: Yokosuka Story; Apartment; Endless Night; 1. 9. 4. 7; 1906 to the Skin; Mother’s (Amsterdam: The Institute of Art Research – Cinubia Production, 2008) TR820.5.J3 . I842 2008

Hiroshima Yokosuka: Ishiuchi Miyako Ten (Tokyo: Meguro-ku Bijutsukan, 2008)
TR647 .I842 2008

Ishiuchi Miyako Infiniti Shintai no Yukue (Tokyo: Kyuryudo, 2009)
TR140 . M59 2006

Sweet Home Yokosuka 1976-1980 (New York: PPP Editions in association with Andrew Roth, Inc., 2010)
TR659.8 . M59 2010

Tokyo Bay Blues (Tokyo: Sokyusha, 2010)
TR659.5 .I84 2010

Posted in Exhibitions, International, New Acquisitions, Scholarly News, Seen and heard, Unpacking the collection, Visual Research | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Act of Faith by Brian Paumier lands in ICP Library

This gallery contains 12 photos.

The International Center of Photography is proud to present its inaugural Friends of ICP Library artist book, Act of Faith: A Soldier’s Manda by Brian Paumier, commissioned by the artist as a thank you to supporters of the ICP Library, … Continue reading

Gallery | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Recent Japanese Photobook Reprints

Over the last few years, a growing interest in Japanese photoobooks has fueled an explosion in reprints and re-editions of many of the hard to find classic Japanese photobooks of the postwar period. With the cost of the original releases way beyond the budget of average photobook buyers, the reprints have become the only means for a larger audience to become acquainted with early photobook experiments by well-known Japanese photographers, such as Daido Moriyama, Eikoh Hosoe, Shomei Tomatsu and Kikuji Kawada. But there still remain quite a few incredible photobooks by lesser-known photographers that until recently were rarely seen beyond tumblr posts and the bookshelves of antiquarian dealers. Recently, a number of Western and Japanese publishers have begun to fill this void with reprints and facsimiles of these less visible books by exceptional photographers of the postwar period.

Among Japanese photographers, the historical precedent for an ongoing reinterpretation and reprinting of existent imagery is quite common, with the photobook occupying two distinct and seemingly contradictory spheres: revered object of devotion, and fluid site for creative experimentation. These opposing interests are frequently resolved through a process that explores reprints, re-editions and sequels of seminal and early books. The results can either be a page-by-page facsimile or an opportunity to engage in an inventive re-design and re-sequencing of earlier images. For the public, the outcome is direct access to materials that are no longer readily available, along with the ability to see the evolution of a photobook through various iterations.

From left to right: Killed by Roses (Shueisha: 1963), Ordeal by Roses Re-edited (Shueisha: 1971), Ordeal by Roses (Aperture: 1985), Killed by Roses (Aperture: 2008)

From left to right: Killed by Roses (Shueisha: 1963), Ordeal by Roses Re-edited (Shueisha: 1971), Ordeal by Roses (Aperture: 1985), Killed by Roses (Aperture: 2008).

Eikoh Hosoe’s Barakei / Killed by Roses photobook is one of the better-known examples of the dramatic reinterpretations to be found in successive re-edits. In total, Barakei has four reprints – first printed in 1963 under the title Killed by Roses; later reinterpreted in 1971 as Ordeal by Roses Re-edited; with Aperture publishing a variation on the 1971 Ordeal by Roses in 1985 and a limited edition Killed by Roses facsimile of the 1963 Kohei Sugiura design in 2008. Another Hosoe book that has 4 iterations is his Kamaitachi. As a creative zenith in the union of dance and photography, Kamaitachi was originally published in 1969, and later reissued with a Tadanori Yokoo designed clamshell case by Aperture in 2005. Other reprints include a Seigensha version in 2005 and another Aperture release in 2009. Often confusing to newbie collectors, it is understandably hard to keep track of all the reprints, re-edits and re-interpretations under the same title.

From left to right: Kamaitachi (Gendai Shichosha: 1969), Kamaitachi (Aperture: 2005), Kamaitachi (Seigensha: 2005), Kamaitachi (Aperture: 2009).

From left to right: Kamaitachi (Gendai Shichosha: 1969), Kamaitachi (Aperture: 2005), Kamaitachi (Seigensha: 2005), Kamaitachi (Aperture: 2009).

