Into the Technological Sublime

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What happens when you’re trying too hard to be clever, when, in other words, you’re so enthralled by your own wit and ingenuity that the outcome telegraphs those more than anything else? Every time I pick up The Merge by Sara Brincher Galbiati, Peter Helles Eriksen, and Tobias Selnaes Markussen, my mind is drawn to that question more than to what the photographs in the book might be getting at. In many ways, this makes it difficult to write something about the book. I will try regardless.

The book’s makers aren’t helping themselves with the inclusion of a text that comes a few pages into the book. The idea of the text is to explain to a reader that we might be living in a computer simulation. This is the book’s focus: are we real? Do we exist? (I’m simplifying this a bit but not all that much.) That in itself might be a worthwhile topic to think about. But it’s conveyed rather clumsily and in a fashion that, well… That’s where the “trying too hard to be clever” bit enters.

You see, I have a background in theoretical astrophysics. I met quite a few incredibly intelligent people who believed in pretty mind-blowing stuff. When I use the word “believed” I don’t mean this in the sense of a religion. Theirs was not a faith. No, they could prove to you that what they told you was if not likely to happen then at least a very reasonable theory.

For example, I once met Frank Tipler.  Tipler thinks that “a society in the far future would be able to resurrect the dead by emulating alternative universes” (quoted from the Wikipedia page). He derived this idea in a scientific fashion. But when I heard him speak, I never had the impression that the cleverness of this idea was of any concern to him. It was simply logical (to him anyway).

The problem with such theories is that only those that are deeply embedded in the field can fully understand them. Everybody else inevitably can merely get the gist of it, which might or might not be coming from a book that attempts to popularize the topic for a mass audience (which is a pretty lucrative business by the way). And that’s fine.

For example, I know various aspects of theoretical astrophysics pretty well. I worked on computer simulations of the Universe. Even though this is part of my past, I think if I were to somehow decide to create a photography project on simulations and/or the people who produce them (which, don’t worry, I won’t), it would come out pretty good. But I only have a very surface understanding of, let’s say, mRNA vaccines (I received one, for which I’m intensely grateful). I could probably read up on them. But if I were to decide to produce a project on such vaccines, I’m pretty sure it would result in something that’s rather cartoonish (at least for those people who know more about the subject).

In other words, while I understand the appeal of creating art around advanced scientific ideas, there is a problem with artists doing that. They typically gravitate towards two possible outcomes. They get too drawn in to the point where you can see they think they’re almost a scientist. I once had a very well known German photographer explain astronomical image processing to me. I didn’t have the heart to tell him how wrong parts of his understanding was. Alternatively, they end up being too enamoured by their own cleverness.

In both cases, the outcome isn’t what they set out to do: art. At worst, it’s entertainment that masquerades as art. Art, after all, encompasses the viewer’s imagination, and it does so in a way that’s not prescriptive. Thus, it’s not enough if an artist uses her or his imagination. The viewer also needs to be given the same opportunity. Her or his or their imagination must be allowed to run free — instead of being told “hey, why don’t you think about this and only this?”

There is another aspect of the book that also ties in with something that I have been grappling with for a while. In my book Photography Neoliberal Realism, I use Andreas Gursky as one of the main examples. Gursky’s work is instantly recognizable for its portrayal of ant-like human figures in an enormous, overwhelming world that is governed by forces beyond the control of any of these figures (the fact that most of his pictures are constructed in a computer is irrelevant).

For reasons of space (the book’s intended target length) and time (the deadline), I didn’t dive into an aspect of Gursky’s work that is very important. It’s not just the sublime in its classical form that this artist is playing with. More often than not, it’s the technological sublime, one of the handmaidens of neoliberal capitalism. The technological sublime is a tempting target for photographers, simply because modern technology evokes it quite naturally.

In the past, the technological sublime mostly addressed the physical sense and only if you were actually present at the scene. If you look at, for example, Eugene Smith’s photographs of steel mills, they cannot really convey the heat and noise of those environments. But today, things have shifted. If you see how, let’s say, cars or computers are produced today, you’ll encounter incredibly clean looking environments that are great for photographs. Often, robots play a role in the process (again, great for photographs).

In other words, post-post-modern technology and the places where it is made differ in terms of how we relate to them compared with their modernist predecessors. Whereas it was pretty straightforward to produce deeply critical work around the labour conditions of workers in the modernist era, it has become a lot harder now, given that there is the temptation to essentially produce neoliberal realism around the factories (just look at Edward Burtynsky’s photographs from Chinese hi-tech factories).

