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Kotaro IIZAWA's essay

Photographers of Japan

Vol.7 "KISEI KOBAYASHI (1968-)"

by Kotaro Iizawa (Critic and historian of Photography)

After graduation from the Department of Photography, Tokyo Polytechnic University in 1988, Kisei KOBAYASHI from Suwa city, Nagano, worked for Nikkan Kogyo Newspaper as a photographer. Three and a half years later, he was exhausted with suffocating routine work, handed in his resignation and went on a wandering journey to Thailand, Indonesia, Nepal, India and other countries. His first book "ASIAN JAPANESE (1995)" with his writings and photographs made a major success of selling over a hundred thousand copies, which is unusual success for this kind of books at this time.

Since then, starting with "ASIAN JAPANESE 2 (1996)", "ASIAN JAPANESE 3 (2000)", KOBAYASHI published photo books, essays and novels successively and came to represent the lifestyle of young people of his generation. From the year of 2000 to 2002, he stayed in New York and happened to witness the "9/11" terrorist attacks closely. A state of shock at that time is compiled in his photo book "days new york (2003)".

KOBAYASHI's photos and writings until that time were supported by compassion for anonymous young people of his generation and his work is a statement of relationship with them, written sensitively with "life-size" friendly style. That is certainly the work widely accepted by the public, but on the other hand it is undeniable that there is something missing in terms of depth and power of expression. However, from the mid-2000, he reconsidered himself and, having gone back to his roots, he was then able to look for a more powerful way of expression.

The recording of ceremonies and festivals in various regions of Japan, such as "Onbashirasai" festival - taking place once every seven years in Suwa city, his hometown - turned out to be a catalyst. In 1999, he had already published a photo book "homeland" compiling photographs taken before and after "Onbashirasai" festival and, in recent years, his focus has widen to the whole of Japan. After the release of his photo book "KEMONOMICHI (2013)", he was awarded the 22nd Hayashi Tadahiko prize for the "Toku kara kita Fune (Boat coming from a distance) (2013)" photo exhibition. Furthermore, "Memoir FURUYA Seiichi tono 20 nen (Memoir - 20 years with Seiichi FURUYA)(2012)", which confront himself with the companionship of Seiichi FURUYA, a fellow photographer living in Austria, and dealing with the meaning of "being a photographer" received publicity as a challenging non-fiction.

KOBAYASHI has overcome a barrier and is going to challenge an unknown further possibility as a photographer and a writer.

(Kotaro Iizawa)

Works by Kisei KOBAYASHI
from <SOUTH> (2)
Vintage gelatin silver print
Image size: 32.0×25.7cm
Sheet size: 35.6×28.0cm
"Winter woods"
Vintage gelatin silver print
Image size: 23.8×30.4cm
Sheet size: 28.0×35.2cm
from <ASIA ROAD> (2)
C-Print (Vintage)
Image size: 18.7×28.2cm
Sheet size: 25.3×30.8cm

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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