Japanese photography books. Not!
essay by Ferdinand Brueggemann
[Editor's note: This essay and list was originally
published in September 2006 in the very informative blog
of Ferdinand Brueggemann, a photo historian based in Cologne Germany.
It is reprinted here with his kind permission.]
In recent years the interest in Japanese photography books has jumped
from non recognition to becoming must-haves — and not only for specialized
photobook collectors. Books which were completely unknown outside Japan
except to a few well informed collectors and researchers are now sold
at high prices by rare book dealers and at auctions.
The list-making (and the swell in demand for Japanese photobooks) began
in 1999 with the exhibition catalogue “Fotografia Publica. Photography
in Print 1919-1939". This was the first time that a publication and
large scale exhibition concentrated not on photographic prints for the
wall, but for the media, magazines and books, in which the photographs
were printed (1). “Fotografia Publica” contained one Japanese
book, Kiyoishi Koishi’s Early Summer Nerves (1937), and
the two most important magazines from the 1930s: “Nippon”
and “Kôga”. The magazine “Photo Times” was
added as well, but even though this magazine was very important for promoting
and spreading the “New Vision” (Shinkô Shashin) in Japan,
its design was not interesting at all. Additionally two photographers
Masao Horino and Yasuzo Nojima were mentioned in “Fotografia Publica”
with works published in western magazines. Unfortunately“Fotografia
Publica” missed Horino’s most praised series Character
of Great Tokyo (Dai Tokyo no Seikaku), edited and designed by Takaho
Itagaki and published in 1931 in "Chuokoron" magazine and Flowing
through the City - Sumida River Album (Shutokanryu - Sumidagawa no Album),
edited and designed by Tomoyoshi Murayama (2), published in the same year
in "Hanzai Kagaku" magazine.
Then, in 2001, came Andrew Roth’s milestone publication The
Book of 101 Books: Seminal Photographic Books of the Twentieth Century.
This book established the photography book as a legitimate media, as an
“objet d´art” itself. It lists four Japanese books:
Eikoh Hosoe, Killed by Roses, 1963; Kikuji Kawada, The Map,
1965; Nobuyoshi Araki, Sentimental Journey, 1971; Daido Moriyama,
Bye Bye Photography (Farewell Photography), 1972. While I agree
that these books are “seminal” and that in the 1960s and 1970s
epochal photographs and books were produced, its a little bit strange
that Andrew Roth only chose books published within a time frame of less
of than ten years.
In 2004, two more books on photography books were published: The Open
Book. A history of the photographic book from 1878 to the present,
by the Hasselblad Center, which added more books from the 1960s to the
1980s. Like The Book of 101 Books it focuses on Japanese photographers
from the same period of time: the “Vivo” and “Provoke”
era with Domon Ken, Eikoh Hosoe, Daido Moriyama et al.
The second book published in 2004 by Martin Parr and Gerry Badger, The
Photobook: A History. Vol. I expands the list of Japanese books considerably.
It shows Japanese books from the 1930s to the 1990s and it has a whole
chapter devoted to post-war Japanese photography books. This book gives
the most comprehensive outline of Japanese photography books, but it also
misses the more recent publications from the last decade.
This gap is filled (partly) with the second volume of The Photobook:
A History by Martin Parr and Gerry Badger. This books lists obviously
important books like Takashi Homma, Tokyo Suburbia, 1998, and
Rinko Kawauchi, Utatane, 2001, as well as much less known books
such as Masafumi Sanai, I Don’t Know, 1998 (one of my favorite
Japanese photobooks), and Kohei Yoshiyuki, Document Park, 1980
(a book I have never seen).
The “Ultimate” List of Japanese Photography Books
So, my beginning list of Japanese photography books contains all Japanese
books from the above-mentioned publications, plus three books from the
The History of Japanese Photography.
