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Kotaro IIZAWA's essay

Photographers of Japan

Vol.2 "Eikoh Hosoe's theatrical imagination"

by Kotaro Iizawa (Critic and historian of Photography)

Eikoh Hosoe, born 1933 and photographers of his generation, made a debut as a pure "post war generation". Photographers of generation above them, such as Ihee Kimura, Ken Domon and Yonosuke Natori has been working as photographers before the World War II. On the other hand, Hosoe and those who established photographer group "VIVO" with him in 1959, such as Shomei Tohmatsu, Ikko Narahara and Kikuji Kawada has entered univercities after the war, and started photography.

Although they were strongly influenced by Domon and Kimura as an photographer, they begun to search for their own style in the late 1950s. With such movements came new styles that differs from a "Realism photography" which describes reality as it is, and a "news photography" which is based on newspapers and magazines.

Hosoe was one of artists who stood on the edge, exploring new possibilities of photography with unique and experimental works since 1960s. Like series "Man and Woman"(1960) expressing the world of eros with Butoh-dancer Tatsumi Hijikata and his fellows, series "Ordeal by Roses"(1961-1962) visualizing the aesthetic fantasy of the writer Yukio Mishima, and series "Kamaitachi"(1965-1968) showing the communication between a rural community in north east Japan and its local religion using Tatsumi Hijikata as a model, Hosoe's work during this period still has a power to shock viewers of today.

To simply explain the characteristic of Eikoh Hosoe's world of work, it is a manifestation of his incomparable theatrical imagination. As well as being a photographer, Hosoe is also a director who sets up a fictitious stage in a middle of a reality with his models, producing anti-realismic theater space. However, his "theatrical performance" is not peformed with ready made scenario, but depending on models physiological reaction and unconscious physical behaviour. It is clear to see from Hosoe's works, that he takes photographs impulsively, not knowing what comes a moment later.

It seems that, passing the age of seventy during 2000s, Hosoe's theatrical imagination has broadened even wider and wilder. Looking at his recent series works "Ukiyoe Projections"(2007) and "Villa Bottini"(2009), Hosoe's creativity seems to be increasing its freshness. One should not see him just as a great master of the past, but also keep an eye on his present works.

(Kotaro Iizawa)

Works by Eikoh HOSOE
"Man and Woman #24"
1960 (Printed 1985)
Gelatin Silver Print
"Ordeal by Roses #32"
1961 (printed later)
Gelatin Silver Print
"Kamaitachi #23, 1965"
Pigment Aechival Print
"Ukiyoe Projections #1-20"
Sheet size 40.6x50.8cm
Signed on verso
"Villa Bottini #1"
2009 (Printed in 2011)
Type-C print

All works listed above are owned by Toki-no-Wasuremono.
For inquiry about our collection, please contact us from our inquiry form.


Vol.16 "Ogawa Takayuki (1938 - 2008) − explorer of “shape” through photography"
Vol.15 "Kitai Kazuo - Capturing “a scene I once saw…”"
Vol.14 "Kazama Kensuke"
Vol.13 "Narahara Ikko - Double Vision"
Vol.12 "Q Ei and photo dessin"
Vol.11 "Fukuhara Shinzo 1883-1948 -- Japanese Landscape Photography"
Vol.10 "The city observer’s gaze Akihiko HIRASHIMA (1946~)"

Vol.9 "Hitoshi FUGO 1947- -- The unusual world of works which fuses thought and technique"
Vol.8 "Iwata NAKAYAMA (1895-1949)"
Vol.7 "KISEI KOBAYASHI (1968-)"
Vol.6 "Tamiko NISHIMURA (1948-)"
Vol.5 "Shigeo GOCHO (1946-83)"
Vol.4 "Shoji UEDA -Locality open to the world-"
Vol.3 "Yu OGATA, ICHIRO OGATA ONO -Dyslexia's picture of the world-"
Vol.2 "Eikoh Hosoe's theatrical imagination"
Vol.1 "maroon" -- Whereabouts of new works by Hiroshi Osaka


Born 1954 in Miyagi prefecture, Japan. Iizawa is a Japanese photography critic, historian of photography, and magazine editor.
He studied photography in Nihon University, graduating in 1977. He obtained his doctorate at University of Tsukuba in 1984. With his trilogy, "Geijutsu shashin to sono jidai (Art Photography and its Time)", "Shashin ni kaere (Go back to the photography)" and "Toshi no shisen (Glance of the City)" published in 1986, 1988 and 1989, he stood out and became the representive photography researcher of the early 20th century. Iizawa founded magazine "Deja-vu" in 1990 and was its editor in chief until 1994. He has been taking part as a judge in public competitions "Shashin-shinseiki (New Generation Photography)" and "Hitotsubo-ten (3.3m² Exhibition)", since their beginning, and through these competitions made the "girly photo" trend in the 1990s.

Reknowned as Nobuyuki Araki researcher. In 1996, he was awarded the Suntory Arts Award for his book "Shashin bijutsukan e yokoso (Welcome to the Photography Museum)". Also, he is an enthusiast for mushrooms and published books such as "Sekai no kinoko kitte (World's Mushroom Stamps)" and "Aruku kinoko (Walking Mushrooms)".
He was a part-time instructor at the Tokyo College of Photography in 1981, teaching Photography Artist Research. In 2004 and 2008, he was a part-time lecturer at Faculty of Liberal Arts, University of Tokyo, teaching history of photography in Japan.

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