While reading an issue of Aperture, 2015 about Tokyo I ran across the phrase that is used to describe the style of Daido Moriyama - roughly translated as ’ grainy, blurry , out of focus’. When I saw it I immediately knew this was perfect.
Some pretty wild weather here on Saturday. The day started out gray and overcast but was decent enough that I went out to High Plains Raceway to watch some open lapping with my friend Tom. Things changed in the afternoon!!
This blog entry started off as so many do with a random, chance discovery. While reading Aperture there was a small note about a Japanese American photographer, Tosh Matsumoto who had been interned at the Amache Camp during WWII. So was Yasuhiro Ishimotowho I talked about in a previous Blog note. With only 10,000 estimated internees, to have two who went on to become notable photographers is worth another blog note.
Ishimoto was born on June 14, 1921 in San Francisco, California, where his parents were farmers. In 1924, the family left the United States and returned to his parents’ hometown within present-day Tosa, in Kōchi Prefecture, Japan. After Ishimoto graduated from Kōchi Agricultural High School, he returned to the United States in 1939, studying architecture at Northwestern University in Chicago for two years. Though he did not complete this program, architecture would hold an important place in his photography.
From 1942 to 1944, he was interned with other Japanese Americans at the Amache Internment Camp (also known as Granada Relocation Center) in Colorado. It was here that he began to learn photography.
Returning to Chicago, in 1946 Ishimoto joined the Fort Dearborn Camera Club for amateur filmmakers and photographers there. He enrolled in the Photography Department of the Chicago Institute of Design in 1948 (later the Institute of Design of the Illinois Institute of Technology) and studied with Harry M. Callahan and Aaron Siskind, graduating in 1952. During this time, he won numerous photography awards, including the Moholy-Nagy Prize, which he won twice.
Ishimoto returned to Japan to live in 1953 and that same year, on a commission from New York’s Museum of Modern Art, he photographed Katsura Imperial Villa (Katsura rikyū) in Kyoto, working in black-and-white. Work from this assignment eventually was published as the book, Katsura: Tradition and Creation in Japanese Architecture (sometimes shortened to Katsura) in 1960. The book has texts by Walter Gropius and Tange Kenzō.
Ishimoto’s work was chosen by Edward Steichen to appear in the Family of Man exhibition and catalogue at the Museum of Modern Art in 1955, and Steichen also selected his work for a three-person exhibition in 1961.
From 1958 to 1961, Ishimoto lived and worked in Chicago on a Minolta fellowship. His photographs from this time, mostly street scenes, were eventually published in 1969 as Chicago, Chicago. After having returned to Japan in 1961, Ishimoto became a naturalized Japanese citizen in 1969. During the 1960s, he taught photography at Kuwasawa Design School, the Tokyo College of Photography and, between 1966 and 1971, at Tokyo Zokei University.
Ishimoto travelled and photograph widely, visiting Southwest Asia in 1966, and South America, North Africa and Australia for three months in 1975. The following year he made trips to Iran, Iraq and Turkey and in 1977 he again visited Turkey, also travelling to Spain and India. He visited China in 1978.
With photographs taken at the temple Tō-ji (also known as Kyōō Gokokuji) in Kyoto, Ishimoto produced an exhibition in 1977 called Den Shingonin Ryōkai Mandala (The Mandalas of the Two Worlds). His photography was later used in a very lavish publication of the same title.
Between 1973 and 1993 Ishimoto produced a number of in-camera color abstractions that appeared as covers for the Japanese magazine Approach. In 1980, at the Museum of Modern Art, he photographed Monet’s Water Lilies in detail and full size.
Ishimoto returned to Katsura in 1982 and took another series of photographs, this time with many in color, often using the same or very similar views to those of his 1953 photographs at the same location. Work from this project was published in Katsura Villa: Space and Form.
His more recent photography dealt with the transitory nature of life as shown in his photographs of clouds, footprints in melting snow and fallen leaves. This theme was also evident in his photographs of Ise Shrine (also known as Ise Jingū), which he was permitted to photograph in 1993. This ancient Shinto shrine is torn down and rebuilt every twenty years.
Ishimoto participated in many exhibitions, including New Japanese Photography at the Museum of Modern Art in 1974, solo shows in 1960 and 1999 at the Art Institute of Chicago, a retrospective in 1989–1990 at Seibu Museum of Art in Tokyo, and an exhibition at the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, in 1996.