Another way to describe the problem would be the following: during the 1920’s someone praising modern factories and someone criticizing them would have produced very different pictures. Today, their pictures would probably look identical.

So when I see a photograph of a man sitting in an oversized somewhat anthropomorphic computer in The Merge (roughly halfway into the unpaginated book), I’m looking at a form of the technological sublime of the early 21st Century, which, as I already noted, plays a huge role in Neoliberal Realism. There are many other photographs in the book that operate in just the same way.

I suppose it’s fine to think about whether we live in a computer simulation or not. I’m personally not all that interested in the idea. I am able to imagine how an artist (or an artist collective) could get me interested in that. However, I don’t think you can do that by producing something that just feels too clever and that also seems blissfully unaware of how large parts of the imagery feed into Neoliberal Realism.

After all, once I see that, I’m wondering why we’re talking about whether we live in a simulation when we could instead talk about the uses of all that technology depicted in the pictures. Even if I’m just some part of a huge simulation, I’ll never be able to escape that fact. So I might as well deal with the other parts of the simulation that effect my life, right?

And if I’m not a part of some huge simulation, it feels like a strange luxury to me to ponder about that while a little over 100 miles from where I’m writing this, a group of engineers build anthropomorphic robots (that we all know will find their first uses through the military to kill people), only to also produce pretty scary videos about what those robots can do, videos that make it clear that these engineers are unaware of the problem: “hey, look at our future killer robot dance!”

I know the inevitable retorts to the above (which I’m cool with): why should artists be only critical? Can’t they just “explore” something? Why would they have to challenge the status quo? These questions have considerable merit. Every single artist should simply be doing what she or he or they feel like doing.

But when the sum of it all — the community — largely fails to respond to all the various challenges to our societies, democracies, and well being, then I’m left to wonder where it all went wrong.

Maybe it’s simply the fact that the world of art has become too enmeshed with the very people who are responsible for the challenges I just mentioned.  Why or how? Simply follow the money.

The Merge; photographs and text by Sara Brincher Galbiati, Peter Helles Eriksen, and Tobias Selnaes Markussen; 136 pages; RM; 2020

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Odd Time

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Ten years ago, I spoke with Mirjana Vrbaški about her work after she had been picked as one of the winners of the portfolio competition back then. At the time, my thinking around photography and especially the portrait was more limited than it is now. “I don’t see the portrait as having to do with the individual shown on it,” she said, “but as being a completely new territory, an amalgamation of the model, the photographer and the viewer.” This intrigued me. Over the years I have come to a similar understanding of what to expect from a photograph that shows a person.

The problem with portraits is that everybody seems to have very specific ideas about them, and everybody has their go-to artist. You have the Avedon-In-the-American-West crowd (that loves seeing stylish b/w photographs of underprivileged people), you have the Thomas-Ruff crow (that loves the idea that the portrait doesn’t say anything), you have the August-Sander crowd (that loves seeing a portrait as a very specific reflection of a sitter’s properties)… There might be others.

But rarely do you encounter artists who use the portrait as a way to talk about something completely different: an idea that’s floating somewhere, that’s hard to pin down while being very specific at the same time. A portrait’s specificity makes it very hard to get into this territory. How can the depiction of a person whose face (posture, gender, …) telegraphs a multitude of things not be about that? How can it be about something else, something that exists in the larger public sphere that photographer, sitter, and viewer share?

That’s essentially the area described by this artist’s portraits (Verses of Emptiness). “Described” isn’t a good word, because there is no description. But I like it a lot better than the word “explored”, because I don’t think this photographer explores anything. When you talk to her about her work, she is very, very specific about what she wants from these pictures. They’re about a specific feeling that is difficult to express directly, but that is so straightforward to see especially when one is facing an framed print.

I don’t know whether the photographs that are part of 7/8 would be considered as landscapes. For sure, they show part of a landscape — sunlit trees in what look like forests. But affixing a label to them ultimately would only lead to the same problem that I outlined above: these pictures are not about what they show. While they visually describe parts of forests, their main purpose is to evoke feelings.

