Setting Sun: Writings by Japanese Photographers

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9781931788830: Setting Sun: Writings by Japanese Photographers

The recent rise in the West of Japanese photography makes Setting Sun a crucial document. The first anthology of its kind to appear in English, this book collects key texts written from the 1950s to the present by the country's most celebrated and controversial photographers, and illuminates a set of ideas, rules and aesthetics that are specific to Japanese culture, but often little known elsewhere. Contributors include Takuma Nakahira and Daido Moriyama, in whose landmark late-60s magazine Provoke a radically new direction in Japanese photography was set; Nobuyoshi Araki, the provocative and prolific chronicler of bound girls (among other subjects); and Eikoh Hosoe, whose collaborations with the Butoh dance master Hijikata and the novelist Mishima made him prominent as an intellectual figure as well as a photographer. In addition, there are selections from modern masters such as Masahisa Fukase, Takashi Homma, Takuma Nakahira and Hiroshi Sugimoto. Each chapter in the book is devoted to a central theme that is particular to Japanese photography, such as the role of nostalgia in a culture that has often sought to jettison its past amid the shadows of a war lost. The writings vary in form from diary entry to scholarly treatise, but all reflect a clear connection between word and image, one so essential that no comprehensive consideration of Japanese photography can be complete without it.

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From Publishers Weekly:

Buoyed by a robust tradition of artist monographs and photo magazines, Japanese photographers have produced a body of written work that delves deep into the aesthetic, technical and historical aspects of photography, while at the same time recounting episodes from the photographers' personal lives. The 30 pieces collected here range in tone from polemical and philosophical to slyly humorous, and the authors' personal revelations are often disarmingly intimate. There is plenty here to hold the reader's attention: Eikoh Hosoe's behind-the-scenes description of his notorious images of the writer Yukio Mishima; Seiichi Furuya's harrowing account of his wife's suicide; Nobuyoshi Araki's comical notes on an erotically charged photo session; Miyako Ishiuchi's feminist-inflected musings on the interactive nature of looking. The volume could have been made more attractive with a larger number of reproduced images, as the dearth of photographs can be frustrating at times; many of these essays were written as companion pieces to photographic work. The texts are ably introduced by monolithic photography curator Anne Wilkes Tucker, whose History of Japanese Photography is regarded as the best single-volume overview of the subject. Offering reliable insight into little-known aspects of a vibrant photographic culture, this collection will be more deeply enjoyed by those already familiar with Japanese photography.
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Review:

"...Setting Sun is a collection of scholarly articles, essays and even diary entries by Eikoh Hosoe, Nobuyoshi Araki, Daido Moriyama, Hiroshi Sugimoto and others. The book contains only 20 duotones; the focus here is not so much on the work but on the philosophy and esthetics of the artists who contributed to the collection. Presented together, these writings offer an insightful perspective on what has made Japanese photography so startingly fresh and provocative to Western eyes." --Photo District News

"The Japanese photographic tradition is illuminated here by the great postwar Japanese photographers themselves, including Daido Moriyama, Shomei Tomatsu and Nobuyoshi Araki. Their writings on photography, available in translation for the first time, address specific themes that are vital to our understanding of Japanese photography such as watashi shosetsu (the 'l novel'), the role of nostalgia and the lasting impact of the war." --Art Review

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