The Guardian writes in their article about prominent Japanese artists. Daido Moriyama and Nobuyoshi Araki are acknowledged for their important role in Japanese photography. You can read the article below.
(source: The Guardian)
From Berkeley to Berlin, Paris to São Paulo, 1968 was the year of protest. Tokyo kicked off too, and in spectacular fashion. Students from across the city and elsewhere in Japan went on strike and occupied faculty offices. The Zenkyoto movement (short for All-Campus Joint Struggle League) barricaded universities, interrupted classes and made all sorts of hell. And that October, a million and a half Tokyoites gathered in Shinjuku for an anti-war rally ? against the Vietnam war, and against Japan's continued security treaty with the United States ? that ended with teargas, billy clubs and hundreds of arrests. It later became known as the Shinjuku Riot.
There's a photograph by Shomei Tomatsu that captures the era in For a New World to Come, an exhibition of post-1968 photography now on view at Japan Society in New York. A single protester, probably a student, charges forward in a sea of gritty nothingness. One leg is extended, the other is bent, and his arms are thrust out ? he could be moonwalking. The face is blurred; he's moving too fast for Tomatsu's camera. And the space he's moving through is rough and granulated, as if the world has been rubbed away with steel wool.
Artists in Tokyo were not immune to the political mood; Tomatsu's own Tama Art University was occupied for more than a year. Impermanent, process-based sculpture, by artists such as Kishio Suga and the Korean-born Lee Ufan, reflected a society-wide instability. But photography, especially, testified to the upheaval of Japan in the years after 1968. That November a number of photographers started a new magazine, Provoke, which from its title onward attacked an earlier tradition of humanist photography that was all too complicit in Japan's martial past. Provoke turned its back on straight representation, not to mention commercial concerns, and espoused a new and harsh pictorial language that became known as are-bure-boke: ?Grainy, blurry, out-of-focus.? Figures became indistinct and hazy, while backgrounds receded into almost total abstraction.
Provoke lasted only three issues, all three of which are on display in this exhibition. But its influence far outlived its time in print. The magazine's foremost contributor was Daido Moriyama, represented here by more than a dozen excellent photographs that depict Tokyo as a fraught place plunged, like Macbeth's Scotland, into unceasing night. We see a stray dog by a manhole, or a biker chick in leather jacket astride a motorcycle. Architectural details, when they can be discerned at all, are slurred into a messy cloud that can at times become almost black monochrome.
In 1969, Moriyama went further ? turning his camera away from the street and on to other images. For his series Accident, he re-photographed an image from a drink-driving campaign, in which victims and bystanders appeared next to two totaled automobiles. In six different crops, and with his trademark graininess and oversaturation, Moriyama turns the wounded drivers and concerned passersby into wraithlike, insensate shades of themselves. Tokyo had become a city of zombies.
The camera, in the years after 1968, also became an important tool for Japanese artists working in disciplines beyond straight photography, such as performance and installation, both relatively new practices in Japanese art. The artist Keiji Uematsu, for one, brought wooden beams into Kyoto museum, then propped them in a doorframe using his own body ? standing, seated, or impressively balanced halfway between the ground and the ceiling. Hitoshi Nomura piled giant cardboard boxes, one on top of the other, outside the same museum, and photographed the stack over days as it began to sag and finally collapse under its own weight.
Much of this work is ponderous, and there are examples that today seem underpowered ? such as Koji Enokura's guessing games that counterpoise stains and photos of stains. At times, the exhibition can feel like two shows smashed together; there is little dialogue between the ?straight? photographers, who display a formal engagement with image-making, and the conceptualists who used cameras as an incidental form of documentation. (The show first appeared at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston; the bulk of it is now at Japan Society, while a smaller fragment is on view at the Grey Art Gallery of New York University.)
Yet the later stretches of this exhibition, which focus on later postwar Japanese photography, contain some of the strongest and most affecting images made anywhere in the 1970s. Miyako Ishiuchi, one of the few women in this exhibition, produces a stunning portfolio of images from her hometown of Yokosuka ? an unlovely city home to one of the US's largest military bases. They have the same grit and high contrast as Moriyama's earlier images (produced, in Ishiuchi's case, by rocking her photographic prints in the development tray), but instead of Moriyama's nihilistic vision she gives us a more personal, downhearted view of the city, in grimy basements and one-room apartments.
And Nobuyoshi Araki, in his groundbreaking Sentimental Journey, documents his honeymoon with his wife Yoko in spare, private images that had little precedent in Japanese photography. We see Yoko gazing into space on a bullet train, or asleep in a rowboat with a Shiseido shopping bag beneath her head. She appears topless in a park, or face down in bed, her feet crossed and bottom exposed, the sheets unmade. Araki would go on to produce endless, and endlessly controversial, photographs of other women, mostly trussed up in extreme bondage. But his frank, loving shots of his newly wedded wife are the truly uncensored works, and the more beautiful ones too.