That said, in the area of landscape photography (or art in general actually), this idea covers well-known territory. For a long time, writes of all kinds (philosophers, art historians, etc.) have summed up a large part of what a landscape in a painting or photograph can do using the term “the sublime”. 7/8 operates in this general area. In fact, despite the vast differences in subject matter, even in photographic style, there is a strong overlap with feelings evoked by the portraits in Verses of Emptiness. In some ways, this is not particularly surprising, given that most artists work with a very specific sensibility that will lead their work to similar themes (however different it might look at first).

Odd Time, a book that contains both bodies of work, thus only at first glance looks like a mid-career survey (full disclosure: the book was published by Kerber Verlag, which also produced my first photobook, Vaterland). It is that in the technical sense. But in part through its production, it not only makes the connection between the two bodies of work clear, it also amplifies them greatly.

When the book is opened, the viewer encounters two text blocks. They open to their respective sides, allowing the viewer to either look at one at a time or at both together. Given there is no restriction in how the two parts can be looked at, the viewer might pair any portrait with any scene from 7/8. This makes for a mesmerizing effect that greatly enhances the work, bringing out the artist’s sensibility.

What is more, Odd Time is a modest and elegant production. I’m obviously biased, given that for my own book I wanted a relatively small and unassuming production (which serves to create a sense of intimacy with the book, while not telegraphing the importance of its art aspect). Thus, my enjoyment of the size and production don’t come out of nowhere.

Still, this doesn’t mean that I only want to look at relatively small books. A book’s size should be determined by what it is supposed to do. I was surprised when I received the book in the mail. I had assumed it would be a lot larger. I was surprised again when I realized how well the production works to have the viewer encounter what I saw and felt when I was in the presence of prints.

In many obvious ways, we live in what you could call an odd time. Right now, it actually feels like an understatement. But Odd Time, the book, takes it title from a completely different moment. It’s not the moment of unrest, of political decay, of a pandemic. It’s the moment when all of the worldly concerns fall away and when you’re in the presence of just yourself as a creature on this planet. It’s a moment of deep contemplation, a contemplation that is much needed, given it for sure would help us deal with all the disasters we’ve made ourselves face.

Seen that way, Odd Time is the perfect book for this crazy time. It allows us to center ourselves, to bring us back to what really matters. Only when we are able to be with ourselves in peace will we be able to face the perils of this world.


Odd Time; photographs by Mirjana Vrbaški; text by Koen Potgieter; 2 x 32 pages; Kerber Verlag; 2021

Rating: Photography 5.0, Book Concept 4.0, Edit 5.0, Production 4.0 – Overall 4.5


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There is a photograph of Georg August Zenker in the book whose title bears his last name. On page 26, a “[f]ramed photograph from the lounge room of the Bipindihof” (the caption tells us) shows someone who looks very German staring back at us. There’s a slightly bemused look on his face. Change out his clothes for something very slightly more modern, trim off the beard, add some of those pretend-stylish glasses that middle-aged German men wear, and you might be peeking into the face of one of those men that you ordinarily would expect to see in some mid-level manager position at a provincial savings bank, but that have come to dominate contemporary German politics: sub-mediocre technocrats. The conservative party’s candidate for the chancellorship, Armin Laschet, state premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, exemplifies this type of man perfectly, with his complete lack of even an awareness that ambition might cover more than the next rung of power and his willingness to give more to those who already have a lot, while keeping all the others down. You wouldn’t want to give these men more power than over an upcoming promotion of low-interest home financing. But now they have to deal (or rather pretend to deal) with climate change or a pandemic. It’s altogether not very surprising that the outcome is a mess (where the next corruption scandal is merely one news cycle away).

Nowadays, these German men deal with their own — unless they somehow feel compelled to decree that “the safety of the Federal Republic of Germany is being defended at the Hindu Kush” (actual quote, translated by me, by the Zenkerite who was defense secretary in 2002). Back at the end of the 19th Century, that safety was being defended in places such as Kamerun, one of the small number of colonies Wilhelminian Germany had acquired. Obviously, Germany’s safety wasn’t going to be defended any more in Afghanistan than in the area that now is mostly part of the modern-day Republic of Cameroon. Instead, German administrators and soldiers were defending their country’s rights to do as it pleased. This, of course, was couched in the name of some greater good that, alas, for the most part eluded those who were at the receiving end of said defense. So it goes, to use Kurt Vonnegut’s phrase.

