Monday, May 31, 2010

Japanese Photobooks

While on a recent trip to NYC I made my usual pilgrimage to one of the best photography book stores in the country, Dashwood Books. Not only is this a great photobook store, it has a broad collection of Japanese photography books. And it was here that I discovered this wonderful volume, "Japanese Photobooks of the 1960s and '70s" by Ryuichi Kaneko and Ivan Vartanian, Aperture, 2009.

The eye opener for me, is that Japanese photographers use the photobook format as presentation for their photography, not the print. The photographer collaborates with the book printer to create this work of art and tell their stories.

"Japanese photography is best understood via the photobook. As will become apparent in the following texts, Japanese photographers of this era treated photographs as an entirely different creature from exhibit prints." - from the introduction.

Ivan Vartanian's introduction is a wonderful essay of the Japanese photobook and helps to put it into context as an artist book. The most valuable lesson for me, is to challenge my western perceptions of art and photobooks. Again, the artist book becomes the predominant label for these works. You can see the influence with today's aesthetic of full page bleeds, double page spreads, and panoramic images in book form that was championed by these artists.

For those that study and appreciate both photography and photobooks, this volume is a must have. I have gained yet another opportunity to expand my "reading" of photography and the photobook through this book.