Ishimoto’s many awards include winning the Young Photographer’s Contest, Life magazine (1950); the photographer of the year award, Japan Photo Critics Association (1957); the Mainichi Art Award (1970); the annual award (1978, 1990) and distinguished contribution award (1991) of the Photographic Society of Japan; and governmental medals of honour (1983, 1993). In 1996 the Japanese government named Ishimoto a Person of Cultural Merit, an honour that includes a lifelong stipend. In 2004 Ishimoto donated his archive of seven thousand images, valued at 1.4 billion yen, to the Museum of Art, Kochi. In English, Yasuhiro Ishimoto signed his name “Yas Ishimoto”. See examples.
Ishimoto died at the age of 90 on February 6, 2012, after being hospitalized the month before for a stroke.
Born in California, Tosh was also interred at Amache Camp. With a camera and time on his hands he learned photography eventually becoming notable in 1947 to the editors of Popular Photography in the April edition.
For about 10 years Tosh worked as an art photographer but then transitioned into commercial photography. Here are some of his photos from that period of time
On Memorial Day, today I received ‘78’ Issei Suda’s last photo book = published posthumously. Researching his style he is set apart from the other more famous Japanese photographers of his era. He blossomed late in life and to a certain extent his appreciation is continuing to grow. He was never a part of revolutionary groups - like those participating in PROVOKE like Daido and Araki.
In an interview with Ferdinand Brueggemann, a Japanese photography specialist the maturation of the photographer there is different than in the US or Europe. Typically the western photographer hopes to get a gallery showing with book appearances occurring much later.
Books by photographers are second only to photography exhibitions in terms of their importance for the reception of Japanese photography. Books by photographers are of much greater importance in Japan than in the West. In Japan, artists have traditionally presented their works to the public by means of their books and magazines and – as was previously mentioned – young artists are still more likely to have a publisher than a gallerist. -Ferdinand Brueggemann
“When you photograph people in color, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in Black and white, you photograph their souls!” - Ted Grant
This whole question of color vs. BW in landscape photography is important. Watching a Youtube video about Robert Adams who I think always shot BW the comment was made that Color hits the viewer like a bold of lightening but with little after affect. Black and White on the other hand may have many levels of understanding and is revealed slowly
The above represents this dichotomy. I would never hang the color photo on my wall - it’s too garish. The Ansel Adams photo to the right would be great on my living room wall if I could afford it!
Spent a couple days near the Pawnee National Grasslands. We opted to stay in a RV camp in Wyoming and make day trips to the grasslands. We were sort of dumb as we thought there was some grand entrance to the area. There is not. There are many county roads that criss cross the grasslands. Much of the western half is taken up with commercial operations like wind farms. This is the result of BLM allowing this on Forest Service lands. When we finally figured out how to get to the Buttes we were able to take a small hike. Our previous visit there many years ago, we were able to park very close to the base of the Buttes - I don’t don’t know if they have eliminated that parking spot.
We also snooped around the area including ending up in Nebraska ! The roads criss cross the tri-state area freely. Ended up at the highest point in Nebraska and also seeing a few Bison at their watering hole
Our last nite there was punctuated by the drama of a hail storm. Airstreams and Hail storms do not mix well. We were lucky as all we had was pea sized hail. Much larger and we would then be faced with a multiple week stay at the Airstream Hospital in Jackson Center, Ohio.
I previously reviewed Astrum 100 which I really liked. This time it was it slightly fasted brother. I tested this in the absolutely worst way - new used camera, new film and guessed at development times. There is a 5 fold chance of something going wrong when doing it this way……but everything worked out fine.
This little beauty is the original Leica CL - not to be confused by the new digital Leica CL. The original film version was a co-developed product with Minolta. With the knowledge that Minolta gained, they put out their own body known as the Minolta CLE - a fine camera but if the electronics go you are in deep trouble. The Leica CL was a very simple swing out/in light meter but if this goes you can get it repaired. It also works without the light meter. I needed a 2nd body that uses Leica M lenses. My plan is to use the CL to shoot Rollei InfraRed film where the exposure is somewhat of guess work anyway. This example was purchased from Tamarkin in Chicago.
