Monday, March 21, 2011

Ohkoku (Man and his Land) (Eizo no Gendai vol 1) by Ikko Narahara

It may not overstate to claim that a new era of Japanese photography after World War II was accelerated by the advent of Ikko Narahara's work. Narahara's solo exhibition, Ningen no Tochi (Human Land) was held at Matsushima Gallery in Tokyo, in September 1956 when he was still a graduate student in Spanish Art at Waseda University. This show was a groundbreaking event to many professionals in the field since his persistent engagements to "Personal Documents".

A famous debate between Natori and Tomatsu illustrating in "Asahi Camera" in 1960 from September to November, which concerned with a photographer's subjective/objective standpoint in the area of documentary photography didn't sound valid any more and finally came to an end by a new generation of photographers, esp. Narahara. Narahara stressed his personal observation thru lens and expressed his own way to document reality. His work appeared much more organic and sensitively strong than a photo journalistic work prevalent after WWII in Japan. Narahara was one who didn't hesitate to state what he saw and thought thru his work and his strong belief in his own view and personal expression must look pretty sensational to a previous generation.

His 1956 show was materialized in the printed form in 1971, "Ohkoku (Man and His Land)" as a part of Eizo no Jidai by Chuo Koron sha. The book consists of three parts:

1. 'Chinmoku no Sono (garden of silence)' a Trappist Monastery on the island of Hokkaido
2. 'Kabe no Naka (Inside of the Wall)', a women's penitentiary in Wakayama Prefecture
3. 'Ningen no Tochi (human land)' the man-made island of Hajima off Nagasaki Bay (so called Gunkan island), coal miners toil within at 30-foot concrete wall that surrounds the island.

The Eizo no Gendai (Visual/Picture Era/Generation) is highly recommended for review and understanding of Japanese photography in the 50s and 60s. The series consists of 10 books and was published from 1971 to 1972. The photographers include Ikko Narahara, Shoji Ueda, Masahisa Fukase, Yasuhiro Ishimoto, Shomei Tomatsu, Akira Sato, Yoshihiro Tatsuk, Haruo Tomiyama, Noriaki Yokosuka, Daido Moriyama.

Man and His Land
Ikko Narahara (photography), Masakazu Yamazaki and Shoji Yamagishi (text), Iwao Hosono (book design)
Chuo Koron, 1971


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