Out of Japan is a rare opportunity to see work by three major photographers based in Japan. The Canon Photography Gallerys autumn exhibition at the V&A is a major part of the Museums contribution to the Japan 2001 initiative. The exhibition showcases outstanding photographic works in three takes, from the earliest days of photography to the present.
Felice Beato was the first major photographer to depict the Japanese way of life and a prototype for the modern photojournalist.
Masahisa Fukases dramatic narrative Ravens effectively combines Eastern and Western approaches to photography.
Naoya Hatakeyamas depiction of Tokyos underlying secret life enables the viewer to glimpse a hidden city. These works will be appearing for the first time in the U.K. in Out of Japan.
Felice Beato (1830-1904), a Venetian-British photographer, was one of the earliest equivalents of the modern photojournalist. Settling in Yokohama about 1863, he produced the first ambitious photographs of Japan with his depiction of the landscape, towns, temples, palaces, gardens, forests and people. Beatos exquisite hand-coloured portraits reflect on Japanese lifestyles from a Western perspective, providing an invaluable chronicle of a civilization and its fascinating customs and inhabitants. The landscapes acknowledge Japans growing industrial presence without denying its natural beauty. As well as owning Beatos albums Views of Japan and Native Types (both 1868), the Museum has been fortunate enough to borrow a superb selection of prints from the Wilson Photography Centre, the worlds finest holding of Beatos work. This is the first opportunity British audiences have had to see a display of Beatos Japanese prints in modern times.
The startling style of Masahisa Fukase (born 1934) derives from traditional Japanese sources allied to modern Western techniques. His emotionally-charged series, Ravens (1975-85) began with a chance photograph of a flock of crows taken by Fukase on his native Hokkaido. This collection became a landmark photographic book when it was published in 1986. Fukase deepens the sense of melancholy and loss as the photographs progress to produce a sequence of immensely humane and daring images that draw in many aspects of modern Japan. The black silhouettes of birds evoke sumi-e ink paintings and war planes.
The third take is by Naoya Hatakeyama (born 1958), one of the most striking of Japans new generation of photographers. The exhibition includes three recent series by Hatakeyama. River, Underground and Detail take the viewer on a journey below Tokyo. A true contemporary with a global perspective, he works intuitively from subject to subject. With seemingly minimal visual vocabulary, he achieves images of great power and diversity. Hatakeyamas photography is an attempt to capture the citys subterranean life, his unique approach producing new forms and colours as he explores one of the worlds most intriguing urban arenas. These works will be appearing for the first time in the U.K. in Out of Japan.
Naoya Hatakeyama, b.1958.
River series, 1993-1996.