06 June 2009

Fantastic Photography Exhibit

From now through July 5, 2009 there's an exhibit called "Press Photographer's Story" at the Tokyo Museum of Photography in Ebisu. It's a great show featuring 5 photgraphers who were all associated with the Asahi Shimbun during their professional careers. Most of the photographers worked during the Speed Reflex era, when press cameras were giant boxlike objects that openly stated the profession of the holder, and that's spirit of the exhibition.

Kouyou Kageyama / 影山 光洋 is the first photographer featured. He worked starting in the militaristic era of the 1930s, but he photographed his family constantly -- he was clearly paving the way for Craig Gilbert and An American Family a few decades later. However, his story is especially poignant as his third son lived only five years, and he collected the photographs taken over this time into a photo album called "Life with Yo-chan", excerpts from which were some of the most powerful photographs in the show.

Gen Ootsuka / 大束 元 is a contemporary of Kouyou's and the second featured photographer. He was heavily influenced by Henri Cartier-Bresson and would eventually organize the first shows of Bresson's work in Japan, as well as taking several famous shots in which Bresson appears. Despite the emphasis on the moment of the photo you would expect, his photographs are amazingly well-composed; balance, perspective and focus all coinciding with the perfect moment.

The postwar political photography of Senzou Yoshioka / 吉岡 専造, the 'photographs from high places' of Katsu Funayama / 船山 克, and the striking Vietnam War photography of Keiichi Akimoto 秋本 啓一 comprise the rest of the featured work. As a final section, the Asahi Shimbun archives yielded up a trove of photographs from the Japanese War in China in the 1930s, as well as the paper's coverage of the Vietnam War in the 1970s.

The exhibit is only 500 yen and takes an hour or two depending on your interest level. It's well worth it and recommended for all.

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