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Hitoshi Ishii

The Future of Photography with Inherent Chaos
- Approaching the Exhibition “Magazine Photos from the Occupied Period vs. the Discernment of Modern Youth”

Hitoshi Ishii
Critic of 20th Century Media, Media Producer

Approximately 170 years have passed since the birth of the media known as photography, and the diversity of expression is being accelerated more than ever. Also, within the passage of time from the 20th century to the 21st century, it can also be said that technological change is being advanced that will fundamentally change the concept of photography. In terms of factors such as speed and convenience, the movement from analog to digital is an event that marks a major turning point since the origin of photography, and it may not be an overstatement to label this event as a revolution. Completely new methods of expression are being used as a result of the change from analog to digital, and wonderful works are being produced.

Ken Kitano, “The City of Flow and Fusion: #5 Urayasu” ©KITANO Ken

The culture of analog photography which is centered on silver halide photography of the 20th century seems to have become a past form of expression. Despite rapid shrinking of the share held by such photography in the photography industry, older forms of photography are supported by professional photographers who continue to seek unique expression, by artists who are active in different fields, and by many other individuals. As a way to pursue artistic photographs, older forms of photography continue to be used as a method of expression that continues to support a portion of the royal road to snapshot photography. There is a long list of difficulties when using this method, such as insufficient amounts of black-and-white photographic paper and extinction of options for types of such paper. However, on the contrary, it seems that a wonderful and different world of photography is expanding from analog photography that is born from unique persistency within modern times, as well as from remaining analog photography and records-or am I the only one that feels this way? Recently, there are a large number of young people who have their eyes opened by encounters with the unique qualities of the world of silver halide photography. If possible, I would like to see a national project that considers methods for the certain preservation of these analog techniques, in a meaning that is slightly different from the preservation of tradition. I believe that the development of culture is the continuing process of clearing these various types of issues, including education and activities for enlightenment.

Ryo Kameyama, “Kamenge Mental Hospital” (from the collection of the Kiyosato Photo Art Museum) ©KAMEYAMA Ryo

For example, let us consider my experiences with photography. I was born almost in the middle of the 20th century, and in elementary school I made a pinhole camera. In junior high school, I used silver halide black-and-white photographs that were taken with a Ricoh Auto Half (I also learned to work in a darkroom during this period). In high school and in later years, I took an enormous number of color photographs with an Olympus OM-1. Today, I use a LUMIX to take digital photographs. Recently, due to the trouble presented by never-ending varieties of cameras and due to a change in the direction of my interests, I shifted from taking photographs to appreciating photographs, and finally to working as a producer of photography exhibitions. I suppose this shift in my activities was the result of following the proverb of “what one likes, one will do best.” Discerning vision is necessary for the act of taking photographs, as well as for viewing and appreciating photographs. Professional photographers establish their own personal viewpoint and decided what aspects to photograph within that era, as well as how to create works that will strike a chord in society. The mark of a professional is made by continuing to work in these ways. Furthermore, I feel that photographic media must always be accompanied by the issue of how observers refine their sensibilities and continue to view photographs from a certain era. It is these observers who support professional photographers. Discerning vision is of particular importance for an era in which disposable photographs are produced in infinite amounts.

Munem Washifi, “Old Dhaka” (from the collection of the Kiyosato Photo Art Museum) ©Abdul Munem WASHIFI

Last year, Iwanami Publishing released a 5 volume work entitled “Lineage of Magazine Material during the Occupied Period: Popular Culture Edition.” I served as a member of the Editing Committee for this work and surveyed the era of American occupation in Japan. Additionally, I was also responsible for parts of the work, mainly chapters dealing with photograph and music from the occupied era. It was of great significance to me personally when this work was finished approximately 7 years after I had begun to focus on viewing photographs from this era. In regards to the resurrection of the field of photography within the special environment of the occupied period, and in regards to the path that photography followed until the period of rapid economic growth in Japan, I believe that these phenomena can be described as the elevation of energy in a chaotic position, and I reached the conclusion that a portion of that situation could be summarized under the title of “magazine photos from the occupied period.” Although this may seem to be an unusual conclusion, this era possesses as much chaos as any period of photographic history, and a dramatic change occurred in the consciousness and style of professional photographers during the period that included Japan’ s defeat in World War II. In the middle of a magazine boom that included even so-called “castor magazines” (tabloids focusing on erotic stories, murder and crime), the world of photography accomplished a new internal movement.

