Japanese Photo Book Monday #1

Good morning to readers of Monsters & Madonnas: The ICP Library Blog. Today we are beginning a new “column” of blog posts following our ongoing Instagram series Japanese Photo Book Monday. Many of the books we will cover are part of the 10×10 Japanese Photobooks collection, and we originally wrote them up as part of a presentation about the collection given by our librarian Emily Dunne at Fototeca Latinoamericana last summer. Check back on Mondays for additional installments of the column as you add to your already undoubtedly extensive quarantine reading list. From all of us at the library – we hope everyone is staying safe and staying healthy.

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Takayuki Ogawa – New York Is

NEW YORK IS documents Takayuki Ogawa’s 1968 visit to New York City. His images call to mind the best of the best of classic black and white American photography – Robert Frank, Diane Arbus, Harry Callahan, and Roy Decarava. Ogawa traveled to Wall Street, Harlem, Central Park, and photographed soldiers, children, hippies, businessmen, beach bums, concerts, and art galleries. The American flag is a dominant visual anchor and appears countless times in Ogawa’s images. Veering from street photography to abstraction, Ogawa disappears a skyscraper into a white sky, a subway crowd into a black floor, and an American flag at a nationalist demonstration into the void.

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Yuichi Hibi – 127

Shot in 1994, the year Rudy Giuliani was elected mayor of New York, 127 collects Yuichi Hibi’s portraits of the then-rapidly disappearing “dark underbelly” of the city. As reminiscent of Weegee and Arbus as of Midnight Cowboy, Hibi’s high contrast black and white images capture hard yet vacant stares – many of the sitters do not seem to be aware that they are being photographed. Hibi makes no effort to whitewash the people he photographs, in some ways he is attempting to stop or even turn back the clock by way of his camera.

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Kunie Sugiura – Artists and Scientists

A landmark work in the long and twisting career of Kunie Sugiura, ARTISTS AND SCIENTISTS was made in the early 2000s and images leading artists and scientists in silhouette as massive photograms, often with props. What Sugiura is after here is not so much the superficial contours of a person’s face, but some piece of the model’s soul that is transmitted by gesture and presence. Take for instance the “portrait” of Daido Moriyama. Sugiura pictures him twice: once in white on black, again in black on white. In both images, he simply holds a camera with the lens extended. He appears hunched and almost looks to be giving the camera to some unseen subject standing just out of the frame in front of him. He mediates the world around him by way of his camera, it is his gift both to and from what he photographs. By eliminating the traditional signifiers of portraiture and adding her own, Sugiura emphasizes the work of those she photographs – their work being what she is concerned with in the first place.

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