Imperial Germany had wanted a seat at the table of colonial powers, joining the likes of Great Britain and France, and briefly got it. During World War I, Germany lost all of its colonies (that it was unable to defend). But foreshadowing how the first half of the 20th Century would evolve, they still managed to stage its first genocide in what is now Namibia. Of course, contemporary Germany would rather not have a seat of the table of former colonial powers. But if you re-erect the country’s former imperial palace in the capitol and then move the collection of the Ethnological Museum into it, which is filled with looted artifacts, then they were basically asking for it (not that they would have had a choice anyway). Consequently, a discussion over all of this has broken out in Germany, a discussion that, of course, the savings-bank directors in power would rather not have. (So it goes. — KV)

Georg August Zenker was a botanist and gardener whose career resulted in a position at the farthest inland outpost in the German colony of Kamerun. There are somewhat conflicting accounts of his activities in the area. He was dismissed from his post, yet he returned as a private citizen, and he died and was buried there. There was talk of improper behaviour as a colonial administrator, some of which in retrospect is hard to prove. What is not, however, is the fact that he fathered a number of children with a few women, only one of whom was his wife. Whatever the truth might have been, there exist dozens of descendants who wear his name and who today either live in Cameroon, in Germany, or elsewhere. Portraits of a quite a few of them can be found in the book. In addition, there are longer interviews with three Zenkers, all of whom proudly recall the history of the family and the many achievements of their (great) grandfather.

The very first facts a viewer learns about Zenker come from the man himself, though a selection of letters that he sent back to Germany. The letters are filled with details from different parts of his life. There are short descriptions of daily life. There are numerous descriptions of his process of killing animals and sending them back to Germany, to be used in museums. And there are reflections of the ubiquitous racism and the casual colonial violence that men like Zenker probably didn’t think much of. To what extent the latter connect with reasons given for his dismissal isn’t clear. It might not matter anyway, given that the view Germans had of the country they ruled for the most part stands outside of what we consider civilized discourse today. Where facts or accounts might differ from one administrator to the next, the underlying language is one of casual, yet brutal racism, in which the life of a person who is not white doesn’t matter all that much. To pretend that this was not the case is little more than window dressing.

At the end of the book, there is a long list of specimen prepared by Zenker that are in the possessions of museums in Berlin, the Ethnological one — in the news for the Benin Bronzes it holds — among them. The list is quite extensive, and it sickens me to consider the slaughter of all the animals just so they could be prepared and then sent off to Germany. But its length also serves as a reminder to what extent colonial violence was an important pillar of Europe’s humanities and knowledge industry (lest we forget, photography is part of that).

For the most part, the book focuses on the very location of Zenker’s activities, the village where he built what his descendants refer to as the palais, a massive building that in German probably would be described as a Gutshof (manor) and that is named Bipindihof (Bipindi is the name of the locale, and a Hof in German is a farm of sorts). Given it was built with stones, it has not (yet) fallen into complete disrepair, even though it clear has seen better days. Members of the family are still attempting to take care of it, with neither the Cameroonian government nor the German one (through its embassy there) being very interested in maintaining it. Around the manson, there appear to have been farm-related activities, most of which have been stopped (one of the descendants talks of the government shutting things down in part by building a pipeline through the area).

The artists behind the book, Yana Wernicke and Jonas Feige, conclude their book with a relatively large number of questions, including for example “What entitles us, of all people, to explore the Zenker story?” or “How to reconcile the image of a man who could both despise people because of their skin colour, yet dearly love his own children whose mother was a black woman?” In the end, they conclude, that “we have just as many, if not more, questions today than when we first embarked on this journey.” A few years ago, when I was still a lot more impetuous, I would have thought that this conclusion is merely a cop out: after all, there always are more answers, aren’t there?

But now I know that the presence of more answers merely points at the fact that our lived reality, combined with all the baggage we inherit, prevents us from arriving at simple solutions most of the time (which is one of the reasons why I’m finding social media more and more toxic). An answer provides a solution, a way to end a story, a way to move on. Moving on is good, of course, because it feels good. But the reality is that history does not allow for a moving on most of the time. Whatever solution might exist is less an answer and more an attempt to do justice where actual justice cannot be fully had any longer. The descendants of those who were responsible for gruesome violence in the past (and this obviously includes me as a German citizen) will have to live with their lifelong responsibility to deal with what can never be resolved. For those interested in how one can understand and deal with this, Michael Rothberg‘s The Implicated Subject is a good start.

As implicated subjects, Yana Wernicke and Jonas Feige have done a great job diving into just a small aspect of Germany’s much ignored colonial history, a topic that despite efforts by conservatives to bury it is likely to remain with us for decades to come.


