Posts Tagged ‘Japanese’

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.