A Century of Photography: History of Japanese Photographic Expression in the Past 100 Years and the Legacy of Realism in Post-War Japan
This presentation aims to situate the exhibition, A Century of Photography: History of Japanese Photographic Expression in the Past 100 Years, held in Tokyo in 1968, within the larger context of twentieth-century debates in Japan on the nature and role of photographic realism. It examines the central roles played by Taki Koji and Nakahira Takuma in shaping the way that the history of Japanese photography was presented in the exhibition, and the close relationship between that history and the larger photo-critical project Taki and Nakahira pursued in their short-lived photo-magazine, Provoke. Tracing the development of realist photographic aesthetics in the period before 1945, the presentation seeks to show how that aesthetic laid the basis for the dominant forms of post-war Japanese photography. It was an aesthetic challenged, however, by Taki and Nakahira, and analysis of the structure of the 1968 exhibition shows that the exhibition’s narrative of history directly engaged contemporary aesthetic and political debates around photography through Taki and Nakahira’s use of nineteenth-century archival photography to critique Japanese photography’s claims to truth and to offer a radically different understanding of photographic realism.