With an established Japanese photobook reprint tradition firmly in place, it was just a matter of time before there would be a demand for reprints by some of the more obscure, but equally engaging photobooks. Whether published solely to fill a market void or creative itch, the result has been the recent reissue of several seminal photobooks from the 1970s and 80s. Over the last 2 years, photobook collectors have gained access to a vast new treasure trove of important Japanese photobooks that do not break the bank! Recent releases include reprints by Seiji Kurata, Katsumi Watanabe, Issei Suda, Shigeo Gocho, and Tamiko Nishimura (forthcoming). What follows is a discussion of several of these reprints as they compare to their “originals”.

Seiji Kurata
Flash Up: Street PhotoRandom Tokyo 1975-1979. (Tokyo: Byakuya Shobo, 1980)

Reprint: Flash Up (Tokyo: Zen Foto, 2013)

Seiji Kurata. Flash Up: Street PhotoRandom Tokyo 1975-1979 (Tokyo: Byakuya Shobo, 1980)

Seiji Kurata. Flash Up: Street PhotoRandom Tokyo 1975-1979 (Tokyo: Byakuya Shobo, 1980)

Seiji Kurata. Flash Up (Tokyo: Zen Foto, 2013)

Seiji Kurata. Flash Up (Tokyo: Zen Foto, 2013)

When I first saw Seiji Kurata’s Flash Up (2013) reprint, I had to recheck the cover to make sure I was looking at the right book. In every conceivable way, except for the images contained within, this reprint is a dramatic departure from the original. The 1980 version, a softcover modest-sized book with an illustrated cover depicting a tatttoed yakuza holding a sword, is far more confrontational and clearly signals the reader’s entry into the Tokyo Shinjuku underworld populated by pimps, prostitutes and transvestites. Images are sequenced uncaptioned to emphasize a narrative structure that presents multiple intersecting vignettes. In contrast, the reprint is a lavish oversized production presented in an embossed fabric covered slipcase. The black satin boards with silver text and gold endpapers is luxurious and coffee table ready. Images are presented full bleed with clear captions. The result emulates a gallery experience with each photograph occupying its own white walled sphere outside of a larger narrative.

Katsumi Watanabe
Shinjuku Guntoden 66/73 / Shinjuku Thievery Story 66/73 (Tokyo: Bara-gahosha, 1973)

Reprint 1:  Gangs of Kabukicho (NYC: PPP Editions, 2006)
TR820.5.J3 .W38 2006

Reprint 2: Shinjuku Guntoden 1965 – 1973: Story of the Shinjuku Thieves (Tokyo: Akio Nagasawa, 2013)

Katsumi Watanabe. Shinjuku Guntoden 66/73 / Shinjuku Thievery Story 66/73 (Tokyo: Bara-gahosha, 1973)

Katsumi Watanabe. Shinjuku Guntoden 66/73 / Shinjuku Thievery Story 66/73 (Tokyo: Bara-gahosha, 1973)

Katsumi Watanabe. Gangs of Kabukicho 2006

Katsumi Watanabe. Gangs of Kabukicho (NYC: PPP Editions, 2006)

Katsumi Watanabe. Shinjuku Guntoden 1965 – 1973: Story of the Shinjuku Thieves (Tokyo: Akio Nagasawa, 2013)

Katsumi Watanabe. Shinjuku Guntoden 1965 – 1973: Story of the Shinjuku Thieves (Tokyo: Akio Nagasawa, 2013)

Shinjuku Guntoden 66/73 / Shinjuku Thievery Story 66/73 (1973) is another book that explores Shinjuku’s Kabukicho district and the underbelly of Tokyo’s after-hour adult delights. As a roving neighborhood photographer who would take commemorative snapshots of both patrons and workers in the bars and sex trade establishments, Katsumi Watanabe earned his living selling back these portraits on the following nights. In this original version, Watanabe’s snapshots are presented one per page with simple captions below. In some cases, the subject’s eyes are scrawled over with a black pen to hide their identity. The effect is a dossier made from and for an interconnected community of outcasts. The Gangs of Kabukicho, published in 2006 by Andrew Roth and PPP Editions in NYC is the first reprint of the 1973 original. As a book published for a Western audience, its focus is quite different.  Although presenting many of the same images – minus their blacked out eyes – their treatment is subtly re-envisioned: gone are the captions; added is an introductory essay by noted Japanese photography historian Iizawa Kotaro that provides an overview of Shinjuku’s nightlife and Watanabe’s role. Recently, Akio Nagasawa Publishing in Tokyo released a new reprint entitled Shinjuku Guntoden 1965-1973: Story of the Shinjuku Thieves. Similar in size to the Roth reprint, this version encased in a black slipcase, reveals deceptively simple black fabric boards with embossed type and imagery. Inside, Shinjuku streetscape overviews on the endpapers set the stage for the lush full bleed portrait images that follow in chronological groupings. Tying all this together is an English translation of a 1982 Watanabe essay describing his Shinjuku friends and outings.