1 . Kiyoishi Koishi: Early Summer Nerves, (Shoka Shinkei), 1933
2 . Various Photographers: Nippon, 1937
3 . Yoshio Shimozato: Genus Mesemb: Surrealist Photography Collection
(Mesemu Zoku: Chûgenjitusshugi Shashin-shu), 1940
4 . Ken Domon: Hiroshima, 1958
5 . Yasuhiro Ishimoto: Someday, Somewhere, (Aru Hi aru Tokoro)
6 . Ken Domon: The Children of Chikuho, (Chikuo no Kodomotachi)
7 . Shomei Tomatsu, Ken Domon: Hiroshima-Nagasaki Document, 1961
8 . Eikoh Hosoe: Man and Woman, (Otoko to Onna), 1961
9 . Eikoh Hosoe: Killed by Roses, (Barakei), 1963
10 . Kikuji Kawada: The Map, (Chizu), 1965
11 . Shomei Tomatsu: Nagasaki 11:02, 1966
12 . Daido Moriyama: Japan - A Photo Theatre (Nippon Gekijo Shashincho),
13 . Eikoh Hosoe: Kamaitachi, 1969
14 . Yasuhiro Ishimoto: Chicago, Chicago, 1969
15 . Shomei Tomatsu: OO! Shinjuku, 1969
16 . Koji Taki: First Abandon The World of Certainty, 1970
17 . Nobuyoshi Araki: Photocopy Books, (Zerkkusu Shashincho),
18 . Ken Ohara: One, 1970
19 . Takuma Nakahira: For a Language to Come, (Kitarubeki Kotoba no
20 . Nobuyoshi Araki: Sentimental Journey, (Senchimentaru na Tabi),
21 . Daido Moriyama: Okinawa, 1971
22 . Eikoh Hosoe: Ordeal by Roses Re-edited, (Barakei Shinshuban),
23 . Yoshio Takase: Toilet, (Benjo), 1971
24 . Nobuyoshi Araki, Yoshio Takase, Koji Yaehata, Naohosia Tabogami,
Fukuo Ikeda, Tomoko Kamiguchi: Young Ladies in Bathing Suits, (Mizugi
no Yangu Redii-Tachi), 1971
25 . Daido Moriyama: Farewell Photography [Bye Bye Photography], (Shashin
yo Sayonara), 1972
26 . Daido Moriyama: Hunter, (Karuido), 1972
27 . Ihei Kimura: Pari, (Paris), 1974
28 . Daido Moriyama: Another Country in New York, (Mo Kuni New York),
29 . Yutaka Takanashi: Towards the City, (Toshi-e), 1974
30 . Kishin Shinoyama: A Fine Day, (Hareta Hi), 1975
31 . Miyako Ishiuchi: Yokosuka Story, 1979
32 . Seiji Kurata: Flash Up: Street Photo Random Tokyo 1975-1979,
33 . Kohei Yoshiyuki: Document Park, (Document Kôen), 1980
34 . Masahisa Fukase: Ravens, (Karasu), 1986
35 . George Hashiguchi: Seventeen’s Map, (Jûnanasai no
36 . Nobuyoshi Araki: Tokyo Lucky Hole 1983-1985 Shinjuku Kabukicho,
37 . Hiroshi Sugimoto: Time Exposed, 1991
38 . Keizo Kitajima: A.D. 1991, 1991
39 . Nobuyoshi Araki: The Banquet, (Shokuji), 1993
40 . Ryuji Miyamaoto: Kobe 1995, 1995
41 . Hiromix: Girls Blue, 1996
42 . Tadanori Yokoo: Waterfall Rapture: Postcards of Falling Water
My Addiction My Collection, 1996
43 . Hiroshi Sugimoto: Sea of Buddha, 1997
44 . Hiromix: Hiromix, 1998
45 . Masafumi Sanai: I Don´t Know, (Wakaranai), 1998
46 . Takashi Homma: Tokyo Suburbia, 1998
47 . Hiroshi Sugimoto: Theaters, 2000
48 . Mika Ninagawa: Sugar and Spice, 2000
49 . Yurie Nagashima: Pasttime Paradise, 2000
50 . Taiji Matsue: Taiji Matsue, 2001
51 . Rinko Kawauchi: Utatane, (Siesta), 2001
52 . Osamu Kanemura: Spider´s Strategy, 2001
53 . Daido Moriyama: ‘71-NY, 2002
54 . Miyako Ishiuchi: Mothers, 2002
Some Modern Photography Books Not Listed
But as I said in the headline, this is not the ultimate list of Japanese
photography books. The reason is quite simple: All compilations missed
some “seminal” books, especially two books published in the
55. Shinzo Fukuhara: Paris et la Seine, 1922. This is an important
selection of works, photographed in 1913 in Paris by Shinzo Fukuhara,
a leading pictorialist artist.
Because almost all original works by Fukuhara from the 1910s and 1920s
were lost during the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923, the photobook Paris
et la Seine is the main source for Fukuhara´s pictorialist
photographs taken in Paris. The book is extremely rare and until know
I have seen reproductions from the series just once in an exhibition at
the Shoto Museum of Art in Tokyo. But a facsimile version of the book
is due to be published in April 2006 by Kokoshukankokai.
56. Masao Horino: Camera, Eye x Iron, Construction, 1932. This
book is a masterpiece of the New Vision (Shinkô Shashin) in Japan!
This monograph consists of photographs of ships and architectures made
from steel, such as bridges, tanks and towers, based on his own sense
of beauty, “a beauty of machinery,” derived directly from
art critic (photo critic) Takaho Itagaki’s thought, using, for example,
close-ups and looking-up. Therefore, this work can be said to be a collaborative
work of Horino and Itagaki. This work is as important as a monograph Métal
by Germaine Krull in terms of “a beauty of machinery” (3).