Zenker; photographs by Yana Wernicke and Jonas Feige; texts by a number of authors (German/English); 268 pages; Edition Patrick Frey; 2021

Rating: Photography 4.0, Book Concept 4.0, Edit 4.0, Production 5.0 – Overall 4.3

Issei Suda and Japanese Photography in the West

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At the occasion of an exhibition of Nobuyoshi Araki’s work in Vienna in 1997, Austrian critic Christian Kravagna wrote an essay entitled Bring on the Little Japanese Girls! Araki in the West. Its premise was a very simple question: “How can someone’s photographic practice so obviously based on the commodification of the sexualised female body be acclaimed in a context that has become highly sensitive to the representation of gender power relations?” (in Autumn 1999, the essay appeared in the journal Third Text 48, now hidden behind a paywall, p. 65). This is a very obvious question, isn’t it? Yet here we are: at the time of this writing, there’s yet another Araki exhibition in Vienna. And it would be unfair to single out Austria, because the photographer is still being widely and pretty much almost completely uncritically celebrated in the West. Now, though, curators will occasionally call him a “controversial photographer”. Controversial is good, of course, because it helps move tickets.

In his essay, Kravagna offered a number of possible explanations for why Western curators and critics were unwilling and/or unable to realize that they had (and still have) a problem at hand. Araki’s work is very obviously caked in misogyny, yet the bulk of Western photoland simply won’t deal with that. How is that even possible? “Doubly fascinated with cultural difference and the unfathomable in female sexuality,” he wrote, “literature on Araki fits into an old pattern that links exoticism with erotism”. In other words, according to Kravagna, we’re dealing with old-fashioned Orientalism: “Not only does the image of women conveyed in the West through Araki’s photographs largely correspond to these fantasies, these fantasies are confirmed when one finds them in quasi-approved form at the level of art.”

In Representation, Distribution, and Formation of Sexuality in the Photography of Araki Nobuyoshi (positions 18, 2010), Hiroko Hagiwara picked up the thread from Kravagna and developed it a lot further. I suspect that if this article weren’t hidden behind a corporate paywall, photoland would look at Araki differently (or maybe not, I’m often too naive). While there is a long discussion about how to discuss the photographer’s male gaze, the Japanese critic also dives into the perception of Araki in the West. Commenting on often expressed remarks that tie Japanese bondage (which Araki obsessively photographed) to the country’s tea ceremony (and other local customs: bonsai, ikebana, etc.), she writes: “Such a touristic facade of ‘traditional’ art will never provide a contemporary photographer with a metaphorical frame to critically express the rigidity of Japanese society.” (p. 243)

Consequently, people who are very aware of the risk of violating cultural differences end up shooting themselves in the foot by unwittingly applying the very kind of thinking that they hope to work against: Japan is just different, so we can’t apply the same standards. Too afraid of violating cultural differences, essentially neo-colonial ideas serve as a fall back (as both Kravagna and Hagiwara point out). However, the reality is that while there are cultural differences between Japan and, let’s say, the United States, misogyny in Japan is not all that much different than misogyny in the US, even if it might manifest itself differently. The same is true for many other aspects of life in Japan and the US. But the idea of Japanese otherness is just too convenient, even in circles that in principle (should) know about the perils of othering.

Obviously, we wouldn’t be in this situation if we had more access to Japan’s cultural world. As it turns out, there currently is a mini-boom of books written by female Japanese novelists published in translation. If you want to learn more about Japan through novels, put aside Haruki Murakami (whose novels are also caked in misogyny) and check out any of the writers mentioned in this article. If you want to learn more about Japan through its visual arts, then… well, you’re a little bit in trouble.

If we stick with photography, what’s being offered in the West is very limited. It’s either yet another exhibition by Araki or by the other famous old man, Daidō Moriyama. Or if you’re lucky, there is a themed exhibition around something that unfortunately makes it hard to see Japan as just an ordinary country. A good example would be an exhibition like In the Wake. There was some incredible work in the exhibition. On the other hand, I wager that if people remember an artist (big if), he or she will now be seen as being well known for her or his tsunami work. I should note that there exist some pockets in photoland that try to work against the representation of Japan as a profoundly other country and that try to present a wider range of names and topics. For example, at SFMOMA Sandra Phillips has been instrumental in bringing a wider view of Japanese photography to the US.