Issei Suda
Original: Fushi Kaden (Tokyo: Asahi Sonorama, 1979)
TR680 .S83 1978

Reprint 1: Fushi Kaden (JCII Photo Salon library 165. Tokyo: JCII, 2005)

Reprint 2: Fushi Kaden (Tokyo: Akio Nagasawa Publishing, 2012)

Issei Suda. Fushi Kaden (Tokyo: Asahi Sonorama, 1979)

Issei Suda. Fushi Kaden (Tokyo: Asahi Sonorama, 1979)

Issei Suda. Fushi Kaden (JCII Photo Salon library 165. Tokyo: JCII, 2005); Fushi Kaden (Tokyo: Akio Nagasawa Publishing, 2012)

Issei Suda. Fushi Kaden (JCII Photo Salon library 165. Tokyo: JCII, 2005); Fushi Kaden (Tokyo: Akio Nagasawa Publishing, 2012)

Issei Suda, who until recently was less well-known than many of his contemporaries, published two books in the 1970s that have in the past 2 years gone through the “reprint process”. His Fushi Kaden photos, which were first serialized in Camera Mainichi from 1975-77, explore rituals and traditions throughout rural Japan and were originally presented in a 1977 Tokyo gallery exhibition (Wilkes Tucker et al. 361). In 1978, Asahi Sonorama published Fushi Kaden as part of their photography monograph series. As with all 27 volumes in this series, the similar format and cover of the original Fushi Kaden highlights a single image (in this case, a girl in a traditional kimono standing against cherry blossoms) on a monochrome background surrounded by white type. The images within are presented without artifice, one per page. Also included is an informative English text by Akira Hasegawa, which explains the book’s title (translated as: Transmission of the Flower of the Art) and inspiration from the Noh theater writings of the 15th century Japanese author Zeami. There are two reprints, each dramatically different from the original and one another. As part of an exhibition at the JCII Camera Museum in Tokyo in 2005, the first reprint is more of a pamphlet than a photobook. Beyond documenting the images as thumbnails, there is little thought to the pages that present images in a condensed grid design. In contrast, the 2012 reprint by Akio Nagasawa Publishing is a lavish publication with plush black satin boards showcasing a mounted cover image of a woman in the traditional black mask worn during Nishimonai Bon Odori, an annual festival dance honoring deceased ancestors. Within both the original and 2012 reprint are beautifully printed black and white images that seem to freeze fading Japanese traditions, dress and customs. There is an openness to all the faces that reveals an overflowing sense of wonder and joy. The slightly nostalgic text by Suda at the end of the 2012 version provides a good overview for those new to the Fushi Kaden series.

Issei Suda
Original: Waga Tokyo 100 (Tokyo: Nikkor Club, 1979)
TR140 .S831 1979

Reprint: Waga Tokyo 100 (Tokyo: Zen Foto, 2013)

Issei Suda.  Waga Tokyo 100 (Tokyo: Nikkor Club, 1979)

Issei Suda. Waga Tokyo 100 (Tokyo: Nikkor Club, 1979)

Issei Suda. Waga Tokyo 100 (Tokyo: Zen Foto, 2013)

Issei Suda. Waga Tokyo 100 (Tokyo: Zen Foto, 2013)

The ICP Library came into possession of the original version of Issei Suda’s Waga Tokyo 100 as a result of the 10×10 Japanese Photobooks reading room held in 2012. As one of the specialists for the project, Ivan Vartanian included it in his selection of photobooks that explore Tokyo as their theme. With Fushi Kaden all about fading rituals and traditions, Waga Tokyo 100 (translated loosely as: 100 Views of My Tokyo) is about capturing Tokyo at a distinct time and place presented through 100 images taken from 1976-1978. Exterior street and building shots devoid of people bookend portraits of Tokyoites that fill the interior pages. In terms of both scale and print quality, both the original and reprint are fairly similar. There is an urban theatricality to Suda’s Tokyo portraits with all the prerequisite characters: the “crazy dog lady” who holds her poodle on her back as if in a baby carrier; the Sumo wrestler taking a break by sprawling on the pavement; the over-bundled child posing for the camera; and a shopkeeper dressing a half clothed mannequin. The main differences can be found in the bindings, texts and sequencing, with the 2013 reprint by Zen Foto dispensing with the division between portraits and street scenes, updating the text and wrapping all in plush maroon and purple endpapers within an inventive binder-like hardcover.