Now onto the film - Astrum 200
Astrum 200 was a guess as to the development times in HC110B. I saw one reference only to using 7 minutes. I thought this was a little short so I used 8 minutes and I’m pretty happy with the results. In the past shooting black dogs - I have two - was difficult. It’s still not easy but this film gave me the detail in the fur that I frequently don’t get - the blocking of the black tones makes it impossible to see the detail.
Today was the first day of open lapping at High Plains Raceway during COVID. It was definitely nice to get back to HPR. I did very little socializing. All folks were to wear a face mask when out of their car. 6 feet social distancing. I started the morning with absolutely slow 2:44 lap times. By the time I left I was consistently doing 2:29 which is actually my best from previous seasons. I either need to get better ( I already know how I can do this OR I need a faster car - and in retirement that ain’t happening.)
This picture was taken at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. Dad was called in to do surgery on this Ostrich. The vet was gonna tell Dad what all the parts were and Dad was just the technician. Dad handed me his very expensive Rolleiflex Magic to take pictures. The ‘surgery suite’ was just an un-airconditioned shed. It was hot, I was looking at bird guts so naturally I started to faint with an expensive German camera in my hands.
Everything turned out ok for me. Not so much for the bird as it died on the table. Not an auspicious start to my career but I did become a doctor and a photographer. Not something I would have predicted from this early experience.
While cleaning my office I came across a bunch of 120 negatives - most were shot by my Dad but some by me. You can tell the difference - mine were not processed as well. Dad’s were at times corny. For the most part well focused. He was most likely using his Rolleiflex Magic.
Ran into this article from the Chicago Sun-Times about this couple who photographed in the 1950’s - a friend of theirs found a box camera with undeveloped film in it. 150 images were discovered - they are amazing. See the article here. Mr. Custer just passed away at 91 hence the obituary.
Despite COVID I am lucky enough to live in a house where I can walk around. Imagine being homeless or living in a small apartment where just getting to the front door is another chance to get COVID from a neighbor. Anyway here are a few flowers that are in the front of the house.
The Getty Museum thru their virtual exhibits has made the PDF of this book available for download. I found it interesting as much for the photography as well as the commentary by the writer who wrote his comments several decades after the photographs were shot.
With the onset of COVID lock down I decided to read about other infectious diseases - don’t ask me why. I’m reading other things as well. I’ve always been fascinated with Rabies - it is after all primarily a neurological disease. I’ve never seen a case. WE did recently have a sick Raccoon in our yard. The animal control people didn’t think it had rabies but this was probably the impetus to read about it.
Then I thought The Plague by Albert Camus would be an appropriate next book. It is more relevant to our current situation with COVID. Here are some quotes from the book:
“The doctor remembered the plague at Constantinople that, according to Procopius, caused ten thousand deaths in a single day. Ten thousand dead made about five times the audience in a biggish cinema. Yes, that was how it should be done. You should collect the people at the exits of five picture-houses, you should lead them to a city square and make them die in heaps if you wanted to get a clear notion of what it means. Then at least you could add some familiar faces to the anonymous”
Still, that could stop, or be stopped. It was only a matter of lucidly recognizing what had to be recognized; of dispelling extraneous shadows and doing what needed to be done. Then the plague would come to an end, because it was unthinkable, or, rather, because one thought of it on misleading lines. If, as was most likely, it died out, all would be well. If not, one would know it anyhow for what it was and what steps should be taken for coping with and finally overcoming it.”
“They went on doing business, arranged for journeys, and formed views. How should they have given a thought to anything like plague, which rules out any future, cancels journeys, silences the exchange of views. They fancied themselves free, and no one will ever be free so long as there are pestilences.”
According to religion, the first half of a man’s life is an upgrade; the second goes downhill. On the descending days he has no claim, they may be snatched from him at any moment; thus he can do nothing with them and the best thing, precisely, is to do nothing with them.”
“It was done through official channels, and half-heartedly. What they’re short on is imagination. Officialdom can never cope with something really catastrophic. And the remedial measures they think up are hardly adequate for a common cold. If we let them carry on like this they’ll soon be dead, and so shall we.”
The evil that is in the world always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence, if they lack understanding. On the whole, men are more good than bad; that, however, isn’t the real point. But they are more or less ignorant, and it is this that we call vice or virtue; the most incorrigible vice being that of an ignorance that fancies it knows everything and therefore claims for itself the right to kill. The soul of the murderer is blind; and there can be no true goodness nor true love without the utmost clear-sightedness.”