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Kotaro IIZAWA's essay

Photographers of Japan

Vol.16 "Ogawa Takayuki (1938 - 2008) – explorer of “shape” through photography"

by Kotaro Iizawa (Critic and historian of Photography)

Ogawa Takayuki was born in Tokyo in 1938. He belongs to the same generation as icons like Moriyama Daido and Naito Masatoshi. In 1959, he graduated from Nihon University College of Art Department of Photography and entered Bungeishunju Ltd. He honed his skills taking photographs ranging from cover photos for the company magazine to photos for political articles. Ogawa kept himself active even outside of the company, submitting articles like “Selling a dream” to Camera Mainichi’s September 1963 issue and “Haute Couture” to the same year’s July edition.

With dreams of becoming an independent photographer, Ogawa left Bungeishunju Ltd. in 1965. After becoming freelance, he and his wife Wakako moved to New York in April 1967. Until their return in March of 68, Ogawa took photographs of the city and its residents as society was being shaken by the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement. He turned his camera towards anti-war groups and Harlem’s Black community, and met photographers like Magnum Photos’ Bruce Davidson and Robert Frank, who achieved legendary status with his photo collection, “The Americans” (1959).

After returning to Japan, Ogawa compiled his New York photos into a series called “New York Is” and in August 1968 presented them at a solo exhibition at Nikon Salon (Ginza, Tokyo). This series was also used for a 32-page special edition in the September issue of Camera Mainichi the same year. In 1969, he presented “New York Is” at a solo exhibition at the George Eastman Museum in Rochester, New York, cementing it as his representative work.

In retrospect, “New York Is” clearly shows Ogawa’s explorations and experiments as a photographer. These explorations encompassed a variety of points like composition, shutter speed, and subject - one of the most important of these points became the “shape” created by subjects in the image. When observing his photos, it’s always surprising how masterfully he cuts out such a beautiful “shape” from the chaos of New York City. After returning to Japan, Ogawa continued to hone and evolve his craft even while working as a commercial photographer.

There are several photographs which brilliantly display Ogawa’s keen sense of beauty regarding “shape”. These include the photos he took of “Chair of Light” (1969) and “64 Book Shelves” (1972), works by Kuramata Shiro, the interior designer who made furniture with principles of contemporary art. Both of these photos beautifully draw out the minimal “shape” from the super-abstracted furniture and transform into a photograph imbued with aspects of performance. With these, Ogawa shows us a high quality, accurate interpretation of Kuramata’s design theory through the medium of photography.

Later, Ogawa continued his development as a photographer. After being diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 1995 and undergoing surgery, he used photogram methods to create a series of works superimposing images of his body on X ray scans of his own tumor and photos of plants. This series, “Beyond the Mirror”, was shown at a solo exhibition at the Houston Center for Photography in 1998 and was part of the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum’s “Loves’ Body - the new generation of nude photos” exhibition the same year.



(Kotaro Iizawa)


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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