Shigeo Gocho
Original: Familiar Street Scenes (Tokyo: Self-published, 1981)

Reprint: Familiar Street Scenes (Tokyo: Yagisha, 2013)

Shigeo Gocho. Familiar Street Scenes (Tokyo: Self-published, 1981)

Shigeo Gocho. Familiar Street Scenes (Tokyo: Self-published, 1981)

Shigeo Gocho. Familiar Street Scenes (Tokyo: Yagisha, 2013)

Shigeo Gocho. Familiar Street Scenes (Tokyo: Yagisha, 2013)

Shigeo Gocho, a Tokyo-based photographer active during the 1970s and 80s, was celebrated for his distinctive examination of the role of the individual within Japanese society. In early childhood, Gocho contracted caries, a degenerative disease of the thoracic vertebrae that stunted his growth and took his life at the age of thirty-six (Vartanian and Kaneko 200). Standing no taller than 4 feet three inches, Gocho photographed the world from a unique, almost child-like perspective. There is an innocence about his imagery that focuses on the mysteries hidden in the ordinary. In Familiar Street Scenes (1981), unlike his earlier book Self and Others (1977), all the images are color and convey a sense of constant motion. While most of the individuals in Self and Others stare at the camera, the connection to those captured in the urban crowds of Familiar Street Scenes is less direct. Characterized by strong blues and reds, Gocho’s images are populated by adults oblivious to his presence as they engage in the rhythms of daily life. Rather, the children in these images stare at the camera – and by extension, the small man behind it. Whether within a crowd or alone, the people in Gocho’s photographs are links to our larger humanity. They are simultaneously familiar and unknown as we connect with them.

The original book, housed in a varnished slipcase illustrated with a photo of two Japanese women in traditional dress, presents glossy images bound by discreet black linen boards stamped with silver type in English. All the images are printed without captions, with a simple introductory text by Gocho and biographical notes at the end – both are in Japanese. The release of Yagisha’s 2013 reprint, which coincided with an exhibition of prints from the book at the MEM Gallery in Tokyo, expands upon the selection presented in the original. The reprint follows the same sequencing with the addition of 27 images that were exhibited under the same title in 1982, but not included in the original book. Linen boards with a mounted image of a family standing at the railing of a harbor surround several black duotone pages that introduce the original sequence followed by a black dividing page and then the added 27 images. The book is printed on matte paper and encased in a grey cardboard slipcase. English translations for the introduction and biography provide the opportunity for a Western audience to become better acquainted with Gocho’s distinctive vision.


Tamiko Nishimura
Original: Shikishima (Tokyo: Tokyo Photographic School, 1973)

Reprint: Shikishima (Tokyo: Zen Foto Gallery, 2014)

Tamiko Nishimura. Shikishima (Tokyo: Tokyo Photographic School, 1973); Shikishima (Tokyo: Zen Foto Gallery, 2014).

Tamiko Nishimura. Shikishima (Tokyo: Tokyo Photographic School, 1973); Shikishima (Tokyo: Zen Foto Gallery, 2014).

As I write this post, I’ve just received word that Tamiko Nishimura’s hard to find road trip photobook, Shikishima, will soon be released as a reprint by Zen Foto in Tokyo. As a series of blurry and slightly out of focus photographs shot from train and bus windows, this book is distinctive for its feminine perspective in an era when very few photobooks by women were published. Rather than the late night after-hour club and bar patron portraits that are the mainstay of many Japanese male photographers of the period, Shikishima is more akin to Masahisa Fukase’s Kurasu / Ravens (1986). It is a sensitive book comprised of poetic images – many resulting from transitory sightings – by a young woman traveling alone in her native Japan from 1969 to 1973. A quiet book that lingers, it is heartening news that Nishimura’s images will soon have a chance to reach a larger Western audience, and open up yet another little known corner of Japanese photography and photobooks.

