Posts Tagged ‘Japan’

78- Issei Suda

Monday, April 13th, 2020

Regular readers of this blog will know about my interest in and admiration for the work of Japanese photographer Issei Suda, and remember the post I wrote about him, Issei Suda (1940-2019) shortly after his death last year with some links to his work and writing about it.

A couple of days ago I came across a post on the British Journal of Photography online site, Issei Suda: 78 unseen photographs, which tells the story of how Cécile Poimboeuf-Koizumi, co-founder and director of Paris-based publishing house Chose Commune, wrote to Suda for the first time in January 2019 to ask about a new publication of his work. He was keen to cooperate, but sadly he died before she visited later in the year – but he had set aside a box of unpublished pictures for his widow to show her when she visited.

The book ’78’ presents 78 of these previously unpublished photographs taken between 1971 and 1983, typical of his work with its strangely unusual views of ordinary people and situations. It was only when she got back to Paris that Poimboeuf-Koizumi realised that the number of pictures she had selected for the book, 78, was also the age at which Suda had died.

You can see more pictures from the book on the Chose Commune web site, and it looks to be a finely produced work and a fine tribute to one of Japan’s most interesting photographers who received far less attention in the west than others whose work is rather more controversial and perhaps less intimate.

It’s a book I’m unlikely to buy myself as it is a little expensive at 55€ and I already have an earlier book of his work and a house with overflowing shelves and far too many books in it. But if you haven’t already met and lived with his work this is certainly worth considering.


Suziki and Fuji

Sunday, February 9th, 2020

There are reports on several web sites including PetaPixel and DPReview about Fuji removing a promotional video showing Japanese photographer Tatsuo Suziki and removing him from their https://www.dpreview.com/news/6165309898/fujifilm-pulls-controversial-x100v-promo-video-due-to-the-featured-photographer-method global list of photographers.

I’m not sure how photographers qualify to be on the list, though I took a quick look through it and failed to find a single name I recognised but that probably isn’t the main criteria. As someone who has owned at least five Fuji-X cameras and used them at least occasionally since Fuji first brought out the X100 (now a paperweight on my desk) I don’t recall ever having heard of it before. But I’m more interested in what you can do with cameras than in the always fallible beasts.

It is a decision that has caused considerable controversy, generating many comments from photographers on both sides. Both PP and DPR point out that Suziki’s approach has similarities with that of Magnum photographer Bruce Gilden. When his book ‘Facing New York’ came out I wrote a review in which I expressed my uncomfortable feeling about his combative approach to his subjects, more or less pushing his camera and flash into the faces of unfortunate strangers on the streets of the city.

It wasn’t the fact that he took pictures without permission that worried me; we live in a public domain on the streets and just as we may look I think we have the same right to take photographs – so long as we do so without causing distress to others. That seemed to be a line that Gilden obviously and aggressively crossed, and so does Suziki, though in a rather more creepy way.

There is something about the way he moves, and the way he looks not at the subjects through a view finder but at the screen on the rear of the Fuji X100V the video was promoting which I find unsettling as so clearly do some of the people, mainly women, he confronts on the street. Much as I dislike Gilden’s approach it somehow seems more honest and direct.


My love/hate relationship with Fuji cameras continues. While they are capable of fine results, on a par with the heavier and larger full-frame Nikons I also own, the Fuji XT30 and XT1 do add a little unpredictability to my photography. I suspect it comes down to my having fingers, but sometimes on the XT30 I find my settings seem to have mysteriously changed during a session taking pictures. So one day when I had set the ISO to my ‘Auto-3’ setting I found that I had taken quite a few images at H – ISO 51200 before I noticed the change. I also notice some rather odd behaviour with shutter speeds when working with shutter priority. I may have the shutter set to 1/250 but sometimes the camera has a different opinion. And for aperture priority I’ve learnt to use a piece of black sticky tape to stop the aperture ring on the 18-35 lens from making mysterious moves as I handle the camera.

And oddities remain. Although I’ve turned off image review I still sometimes find myself looking at the previous exposure sometimes when I raise the camera to my eye to focus, though I can’t get this to happen consistently. There are good points too. Particularly the image stabilisation when using the 18-135 lens in low light is remarkable.

Issei Suda (1940-2019)

Tuesday, February 4th, 2020

I first came across the work of Issei Suda at some time in the 1980s, when I used to make regular visits to the few bookshops in London that stocked a reasonable range of photographic books.

