A Japanese season starts in Paris

Opening night at Japanese Photobooks Now Last night was the opening of Japanese Photobooks Now, the first in a summer series of events on Japanese photography and film at Le Bal, which, as regular readers will know, should be right up my street. I've written about Le Bal before on eyecurious and since their first show Anonymes last autumn they have maintained a consistently interesting and diverse programme. For the next couple of weeks, the upstairs space has been taken over by Ivan Vartanian, a Tokyo-based New Yorker and the author of Japanese photobooks of the 1960s and 1970s and Setting Sun amongst others. For Japanese Photobooks Now Vartanian has put together a selection of around 80 photobooks which provide an overview of contemporary Japanese photobook publishing. Opportunities to pick up Japanese photobooks outside of Japan are pretty limited and so this is a rare chance not only to see some of the best current books but also to get a broader overview of the contemporary Japanese photo scene and the current trends in photobook publishing. The show is up until 8 May, but if you hurry Vartanian is in Paris until the end of the week and you just might be able to convince him to give you a private tour. With a Kitajima/Takanashi/Watabe exhibition, a month of Japanese film, two books and several events to come (full programme on Le Bal's website), this promises to be a good summer.


Ivan Vartanian



Taisuke Koyama

Taisuke Koyama, Untitled (Wavelength) During my exceedingly short trip to Tokyo earlier this month, a friend of mine took me on a whirlwind up-and-coming-photography tour of Tokyo. First stop was at the G/P Gallery, in the new NADiff a/p/a/r/t art complex in Ebisu (which incidentally has an excellent art bookstore). They had a small solo-show (14 prints) of the young photographer Taisuke Koyama's entropix series. I had made a mention of Koyama's work in the piece I wrote for Images magazine last year highlighting some of the Japanese photography on show at the 2008 edition of Paris Photo. I didn't get to see enough of his prints at the fair, but I found the couple of images that I did see interesting.

Entropix is a series of visual fragments, seemingly haphazard abstractions that still retain a link to their subject (paint peeling, pink fabric, tarmac, sheet metal). The images are highly detailed, feeling like microscopic, molecular studies of the surfaces of the city. Koyama's compositions are both strong and simple, and they retain an instinctive energy reminiscent of Eggleston's shotgun approach. The (digital) prints are good, although I prefer the smaller prints to the larger edition (1.2 x 1.8m), which I found diluted the impact of the images a bit.

© Taisuke Koyama

I ran into Koyama later on that evening at a discussion organised by Akira Rachi at CAMP in Hacchobori (more on this later) where he was presenting entropix and had a chance to chat briefly to him. He will be coming to Paris Photo with G/P again this year so this will be a chance to see more of his work. And if you don't feel like waiting until then, a catalogue of the series is also available from G/P. One to watch.

Japan: A Self-Portrait opening in Tokyo

© Kikuji Kawada I have been a bit quiet over the past few days as I have been busy working on two exhibition projects. Last week I went to Sweden to meet with a museum who will be holding the exhibition, Tokyo Stories, which I curated last year and was shown during Paris Photo 2008 at Artcurial. The details still need to be confirmed, but I'll be posting on this again soon I'm sure.

The exhibition that has been keeping me really busy these past few weeks (going on years) is Japan: A Self-Portrait, based on my first major project in the field of Japanese photography, the book published by Flammarion in 2004. The exhibition brings together work by the leading photographers of the postwar years, a time of radical and disruptive change for Japan and to my mind one of the richest photographic periods in the country's history. The photographers included in the show are: Ken Domon, Hiroshi Hamaya, Tadahiko Hayashi, Eikoh Hosoe, Yasuhiro Ishimoto, Kikuji Kawada, Ihee Kimura, Shigeichi Nagano, Ikko Narahara, Takeyoshi Tanuma and Shomei Tomatsu. You can find out more on the show on the Studio Equis website or on the excellent Tokyo Art Beat. The exhibition opens at the Setagaya Art Museum from 2 May to 21 June and will then travel to other venues in Japan. I hope that some of you will get a chance to see it.

Update: I just did an interview with the blog on Japanese photography, Japan Exposures.

Forward Thinking Museum

I recently discovered the JGS Forward Thinking Museum, an online virtual museum that is run by the not-for-profit, Joy of Giving Something. It is a pretty quirky experience, complete with the voice of a guy selling hot dogs on the street corner, robots in wheelchairs, abseiling window-cleaners, laid off bankers trying to hitch a ride home and much more. The navigation is a little clunky because of all these elements, but the depth of material on show makes it worth an extended visit. I think that JGS is involved with Nazraeli Press as a lot of the artists that they have published can be found in the museum. The thing I enjoyed most was the 'permanent exhibitions' on show here. Japanese photography is often absent from the internet, and I was delighted to find a great selection of work here by some of the more interesting contemporary Japanese artists including Naoya Hatakeyama, Eiji Ina, Yuki Onodera, Toshio Shibata, Risaku Suzuki and Masao Yamamoto. As an added bonus, there is a section of the museum called FTM Theater with a selection of short films on the artists at work. I will be a regular visitor.