Like Paris et la Seine, the book Camera, Eye x Iron, Construction
is available in a limited edition as a facsimile reprint, too. The editors
of the facsimile reprints are the photo historians Ryuichi Kaneko, responsible
for several excellent exhibitions and publications at the Tokyo Metropolitan
Museum of Photography and Kotaro Iizawa, a critic and publisher, who for
example published (besides many other books on modern and contemporary
photography) a 40 volume series on Japanese photographers. Kaneko and
Iizawa did four other facsimile reprints in 2004-2006, and only Early
Summer Nerves was recognized in the photobook anthologies (in “Fotografia
Publica” and The Photobook, vol. 1).
The other three books by Kaneko and Iizawa which were ignored by the books
on photobooks are:
57. Ihee Kimura: Japan through a Leica, 1938
58. Tampei Photography Club: Light, (Hikari), 1940
59 . Nakaji Yasui: The Photography Of Nakaji Yasui, 1942 (this
is more a portfolio actually).
Some Contemporary Photography Books Not Listed
Besides the missing Modern Photography books, some interesting photobooks
from the last decade were ignored as well. Four books come into my mind
60. Miyako Ishiuchi: 1947, 1990, This is a brilliant photographed
and well printed conceptual book, showing the hands and feet of women
born in 1947, the same year when Ishiuchi was born.
(new version from 2003)
61. Kyoichi Tsuzuki: Tokyo Style, 1993. A bestseller in Japan.
A straight documentary book depicting apartments in Tokyo at the lower
end of the condo market accompanied by short notes on the tenants of the
places. This book gives for the first time a comprehensive view on the
living situation and life style of many (most?) Japanese. It’s a
complete contradiction to all coffee table books showing empty Zen-like
living spaces by Tadao Ando at al. decorated with extraordinary and equally
expensive Japanese furniture.
62. Kikuji Kawada: Globe Theater, 1998. The self-published book
in a translucent plastic slipcase is beautifully designed and well printed
and was only published in an edition of 550 copies. It contains three
series: “Los Capriccios” (1969-1981), “The Last Cosmology”
(1979-1997) and “Car Maniac” (1991-1998).
63. Mika Ninagawa: Liquid Dreams, 2003. This book was published
in two versions with a black and a white vinyl cover covered with lamé.
Both covers have a round image with goldfishes, which are moving slightly
as your gaze slides over the image. For this book Mika photographed Goldfishes
in strong, eccentric colors. The book is pure pop, and it’s art.
This kind of photobook you will only find in Japan.
The List Goes On...
I am sure that others will notice other important books missing here as
well. Some books might be more obvious while other books might only be
known to specialists in Japan. A book which came into my mind after I
finished my post is:
64. Jun Morinaga, River, its Shadow of Shadows, 1978.
Also it might be very interesting to look into the publications produced
in Manchukuo. Manchukuo was a nominally independent puppet state set up
by Japan in Manchuria (Northeastern China) which existed from 1931 to
1945. Several Japanese photographers went there and some years ago I saw
some interesting magazines published in connection with this episode of
(1) But of course this was not the first time that magazines or books
were in the center of an publication/exhibition. For example Ute Eskildsen
from Museum Folkwang, Essen, did two exhibitions and catalogues on photography
in German magazines of the Weimar Republic and after 1949 two decades
(2) Tomoyoshi Murayama was of vital importance for the Japanese art and
photography scene. He introduced Dada to Japan in 1923 and founded the
Dada group “Mavo”. In 1925 he organized a theatre where some
of Japan’s first happenings and performance art took place and in
1931 he brought the “seminal” traveling exhibition “Film
und Foto” from Germany to Japan. The impact of this exhibition on
Modern Japanese photography was extraordinary. For example it directly
influenced a group of Japanese avant garde photographers and critics to
found Kôga magazine.
(3) Source: Wikipedia.
About the author: Ferdinand Brueggemann
In the beginning my interest in Japanese photography was focused on modern
photography of the 1920s and 1930s and I did research about this period
during an 18 month's stay in Japan at the end of the 1990s. During this
stay I met many younger photographers and soon I became fascinated by
the contemporary photography scene in Tokyo. Nowadays I am going to Japan
occasionally and when I am there I try get as much information as possible
about new developments in Japanese photography (photographers, publications,
The photography scene in Japan is very vivid, especially in Kanto (Tokyo,
Yokohama, Kawasaki areas) and Kansai (Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe areas) with most
photographers living there, with several photography collections in museums
with very active curators, with many galleries and several photo book
Unfortunately many Japanese photographers are almost unknown outside Japan
and only a small part of the photography book production finds its way
to a few specialized books stores in the West. Moreover Japanese photography
exhibitions are rarely reviewed in the West. Even the most interesting
exhibitions don’t travel abroad and catalogues to museum exhibitions
are virtually unavailable outside Japan.
With my blog Japan-Photo.info
I hope to give some help in navigating through the complex and ever changing
scene. My main focus is on Japanese photography books - one remarkable
characteristic of Japanese photography is the huge book production - and
on information about Japanese photography exhibitions in and outside Japan.
— Ferdinand Brueggemann