I’d got to know Claire De Rouen when she was running the bookshop at the Photographer’s Gallery (though I think we first met at the ICA) and we both were part of a large group of people who might visit the Porcupine for a drink after openings and meetings. From there she moved to run the photographic section of Zwemmers a short distance away – and of course later to set up her own splendid bookshop a little further up the street on the opposite side. The shop, above a bookmakers (not as often said a sex store), continued after her death, I think aged around 80, though she always seemed so much younger, in 2012 but just wasn’t the same without her and it closed in 2017.

Whenever I went into the bookshop we would have a talk and share our latest enthusiasms in photography – and if the shop wasn’t too busy these were sometimes rather long conversations which always ended in me buying at least one of the books she had enthused about.

One in particular was Issei Suda’s 1978 monograph ‘Fushi Kaden‘, one volume from a long packed shelf of works published by Asahi Sonorama (and possibly some other Japanese publishers) that I think were unavailable elsewhere in the UK. I couldn’t read most of the text (there is one page in English), but could read the pictures, though they were clearly in a different language.

In the Eye of Photography today is an article The Legacy of Issei Suda (1940-2019) : Human Memory which accompanies ” the first posthumous exhibition in the United States of renowned Japanese photographer Issei Suda who passed away in early 2019″ at the Miyako Yoshinaga gallery, the second show of his work there.

You can see a ‘page-through’ of a later edition of his work, Issei Suda – Fushikaden‘ by PhotoBookStore UK on Vimeo. It’s a different sequence to the book I have and I think rather more pictures, though many of them are the same. The hands turning the book sometimes get in the way, and at times some pages escape scrutiny, but it gives a good general impression.

You can also read a scholarly paper about the work,

Archiving the Spirit: Suda Issei’s Fushi Kaden and “Essential” Japan by Ross Tunney in Trans-Asia Photography Review – here is a short quote from what is an interesting discussion:

Suda has nonetheless suggested a sense of native experience in two ways: first, by evoking a sense of natural association to aesthetic practice in his subjects; and second, by fashioning these same subjects into static signs that reflect a putatively timeless and uniquely Japanese aesthetic.


Hiroshima & Nagasaki

Thursday, January 16th, 2020
The Mayor of Camden Cllr Maryam Eslamdoust lays the first wreath at the Hiroshima cherry tree

Back on the 8th of August 1967, that year’s Mayor of Camden Cllr Millie Miller planted a cherry tree in Tavistock Square in memory of the victims of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima twenty two years earlier on August 8th 1945. A second bomb was dropped two days later on Nagasaki.

By then Japan had lost the war and surrender could only have been a few days away. There was no pressing military reason to use these monstrous weapons, but they had been under development in the Manhattan Project which began in 1939 but only got into full swing in 1952. The scientists had developed two different types of bomb, a uranium-235 bomb codenamed ‘Little Boy’ and the plutonium based ‘Fat Man’.

Baroness Jenny Jones

The ‘Fat Man’ device, involving an explosion to compact a plutonium sphere to provide the critical mass for an explosion was complex, and it was decided a test was necessary to determine if it would work. This test, the world’s first nuclear explosion, took place on the 16 July 1945 in a remote desert area in New Mexico.

Planning for dropping the two bombs began in serious in November 1943 and was complex. Specially modified aircraft were needed because of the size of the bombs and a special base was built for the missions on a Pacific island. Originally Kyoto had been selected for a target for the first bomb, but the US Secretary of War ruled it out because of its cultural and historic significance and Hiroshima was selected in its place.

Shigeo Kobayashi, Japan Against Nuclear, reads the English translation of today’s speech by the Mayor of Hiroshima at the commemoration there

The Hiroshima bomb was the logical end of years of planning and scientific effort and was needed more to validate that whole process than for any particular military purpose. There was even less reason for the second bomb on Nagasaki given the destruction the first bomb had caused. Over two thirds of Hiroshima’s buildings had been destroyed, almost a third of its population killed immediately and another third injured. More were to die later from radiation.

Nagasaki was not even the intended target for the second bomb; cloud over Kokura saved it from destruction and instead ‘Fat Man’ was dropped on Nagasaki. It was roughly 1.5 times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb but hills protected parts of the city and the destruction and death toll were lower with an estimated 35,000–40,000 people killed and 60,000 injured.

Rev Gyoro Nagase, Buddhist monk from the Battersea Peace Pagoda

The commemoration takes place every 6th August in Tavistock Square, with Camden’s Mayor taking part, as well as peace activists. It is the largest of several events in London and I now usually attend and have photographed it a number of times.

Hiroshima Bomb victims remembered


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

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