G.M.B. Akash, “Take Me Home-Born to Work (Child Labor In Bangladesh)” ©G.M.B.AKASH

Today, society has been swept up in the wave of digitalization and contains the chaos of having to feverishly search for the orientation of expression. There is a strong impression that some parts of philosophy, art, and other fields that require thought over a long period of time are somehow being discarded for speed, economy, and convenience. In other words, it seems that a shallow and superficial culture is swaggering throughout the world. What kind of action should we take in order to continue to ponder the future of photography? I developed a way of thinking in regards to this question. I want to create a place that constantly provides an environment similar to salons which have served as a bridge between different cultural fields since long ago. I continue to dream of creating a place of enlightenment that includes photography, video, music, literature and even natural science. As part of efforts to implement this dream, I continue to work as a producer of photographic exhibitions.

Saori Teramoto, “Holi” (from the collection of the Kiyosato Photo Art Museum) ©Teramoto Saori

The same previously discussed reason applies to the holding of the “Magazine Photos from the Occupied Period vs. the Discernment of Modern Youth” exhibition which is being held in the 125th Anniversary Exhibition Room of Waseda University, and to the “Discerning Vision of Modern Youth” exhibition which is being held at the Visual Arts Gallery Tokyo during the same period. Furthermore, the “Who Will Decorate this Wall? You Will Bury This Platform.” exhibition that is being held in the Waseda Gallery until January 16th will continue to be held in the entrance hall of the Visual Arts Gallery Tokyo. I have contemplated the creation of a space in which young and mid-career photographers, Waseda University, Visual Arts Tokyo, students of the Waseda University Art and Architecture School, the university photography club, and students from other universities will be able to display works and compete in the same location. Such a space will allow the displaying parties to stimulate each other and to appeal to a variety of observers included the media and fine arts dealers. There is also one more impetus and factor for the promotion of this plan.

Hanako Takeuchi, “The Day” (from the collection of the Kiyosato Photo Art Museum) ©TAKEUCHI Hanako

This impetus and factor is the existence of the Kiyosato Photo Art Museum. Since 1995, the museum has continued to hold an event entitled “Young Portfolio” (here after referred to as YP). YP is a project to collect the works of young artists who are passionate about photography and to convey these works to future generations as a permanent collection. There is a system that enables purchasing of the selected of works. I was touched by this philosophy of supporting young artists, and I have since been involved with the project. Through the grace of Museum Director Mr. Eiko Hosoe and other related individuals, I have selected 128 works from the 4,390 works contained in the permanent collection of YP for exhibition in two venues, marking the first time that these works will be exhibited outside of the Kiyosato Photo Art Museum. This group of outstanding works has yet to be given a fixed evaluation, yet are filled with passion and creativity. These works contain the power to deeply impress the professional photographers that oversee the selection process each year. In this case, the loss of a sense of distance that has occurred globally due to the proliferation of internet society is a positive factor. Every year, young people from countries throughout the world apply to this event of the Kiyosato Photo Art Museum. I believe that there is great meaning in experiencing this world in Tokyo’ s Nishi-Waseda district, an area where young people study together at institutions such as Waseda University and Visual Arts Tokyo. Furthermore, I strongly hope that the young expressionists featured in the “Who Will Decorate this Wall?...” exhibition, an exhibition which has removed the barrier between professionals and amateurs, will take the opportunity to accept the challenge offered by the YP.

Sukkuhn Oh, “The Text Book (Chulsoo N'Younghee)” ©OH Sukkuhn

The exhibition being held in the 125th Anniversary Exhibition Room of Waseda University is largely based on the concept of contrast born from the comparison of magazine photos from the occupied period and the Kiyosato photographs taken by young photographers. In addition to exhibiting actual magazines, I also hope that visitors to the exhibition will witness the power of magazine photos when contents such as detailed written information have been removed. At the Visual Arts Gallery, select works are exhibited under the theme of “The Memory of Time.” Furthermore, it is also worth viewing the exhibition being held at the entrance hall of the gallery. I truly hope that visitors will make the trip along Waseda Road in order to fully enjoy both of the venues. Furthermore, I pray that each of these 3 exhibitions will become fixtures of their respective locations and will continue to move towards the future.

“Magazine Photos from the Occupied Period vs. the Discernment of Modern Youth” Exhibition

Period: January 9th to February 27th, 2010
Venue: Waseda University, Building No. 26, 10th Floor, 125th Anniversary Exhibition Room 1-6-1 Nishi-Waseda, Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo

Mr. Hitoshi Ishii
Critic of 20th Century Media, Media Producer

Born in 1955. Studied at Athenee Francais. Conducts research and gives criticism on modern cultural history (music, photography, video). Also conducts research on Kenzo Nakajima. Instructor at the Waseda University Extension Center. Supervisor of the “Nakajima Kenzo Centennial Exhibition” (2003) at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography. Editor and member of the editing board for “Lineage of Magazine Material during the Occupied Period” (Iwanami Publishing, 2009).