Jesse’s Book Review – Hysteric Twelve by Masahisa Fukase

This is one from one of those legendary series of photo books you hear about but more than likely never actually came across. This holds true from the long out of print initial run of Provoke (finally widely available now) or the still out of print run of classic photo book series, Sonorama Photo Selection that remain extremely rare. I reviewed the Masahisa Fukase one from that series in the past out of the 27 that featured any major Japanese photographer one would know.

So enter the Hysteric series of limited photo books printed in the early 2000s by a fashion CEO (Hysteric Glamour) who had a remarkably informed side passion for photography. If I am correct there were 16 of them each named chronologically featuring a Japanese photographer. This is the extremely rare Hysteric Twelve featuring Fukase. Of all the Fukase books I reviewed for the site over a decade ago this was the one I had missed, so making this trip to the Tokyo Photographic Museum in Ebisu I checked it out in addition to the previous two book reviews I posted from this trip.

This is a straight no frills series with absolutely no writing involved. That is no foreword, afterword or anything at all beyond the title page. Now familiar with Fukase’s complete photography chronology as it was quite hard 13 years ago when I first got into him since his books were so obscure… as where exhibitions leading up to the initial DIESEL show in Shibuya around then. You could really only go to the library and piece it all together through essentially any afterwords or forwards one could find in English.

With that, after attending his recent retrospective, just two floors down from where I sit now, was one of the first instances I have seen his complete chronology of work presented together. Although that greatest hits self titled book with his cat on cover book has since did it as well. But it is only because of this that I know these photos were taking in the subsidized housing area Soka-Matsubara north of Tokyo in Saitama that became apart of his series, Aruku Me (Walking Eye) from 1982. The project saw Fukase revisiting places he lived in Tokyo and this was the area that he and his then ex-wife Yohko had lived in. A lot of which can be seen in that Sonorama Photo Selection book I shared above titled after her, but this Hysteric edition is really the only way to see specifically this series in book outside of compilation and retrospective books.

Commenting on this revisitation Fukase said, “my desire to take photographs grew unceasingly, and the gravestones of images piled up in mounds.” This series represents some of the most straightforward of what people would call traditional street photography that Fukase reaches, yet shot in a manner that only Fukase’s dark sensibilities allow. Aside from the often left tilt of his compositions it was the extreme framing of his subjects that struck me as they are always on the extreme side or bottoms of frames that would make Michelangelo Antonioni proud (throwing in one of my typical cinema references).

The book originally retailed for around 200 dollars when it was first published in 2004. Long since sold out only real chance to purchase would be via auction sites but you never know. Hope you enjoyed these last three book reviews…until next time!

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For other book reviews click here.
-JF