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Kotaro IIZAWA's essay

Photographers of Japan

Vol.5 "Shigeo GOCHO (1946-83)"

by Kotaro Iizawa (Critic and historian of Photography)

Shigeo GOCHO was born in 1946 at Kamo city in Niigata prefecture. At the age of three, he suffered the caries in thoracic vertebrae and had to rest for a year on a plaster bed. Although he has survived, the disease left him a heavy aftereffect, leading doctors to diagnose that he will not be able to live until 20 years of age. However, he did not grow in height, but by the age 10, he has significantly recovered and entered Kuwasawa Design School in 1965 to study graphic design. Meeting the photographer Kiyoji Otsuji who worked there as a lecturer, has decided his later life. Showing strong interest on a photography, GOCHO directed his career towards becoming a photographer.

He released his first photo collection "Hibi (Days)" in collaboration with his classmate from Kuwasawa Design School, Masao Sekiguchi. He gained attention with snapshots of city life, taken with his sharp sense. But his style of photography was established in his second photo collection "SELF AND OTHERS", published in 1977. Like it states in the title, it is made of 60 portraits of his family, friends and passerbys to illustrate a diagram of relationships. Out of these works, photographs which Kiyoji Otsuji described as "wished portraits" are especialy impressive. They are portraits of children, expressing their fragility and perilousness with very sensitive touch.

"SELF AND OTHERS" were very highly rated, winning the association of Japanese photograph rookie of the year title, but GOCHO kept moving on. He probably sensed death beside him since he became 30 years old. His last photo collection was "Minareta Machi No Nakade (Familiar Street Scenes)", published in 1981. It is made of colored snapshots of a city, but it makes viewers feel as if there is something extraordinary. Two years later in 1983, he returned to his home town of Kamo city due to illness, and passed away at the young age of 36.

2013 is the 30th years since GOCHO's death. To go with this, photo collection "Kodomo (Children)" (Hakusui-sha publishing) and the new edition of "Minareta Machi No Nakade (Familiar Street Scenes)" (Yagi-sha publishing) are published. From "Kodomo", which is made of portraits of children which can said to be GOCHO's lifework, reader can see the track of the physically handicapped photographer, capturing the light of "life" through children. The new edition of "Minareta Machi No Nakade (Familiar Street Scenes)" includes 27 works exhibited in the exhibition, but was not included in the initial edition.

I believe that, Shigeo GOCHO's photographs, works that are calm but with an air of tension, will continue to catch people's hearts, even that of a generation which do not know GOCHO's achivements.

(Kotaro Iizawa)

Works by Shigeo GOCHO
From<Familiar Street Scenes>
(c)2013 Hiroichi GOCHO,
courtesy MEM, Tokyo
(c)Hiroichi GOCHO,
courtesy MEM, Tokyo

For inquiry about works, 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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