Vartanian, Ivan and Ryuichi Kaneko. Japanese Photobooks of the 1960s and ’70s. New York: Aperture, 2009.
Tucker, Anne Wilkes, Dana Friis-Hansen,  Ryuichi Kaneko, and Joe Takeba. The History of Japanese Photography. New Haven: Yale University Press in Association with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 2003.
Posted in International, New Acquisitions, Seen and heard, Unpacking the collection, Visual Research | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

In Five Words : An ICP Library Exhibition

Lizzie Himmel: In 5 Words
February 7th 2014 at 6pm

Lizzie Himmel: In 5 Words, a collaboration between Alison Bradley, Specialist in Photography and Educator at ICP, and Lizzie Himmel.  A conversation centered on five words: “carnal”, “surrealist”, “spectrum”, “form”, and “conversation”.




In 5 Words – Selected Bibliography

Araki, Nobuyoshi. Araki: Tokyo Lucky Hole. Köln: Taschen, 2005.
Avedon, Richard. In the American West. New York: Abrams, 1985.
Bassman, Lillian. Lillian Bassman. Boston: Little, Brown, 1997.
Bellmer, Hans. Die Puppe. Frankfurt/M.: Ullstein, 1976.
Brodovitch, Alexey. Ballet: 104 photographs by Alexey Brodovitch. New York: Errata Editions, 2011.
Eggleston, William. William Eggleston. New York, NY: Thames & Hudson 2002.
Frank, Robert. The Americans. New York: Grossmann Publishers, 1969.
Gill, Stephen. Coming Up for Air. London: Nobody, 2010. Hackney Flowers. London: Nobody, 2007.
Harrison, Martin. Young Meteors: British Photojournalism, 1957-1965. London: Jonathan Cape,1998.
Himmel, Paul. Ballet in Action: The New York City Ballet. New York: Putnam, 1954. Photographs. New York: Assouline, 1999.
Ledare, Leigh. Pretend you’re Actually Alive. New York: PPP Edition, in association with Andrew Roth Inc., 2008.
Leiter, Saul. Saul Leiter: Early Color. Göttingen: Steidl, 2006.
Kawauchi, Rinko. Ametsuchi. New York: Aperture, 2013.
Mahurin, Matt. Photographs. Pasadena, Calif.: Twelvetrees Press, 1989.
Man Ray. Man Ray: La Photographie a L’envers. Paris: Centre Georges Pompidou, 1998.
Meatyard, Ralph Eugene. Ralph Eugene Meatyard. New York: ICP/STEIDL, 2004.
Michals, Duane. Album: the portraits of Duane Michals 1958-1988. Pasadena, Calif.: Twelvetrees Press, 1988.
Newton, Helmut. Pola Woman. München: Schirmer Mosel, 2000.
Outerbridge, Paul. Paul Outerbridge 1896-1958. Köln; New York: Taschen, 1999.
Richter, Gerhard. Atlas. New York: D.A.P. / Distributed Art Publishers, 2006.
Schellen, Heinrich. Spectrum analysis in its application to terrestrial substances, and the physical constitution of the heavenly bodies. London, Longmans, Green & Co.; New York, Scribner, Welford & Co., 1872.
Sussman, Elisabeth. Nan Goldin: I’ll be Your Mirror. New York: Whitney Museum of American Art/Scalo, 1996.
Thomas, Ann. Lisette Model. Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada, 1990.
Traub, Charles. Beach. New York: Horizon Press, 1978.
Tucker, Anne. Louis Faurer. Houston: Merrel/The Museum of Fine Arts, 2002.
Weegee’s World. Boston: Little, Brown/International Center of Photography, New York, 1997.


Posted in artists' books, Events, Exhibitions, ICP alumni, International, Unpacking the collection | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

David Solo: An Inveterate Photobook Collector

In a loft apartment in the former grand ballroom of a converted pre-war Brooklyn landmark hotel, David Solo is surrounded by floor to ceiling bookshelves punctuated by framed photographs, works on paper and a beautiful collection of Chinese scholar’s stones.  The room’s middle space is taken over by a mammoth antique pool table. It is the only diversion in an apartment where art and books take center stage. As an inveterate collector of works on paper and photobooks, David is one of the most informed and knowledgeable people in the field of Asian photobooks. He is also extremely modest – quietly supporting and acquiring books and art way in advance of those who collect according to trends. He is everywhere at once: constantly up-to-date through aggregated online feeds and regularly traveling to Europe and Asia to seek out small bookshops, galleries and obscure art fairs. Recently, I spent several hours visiting David’s collection and learning more about what he values in photobooks.

