Contemporary Japanese Photobooks at The Photographers’ Gallery – 13 July – 9 September 2012
The Japanese photobook has had a unique influence on international photographic and publishing culture, from its heyday in the 1960s and 70s to the present. This exhibition displays a range of material from the last ten years, transforming the Wolfson Gallery into a quiet reading space with over 200 publications not widely available outside of Japan. The exhibition is curated by photographer Jason Evans and Tokyo-based publisher and founder of Goliga Books Ivan Vartanian. Photographs flourish on the printed page in Japan like nowhere else and a rich and varied book culture dominates the presentation and circulation of the photographic image. Closely linked to the country’s cultural history, the prevalence of the contemporary Japanese photobook and the aesthetics associated with it can be traced back to the popularity of Ukiyo-e woodblock prints (‘pictures of the floating world’) and ehon (‘picture book’) during the Edo (1603-1868) and Meiji (1868-1912) periods.
Contemporary Japanese Photobooks
The slow development of galleries and art museums, up until the 1970’s, also contributed to artists’ continued favouritism towards the book format. Easily produced in small runs, the photobook allowed photographers to distribute their work among a community of book buyers and in the process experiment with a wide range of photographic expressions unrestrained by the conventional restrictions of the gallery wall. This in turn led to the evolution of a creative culture that till this day maintains an emphasis on individual experience over critical discourse.
Contemporary Japanese Photobooks invites audiences to experience Japanese photography in its most authentic form. Ranging from Daido Moriyama’s complete series of Record publications (Alcio Nagasawa, 2006 – on-going) to Ayao Nakamura one of a kind, artist’s books and Masafumi Sanai’s hand-crafted, editioned Trouble in Mind (Taisyo, 2009) – the books, often unique in their design, content and format, resist hierarchical order and arrangement into categories. Tables and benches are also placed in the gallery, encouraging visitors to take their time with the books, drawing their own conclusions. An online forum inviting visitors to discuss their thoughts about the show and the work on display has been set up and can be accessed via: thephotographersgallery.org.uk/contemporaryjapanese- photobooks. Jason Evans and Ivan Vartanian will also take part in the forum and invite featured photographers to contribute their thoughts to the discussion.
Approaching Whiteness , a bookmaking performance with artist Rinko Kawauchi and curator Ivan Vartanian, will take place Saturday 8 September. The performance includes a screen-printer and a calligrapher who will make use of a form of traditional Japanese scrolls to present Kawauchi’s images. The scrolls will be available to purchase by attending audience. Admission for this event is free however booking in advance is essential.
In celebration of Japanese Contemporary Photobooks The Photographers’ Gallery Bookshop is stocking many of the publications featured in the exhibition in a specially dedicated section of the shop.
The Photographers’ Gallery
16 – 18 Ramillies St
Tel: 0845 262 1618