JESSE’S BOOK REVIEW – MASAHISA FUKASE 1961-1991 RETROSPECTIVE
“I never think that I can capture a certain subject by taking a photograph of it. What is important for me is how deeply I can enter into it, and to what degree I can cause it to reflect me. I want the very act of looking through the viewfinder to be a flesh-and-blood action…I strongly feel that photography can be freer, more open. I believe it is possible to relate to it in a way that encompasses my entire being.”
-Masahisa Fukase, 1969
Was thrilled to get the day off from the office to head to the opening day of Fukase 1961-1991 Retrospective at Tokyo’s TOP Museum. The exhibit will end June 4th, 2023, if you by chance have travel plans or live in the country! It is with that, that the book here accompanies the exhibit.
This marks the fourth review of a Fukase photo book the others being: Yohko, Family, and Ravens. As the exhibit proves, understanding the chronology of Fukase’s books is important as it essentially structures his career as his retrospective was presented in 8 sections centered on each of his major books. They are as follows: Yugi (Homo Ludence), Yohko, Karasu (Ravens), Sasuke, Kazoku (Family), Aruku me (Walking Eye), Shikei (Private Scenes), and Bukubuku.
There are actual 26 series Fukase created that perhaps is better and more extensively covered in 2018’s retrospective book simply titled, “Masahisa Fukase.” If you have ever been in the market for one of his books, only the re-releases or retrospectives can be had for around $100 anything beyond goes for over a $1,000. The book here retails for under $30, a comparative bargin.
For extreme aficionados, what this book offers over the much more massive “Masahisa Fukase” is the first printing of photos from the “Yohko” series since 1978 (incidentally the only original Fukase photo book I own lol). It is also some $50 less representing the two major differences in retrospectives in addition to the third being Yohko’s general lack of involvement at all in the 2018 retrospective book.
In my penchant for blurring artistic mediums, I always appreciated the Camera Mainichi magazine editor’s description of Fukase’s work as the “photographic I-novel’ a play on the Japanese literary genre dominate in jun bungaku that directly translates to serious literature. The genre was the Japanification of naturalism at the onset of the Meiji period focusing on individuality while something of a commentary on society. I previously reviewed Daido Moriyama’s crossover book with one of the major writers of the genre is Dazai Osamu and their book, “Dazai.” The writer’s novel, “No Longer Human” is a quintessential example of the I-novel if interested.
More directly to Fukase, this moniker proves relevant as you realize with each project, each remarkably different from his last was more an existential investigation into why he was taking photographs. Not quite Pinkett-Smith’s quip about entanglement, but much more so in the blurring of art and life…so much so that his ex-wife infamously called him “an incurable egotist.” The marriage was reportedly weathered for the sake of his photography. I then love the irony of his later works, Shikei (Private Scenes) and Bukubuku.
In all the book, as the exhibition does right in organizing an artist like Fukase’s work in a more or less chronological order. It serves to give the uninitiated a clear picture of Fukase’s ourve. Certainly a much cleaner presentation than the 2018 retrospective. The book is almost pocket size at 220mm x 148mm. It has 216 pages and is billingual (Japanese/English). You can order here while supplies last.
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