David Solo

David Solo

Russet Lederman: Your apartment is overflowing with books and art. How did all this begin?

David Solo: Well, I’ve always been a book accumulator, a book person. As a kid, I collected science fiction and mystery novels, and buying books was a natural part of whatever I was interested in. For that reason, I would describe myself as always having accumulated lots of books, but not until recently as a serious collector. My collecting gene, which had been dormant throughout my twenties was rekindled when I moved back to New York from Boston in the mid-1990s and started making connections with museums and art institutions here. As I got interested in various modern and contemporary Asian arts – Chinese and Japanese painting, calligraphy and photography – I turned again to books for historical and reference information.

RL: How did your collecting interest shift from books as reference sources to the photobooks themselves?

DS: As I began collecting contemporary Chinese ink works and following various artists’ creative paths, I became aware that many were also doing photographic works. This led to purchases of both prints and books that included photography. But I think the real crossover came when I started to get more interested in Japanese photography. In the early 2000s, I was doing a lot of traveling in Asia, and Japan in particular. I can’t remember exactly what got me to look more closely at Japanese photography – there was no cause and effect, rather a natural process of observation that incited my interest. I found myself more drawn to photographic series rather than individual prints, and that was the tipping point for my more serious collecting of books. I moved from casually buying books about Japanese photography to collecting Japanese photobooks, beginning with Masahisa Fukase’s Karasu / Ravens (1986), and Shomei Tomatsu’s I Am a King (1972) and Nihon / Japan (1967).

RL: Do you primarily collect Japanese and Chinese photobooks?

DS: No, not at all. My photo and artists’ book collection is very global. That said, there is a strong Asian focus in my collection, with a large Japanese photobook selection in part due to the wide range of amazing material. I have also acquired equally interesting Chinese photobooks, but the earlier material in China just didn’t survive well and those that did are harder to find. For example, in the 1920s, there were avant-garde publications being made both in Tokyo and Shanghai – but hardly any of the Shanghai photobooks survived.  During the State and Cultural Revolution periods few photobooks were produced. In the 1990s, Chinese contemporary photography picked up, but still there just wasn’t much attention given to producing books other than exhibition catalogues. Instead, a premium was placed on large-scale photographs. More recently in China, a growing interest in making photobooks has emerged. But it’s quite different than in Japan, where there’s a broader and deeper interest in the book itself as an object.

RL: Your interest in Japanese photobooks is quite expansive and includes both pre and post-war periods. How did this evolve?

DS: Following various historical paths of the Japanese book as object led me to learn more about Japanese visual experiments in the 1920s and ‘30s. Many of these books blend Japanese and Chinese motifs with various avant-garde traditions from Europe, such as Expressionism, Surrealism, Bauhaus design elements, Russian Constructivism and visual poetry.  As my fascination with this period grew, I became more attuned to pre-war materials through exhibitions and dealer visits. Initially, I didn’t acquire anything because I told myself it wasn’t what I collected. But then by the second or third time, I had to admit that I really liked what I saw and eventually temptation kicked in. Many of the books from the Tokyo avant-garde pre-war period blur the borders between photo and artists’ books. There was a lot of crossover between music, performance, literature and photography. My aesthetic sensibility leans towards works that explore these experimental alterative processes, and in doing so also often include calligraphy or typographic elements. As a result, I am drawn to Sosaku-Hanga, the Japanese creative print and book design movement of the 1920s. As one of its main proponents, Koshiro Onchi broke with the traditional graphic model of multiple artisans creating a wood block print and advocated that a single artist should be involved from start to finish as designer, carver, and printer. The books from this movement reveal a strong Bauhaus montage influence, where photographic images are mixed with graphic design.

Koshiro Onchi. Umi no Dowa (Tokyo: Hanga-so, 1934)

Koshiro Onchi. Umi no Dowa (Tokyo: Hanga-so, 1934)

RL: You also have a strong interest in the radical Japanese Mavo Group of the 1920s. Although less photographic, their books speak to the overlap between artists’ and photobooks.