I should note that Japan isn’t the only country that is seen in a very strange light in photoland. Once you start looking into photography made in pretty much any of the countries south of the United States or in Africa — both huge continents with a large variety of cultures and customs, you’ll run into the very same problem. Don’t believe me? Well, then name a Senegalese photographer, and tell me something about their country and work.

The key to moving away from simplistic ideas about other countries and their cultures is to move towards a more varied and inclusive representation of their art. In the context of Japan, this means that we desperately, desperately need less Araki or Moriyama exhibitions (or books) and more by any of the other brilliant photographers — whether they’re of the Araki/Moriyama generation (now either dead or in their late 80s) or the many, many younger artists working there. And exhibitions should not be themed. I know curators love themes because they’re easy to work with. But themes only invite the problems that I discussed in the above.

This brings me to the exhibition of work by Issei Suda at FOMU in Antwerp (Belgium). “Issei Suda (1940-2019) is a famous name in the world of Japanese photography,” the museum writes, “yet he remains relatively unknown in Europe. FOMU wants to change this with a first retrospective of his work outside Japan.” My Japan, a catalogue of the exhibition is available through FW:Books (I will use the catalogue for my discussion).

The bulk of Wikipedia’s page about Suda is taken up by a list of his books. This reflects the photographer’s obscurity in the West as much as the fact that the book was (and still is) the main outlet to present work in Japan. At the same time, however difficult it is to get access to Japanese photobooks, for many artists, they are the only type of access a Western audience has.

The two earliest books listed on Wikipedia, Fūshi kaden (風姿花伝) and Waga-Tōkyō hyaku (わが東京100), demonstrate an artist at the very top of his game (it’s important to know that the dates of Suda’s books do not necessarily reflect when their pictures were actually taken). Photographs from Fūshi kaden and Waga-Tōkyō hyaku feature prominently in My Japan (in the catalogue, Fūshi kaden is written as Fushi Kaden; much like German umlauts, details such as denoting a long vowel — ū instead of u — often get lost when Japanese words or names are transposed into Western script).

For these and a number of other series, Suda worked with a square 6×6 camera, occasionally using flash as well. The photographs often are what we think of as street photography, even though Suda mixes such photographs with a number of other details from his wanderings. There’s an interview conducted by curator Frits Gierstberg at the end of My Japan, in which the photographer reveals his thinking of the work: “I’m afraid I have no respect for those whom I photograph. I always shoot them as a reflex. […] My manner of shooting people without permission might be rude. […] Nobody was suspicious of photographers in the 1970s, the time when I shot Fushi Kaden.” (p. 136)

Whatever you want to make of Suda’s sentiment here, the fact that these series mix a number of approaches lifts them out of what we’ve come to expect from Western street photography. The majority of the photographs in both Fūshi kaden (風姿花伝) and Waga-Tōkyō hyaku (わが東京100) are absolutely incredible, and they deserve to be seen and appreciated much more widely (I’m lucky to own a copy of the 1979 release of Waga-Tōkyō hyaku so I know the full set of pictures).

If you look through My Japan, you’ll encounter a country that feels somewhat familiar to some extent (through those very cultural markers that are so well known: kimonos etc.). But there also are a lot of other aspects that show a country that is not very well known: the ordinary Japan. There are many pictures of ordinary life, unremarkable moments made remarkable through pictures. All of this is seen through the eyes of an incredibly gifted photographer who despite the generation he belonged to (with its very strong sense of machismo) managed to reveal very tender moments as well.

Obviously, Suda’s Japan isn’t Japan any more than Araki’s or Moriyama’s is: it’s the artist’s (hence the title of the catalogue). It is only through the combination of looking at a country through a large number of eyes that its essence might reveal itself. Ideally, there will be a lot more exhibitions like the one currently on view in Antwerp, bringing a lot more Japanese (male and female) artists to the West. That way, our often simplistic view can finally expand beyond Araki’s misogynistic freak show and Moriyama’s by now incredibly stale Beat photography.

One last comment: My Japan is priced at 20,00. That’s a great price to entice someone who might not be too familiar with this photographer’s name and who might be reluctant to spend a lot more money on a book. It’s a small, unassuming book, and as is always the case with FW:Books, it’s produced incredibly well.

Highly recommended.

My Japan; photographs by Issei Suda; interview with Frits Gierstberg; FW:Books/FOMU; 2021

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