If the reaction to the Open Eye Gallery exhibition in Liverpool provides a good indication, post war Japanese art photography seems to be back in vogue.
To be sure the gritty angst-ridden photographs by Araki, Kurata, Shomei Tomatsu, Daido Moriyama and others have always attracted a big following in the west. Perhaps, though, today’s widespread sense of post-recession pessimism finds a special affinity with Japan’s “floating” generation battling still with huge parental expectations, unemployment and a stifling social order. The hara-kiri generation.
But I, for one, wished it were different.
We can admire a work like Karasu by Masahisa Fukase (“the post-Provoke masterpiece”, 1 thought by art critics to be the best photo-book of the last 25 years) for its intensity and force.
We can also tire of so much “shock and awe”, nihilism and anger all of the time.2
At this time what we need is something more nourishing and life-affirming. Where has that quintessential cult of tranquility borne from the wabi-sabi Japanese aesthetic gone? Perhaps Shin Noguchi is part of a new sensibility in Japanese photography?