Jesse’s book review, A trip to Europe by Emi Fukuyama
Jesse is back, and with another great review of a Japanese photobook. From the same stable as Shinya Arimoto, Emi Fukuyama has a popular following in Japan. Read on an discover.

In the vein of Shinya Arimoto, I wanted to share another photo book from another member of Arimoto’s Totem Pole Gallery, Emi Fukuyama. In addition to Totem Pole, I have seen her work at a lot of the other underground galleries in Shinjuku and can always recognize here it right away. Presented here is a lesser known book from her entitled, A Trip to Europe. Her first and heavy circulated book eloquently titled The Moon, Following Me is much broader in terms of her photographer including many photos from this book and is easier find.

When I purchased this book, I showed it to my roommate and he commented that it was quite mundane. Occasionally I have friends over and they like to go through my books and have all made a similar comment, the most ambitious of which said banal at best. To be fair there aren’t any of the common themes and locals you would expect from a book titled A Trip to Europe. I will say the Eiffel Tower does appear in one photo, but is only included in way that it is a mere function of her overall composition. Citing the write up I did on Wim Wenders that I praised for its nothingness, this differs quite drastically.  There is a visual language to her work that demands the viewer to first understand the grammar. Easiest way to generalize (which is bad) her work is as a layered perspective with diagonal lines, obscured foregrounds, and crooked horizons. There is often a center focus in her layered compositions that is obscured leaving our eye searching through her layers. Lines of window panes, doors left ajar, crevices in walls, and clearings within trees all complete her syntax, if you will.

The subtle juxtapositions created by the book’s simple lay out are an appeal to our own intellectual subconscious.  Take for instance the two photos titled Paris, France and Berlin, Germany. (Coincidence the Berlin photo is of a wall) There is a crack in the wall that gives us a small glimpse of more, making up the photo’s center. The wall itself is off centered creating the photo’s plane. The photo on the adjacent page is of a stair case. It is shot through the rails and the center of the photo becomes the lower floor, centered in roughly the same position as the crack in the wall. Symbolically both photos contain barriers, the wall/the rails of the stairs and that only afford us a glimpse of more playing to our curiosity.

My favorite juxtaposition is titled Milan, Italy and Arles, France. One is from an open door café that is empty looking outward to the street.  A mannequin maid can be seen partially obscured by the doorway. The other photo focuses on a picture of a ballet troupe on a mantelpiece that is obscured by an unidentifiable object in the foreground. Both are extremely quiet and remain timeless with no real identifiable object that can time date either photo (which is really true of her photography in general). Yet I don’t know, sometimes I just appreciate photos that I would never think to take and both a perfect representations of that. Both say nothing but capture a mood that requires a special sensitivity to not only be able to perceive but to take. More often than not we see a photo we like and comment on how we would have loved to have been there or caught that, but with her photos we are there.

And really this is the charm of Emi Fukuyama and what draws me into her work, her layered perspectives of timeless subjects that most would never perceive. Following this observation I think it is easy to understand why this may not appeal to most. Going back to the comments people have made about her book to me, the one that remains the most applicable to this point is that I was told that anybody can do these types of photos. Yet no one ever does…

This book should be out of print by now. It is through the same publisher as Wataru Yamamoto’s Drawing a Line, MCV MCV.

Her book The Moon, Following Me can be purchased here.

Jesse Freeman is a friend, photographer and movie buff. He has a great knowledge of photography books and classic cinema. He can also be relied upon for decent music recommendations.
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I am always interested to see the work of Japanese photographers, especially ones that I have not really seen before. This book takes a a while to sink in, but it really feels like a personal view of a person in an unfamiliar place. Thanks for sharing this one Jesse.