DS: Yes, the Mavo group is more about visual poetry and avant-garde graphics inspired by the European Bauhaus movement. Their books are amazing objects and I started to read what I could on them. About ten years ago, Gennifer Weisenfeld, an art historian at Duke University, published the first English language book on the movement. She outlined how many of the Mavo group artists, which included Tomoyoshi Muriyama, were reacting in different ways to the prevailing Japanese aesthetic and the social upheaval of the 1920s, which was shaped to a certain degree by the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake, and Tokyo’s destruction and subsequent reconstruction as a modern industrial city.

Increasingly, many artists of all forms are using photographic images as part of their visual language and my collection includes a fair number of works that explore overlaps between distinct disciplines. Like a lot of things, it’s a question of context. In many institutions, rare photobooks are acquired or collected by different departments than those that collect artists’ books. Also, many photographers as photobook-makers still think of themselves as somewhat separate from the artists’ book community. Published scholarship separates them – with books about photobooks and books about artists’ books, and not much blending between the two. Recently, there’s started to be some interesting new essay books that discuss the photobook as artists’ book, but it is not the norm.

Kyojiro Hagiwara. Shikei senkoku / Death Sentence (Tokyo, 1925)

Kyojiro Hagiwara. Shikei senkoku / Death Sentence (Tokyo, 1925)

RL: Do you see your collection as accessible to those who do research?

DS: Absolutely. I learn a lot when people come here and tell me something new as they do research within my collection. Often what happens is a scholar, depending on how well they’re funded to travel, will see material mediated through books or online and not in person. I’m more than happy to provide access to the original material whenever possible. It also is an excuse to pull things out that I haven’t looked at for awhile. I always enjoy finding connections or questions that I hadn’t thought about when books were originally acquired.

RL: How do you think your travels and ability to see exhibitions abroad affects your photobook acquisitions?

DS: It’s hard for me to take a trip that doesn’t involve loading a good number of books into my return luggage. Almost anywhere I go, within a week or two, there’s some kind of book fair or other photo or works on paper event. I do end up seeing a lot. For the targeted and more focused kinds of collecting – with Japan or otherwise – I can do a lot remotely, but it’s still good to be able to go. Some dealers in particular work much better in person. If I’m dealing with a dealer who I understand how they talk about condition, then buying something remotely is fine. But in some cases, it is better to see the books in person and establish a relationship.

RL: Over the past 5 years, interest in and information about photobooks has greatly expanded. Why do you think this is?

DS: I don’t know. I’ve been trying to figure it out.  The fairs are one thing, but now there are so many Internet sites and blogs devoted to photobooks. When I get up in the morning, and skim through all the feeds that I subscribe to, it seems like there are 40 new photobooks that I’m being exposed to each day. I’m not sure whether there always has been this interest and there just weren’t as many vehicles to communicate it, or there really are now more people interested. One side of it might be that a lot more photobooks are now being published, and as a result people are more actively looking at photobooks. I don’t know whether this translates to people buying more photobooks or not. I’ve noticed that even when a book is published in a small edition of 20 or 30, there never seems to be a problem getting a copy – except for the one or two, for whatever reason, is a hot book of the year that everyone feels that they must have. So in that sense, trend-wise, there seems to be a lot of people energetically creating them and wanting to share them in whatever form they can. But I don’t know how many people are collecting them.

RL: How have all the recently published books on photobooks influenced collecting practices?

DS: Without any question, there has been an explosion of books about photobooks in the last few years – where every country, every city, or personal collection now has a book about its photobooks. I have a separate section in my bookshelves for books on photobooks and it has expanded quite a bit recently. There can be a danger in using these books on photobooks as strict guides. Personally, I still find more satisfaction in discovering the quirky, “never seen this before” book. Finding eclectic and interesting things that may reflect a side tangent is just as much fun as getting a copy of a “hot” book listed in all the books on books. I enjoy the process of hunting and finding – especially finding something and deciding what I think of it as opposed to whether it made the latest list or book on books.

I also suspect that the advent of numerous photobook prizes and awards have encouraged photographers who might have in the past been satisfied with just making a catalogue or simply a record to be used as a sales tool. The effect has been to make more photographers think about design and other elements of the book form.  More people are conducting workshops and portfolio review sessions around photobook design and dummies.  In terms of trends, I think this is indicative that photobooks have a broader role in the art and photo world than perhaps they had 15 years ago.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Posted in artists' books, Friends of the Library Committee, International, Interviews, Visual Research | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments