woensdag 12 april 2017

Views & Reviews Europe: Where Time Has Stopped Ikko Narahara Photography

Europe: Where Time Has Stopped by Ikko Narahara
First Edition, First Printing, 1967
Complete Set Including Scarce Original Post Card

This is a first edition, first printing of the critically acclaimed photobook, “Europe: Where Time Has Stopped“ published by Kashima Kenkyujo Shupankan, Tokyo in 1967. Photoeye has provided an exceptional description of the importance of this book, “Like other members of the short-lived but highly influential Vivo agency, Narahara broke with dominant modes of documentary photography, which emphasized story telling, and pursued a more individual and subjective vision. In his famous essay "About My Method", he stated, "Even if a subjectivity abstracted from concreteness called human society is once again plunged into the reality of concrete human society of this land, it should not diminish its meaning as a document." A travelogue of sorts, Where Time Has Stopped records the photographer's travels in Europe from 1962-1965. The off-kilter, expressionist compositions bear the unmistakable mark of Klein, yet are entirely more stark and surreal. Rather than giving the viewer a sense of the photographer as plunged into the world, Narahara's compositions possess an uncanny sense of vertigo--of the camera as almost disembodied, floating through the scenes it observes. "More than once," Narahara has said, "I had the impression that the spirit of my photographs achieved a detachment and freedom of the soul close to nothingness: what is called Zen".

“Europe: Where Time Has Stopped” earned Ikko Narahara the Japan Photo Critics Association Photographer of the Year Award, The Mainichi Art Award, and the Minister of Education’s Award. The book is cited in Ryuichi Kaneko’s reference work on Japanese Photobooks, “Japanese Photobooks of the 1960s and 1970s”.

Measuring approximately 11.75” x 8” and containing 105 black and white and 30 color photographs including 5 gatefolds, the book is bound in blue cloth boards and housed in a photographically illustrated slipcase with acetate cover. Included in the book is the original publisher’s post card as issued. The book is in Near FINE+ condition with a very small crease to the corner of one of the gatefolds . The slipcase is in Near FINE condition with some wear to the corners and a small loss to the spine head of the acetate covering. This is a notoriously fragile title and is very rarely found in collectible condition. Overall, this is a superior copy of an influential photobook that is becoming increasingly scarce.

Jesse’s Book Review – Where Time Has Stopped by Ikko Narahara
Jesse's book review /by Bellamy / June 15, 2014

I always felt some of the worst atrocities in photography occur when one is traveling. To be fair not everyone who picks up a camera is out to express any feeling or say anything beyond what is captured in a photo, but more so out to record that they in fact existed at a certain place in time. The atrocities I guess I can be attributed to the sheer volume of documentation one needs to remind themselves that “this is in fact how I look in front of the Eiffel Tower”.
Moreover everything is new; everything is a novelty so it all must be shot. This is the crux of the travel photographer. When I travel I found it amusing to discover things I know just in a different form, because I really do loathe exoticism. So I like to sit and have a beer with a book an observing as if I was at home. I look at people’s faces as I do as if I were at home, always looking for not the differences but the similarities. I do this with the feeling that I am a man, not a tourist.
Why is it then that when photographers go abroad to shoot the results are so bad? It is because they no longer behave like normal people. Even professionals admit at failing to overcome this, think Lee Friedlander said it quite well when he spoke of his admiration from Cartier-Bresson in his ability in being able to travel and still shoot photography as if he were at home. I would put Ikko Narahara in this same conversation.

Where Time Has Stopped was Narahara’s first publication releasing in 1967. It is nothing more than photos taken on his trip to Europe. Yet where it differs is in his theme and purpose. He tells of being up one autumn morning in Paris park observing couples of all ages coming and going.
To sum it up he saw it as the whole cycle of life and came to the conclusion that “man fulfills his life by dying, and death is an important element of life…” it goes on and I would paraphrase but I think if you can find this book you will take delight in his writings and thoughts and seeing them expressed through a camera. However, this what his travel inspired in him and this is what the shots reflect. I will mention that he sees these moments as something outside of time and this is where we arrive at the title.

I will take some time to provide this camera geek information as I will relate it thereafter. This was all shot on an Asahi Pentax SP SV with every lens from a 18mm-300mm, though majority were shot with a Super Takumar 28mm f3.5. The photos are both in black & white and color.
I was struck at how much gear he required for this, yet after a second viewing blown away at how well he used the strengths and weakness of the lenses to give his expression. In addition to his use of double exposure and other effects, none of it feels forced and it is edited well together. The photos are actually taken throughout Europe yet he manages to make it feel like one big country as he apologies  for in his essay, this of course was not the point to give identifiably location for means of documentation but only to express his idea.

Previously I reviewed Narahara’s Tokyo the 50’s, a book consisting of mostly forgotten work from his early photo days as a hobbyist. I was lucky enough to see another book by him covering his journey across the American west. Haven’t been able to find the book since, but it was amazing and makes me wonder how much Friedlander has seen of it or vice versa (guess I can look into that when I find the book). But from Tokyo the 50’s to Where Time has Stopped you see such a massive of expansion on his ideas and motifs.
Where the earlier work saw witty plays on lines and form throughout Tokyo that is above average or superior but very doable to the average street photographer today this work required much more and makes more demands on the viewer. The shots are much more static in this work and experimental at times to the point that boarder on abstraction.
Much of the first photos are under/overexposed shots of classic cathedral architecture that often are shot from the inside looking out. This goes into chapter 2 that features window reflection shots that symbolically would be the reverse the outside looking in. This is what a more critical street photographer would call a cliché, but they don’t at all feel like a collection of window shots. They are done so well that they feel like frozen moments in time or more literally double exposures lol.
This leads us to chapter 3 that features photos over the course of an afternoon in which there are a series of interesting color shots that I cannot say I have ever seen done. He must have taken off his glasses, had a macro lenses and shot as if looking through the glasses focus through his own camera’s glass. The photo below can better explain it, but the juxtaposition he creates between the two isolated eye glasses really struck me as original.

Chapter 4 is quite short focusing on trees that are starkly contrasted to the point where there really are no grey tones and look like abstract lines on paper. Chapter 5 is called Fossils and focuses on statues and ancient ruins. From this I really liked two photos focusing on the feet of statues. The one on the right uses shallow focus, another cliché today, yet makes it work.
On the top left of the frame we see suspended the legs of a statue while the rest of the shot is out of focus. We can however make out a woman walking past and diagonal staircases that gives the photo tension. Whilst not spectacular, I found it one of the more peculiar images that fully exemplifies my idea of contradicting what one is suppose to see while traveling and taking photos.
The last three chapters are bit more abstract as they are titled Secrets, Dreams, and Where Time has Stopped.

Where time has stopped will make up the contemporary interest to the book as it is the only consistent chapter featuring more conventional portraits and street photography. Some of my favorites include two old women who are talking to each other in friendly manner; one woman is in white with a bonnet the other in black with a bonnet. She is holding a leash to a dog that is fighting with each other one dog black the other white in the same order from left to right as the women.
There is a great portrait of two men staring right back at the camera behind some iron bars of a fence, each of their left eyes are blocked by an iron bar. There is a elegant cafe shot that is reminiscent of Robert Doisneau that is done just as well. There are two pages of plays on lines using a fence: one that reveals to us a baby dressed in bright white and on the other side a woman coming up some stairs that the handrail leads our eye too. This section for me just says how well he can navigate genres of photography.

This is another one of those difficult to find books. The original from 1967 carried at the time 3,800 price tag which would have been quite high now. It came with a hard cover boxing and has a solid 135 pages of large photos, some of which open out into double sections. It is quite a delight and should serve as a testament to his range. Just a shame it hasn’t been republished, think I was only able to Google a handful of images from this book. SO Books here in Tokyo has a copy for 42,000 yen.

Jesse Freeman is a friend, photographer and movie buff. He has a great knowledge of photography books and classic cinema. He can also be relied upon for decent music recommendations.
You can more of his work and passions at the following places:

Ikko Narahara Exhibition in Cologne

I was quite busy the whole summer working Galerie Priska Pasquer on the program of Japanese photography – including a trip to Tokyo. One result of my work can currently be seen at our gallery:

Ikko Narahara – Photographs from the 1950s to the 1970s

It’s the first solo exhibiton of Ikko Narahara´s work in Germany and the first time that his vintage prints from the 60s and 70s are on show in a gallery.

Ikko Narahara: Island without Green #12, Gunkanjima, Nagasaki, from the series: 'Human Land', 1954-1957  ©Ikko Narahara

Ikko Narahara, born in 1931 in the Fukuoka Prefecture was self taught photographer. The response to his first (one week) solo exhibition in Tokyo’s only photo gallery was so positive that he decided to become a photographer. Soon after he took part in the groundbreaking photography exhibition ‘The Eyes of Ten’ in Tokyo in 1957. Two years later he became one of the co-founders of the legendary photo agency VIVO (in collaboration with Shomei Tomatsu, Eikoh Hosoe, Kikuji Kawada, and others), which was to be the epicenter for a new generation of Japanese photographers.

Ikko Narahara: Garden of Silence #03, Hakodate, Hokkaido, from the series: 'Domains', 1958  ©Ikko Naraharaa

In his early work Narahara focused on people who were living in isolation from the everyday world, such as monks in a Trappist monastery or the inmates of a women’s prison. His work aimed at creating a ‘personal document’, he aspired to ‘a process of laying bare the inner form by thoroughly depicting the exterior’ (Ikko Narahara).

Within the walls #03, Wakayama, from the series: 'Domains', 1957 ©Ikko Narahara

Walking a tightrope between description and abstraction, objectivity and a personal narrative, Narahara transcended the journalistic documentary photography then prevalent in Japan. Furthermore, Narahara displayed a particular facility for abstraction and the staging of everyday scenes in strict graphic compositions as in, for example, the series ‘Tokyo, the ‘50s’, which was only to be published in 1996.

Ikko Narahara: Hibiya, from the series: 'Tokyo the '50s', 1959  ©Ikko Narahara

The beginning of the 1960s and the 1970s were dominated by long stays abroad. From 1962 to 1965 Ikko Narahara took photographs in France, Spain and Italy. The results are picture essays in which Narahara evokes the ‘old continent’ within a timeless narrative, a fiction in which time has come to a standstill. Accordingly, one of his contemporary books was appropriately titled ‘Where Time Has Stopped’.

Ikko Narahara: Paris 1963, from the series: 'Where Time has Stopped', 1963  ©Ikko Narahara

Following Ikko Narahara’s return to Japan, his previous confrontation with Europe then led to an increased interest in the particulars of his own culture. Photographic series, such as ‘Zen’ (published in the book ‘Japanesque’) were the consequence, in which the aspect of timelessness was also addressed.

Ikko Narahara: Zen #08, from the series: 'Japanesque', 1969  ©Ikko Narahara

At the beginning of the 1970s Ikko Narahara went to the USA. This was the location of his best-known series ‘Where Time Has Vanished’. During extensive trips across the country he photographed the mythic sites of the American Dream, vast landscapes, Indian reservations, automobiles, motels and casinos. In contrast to his fellow photographers Gary Winogrand and Robert Adams, Narahara did not take a critical approach to the American scene. Ikko Narahara’s photography is primarily poetic with surreal elements, such as the shot “Two garbage cans, Indian Village, New Mexico” in which Narahara found the fantastic and absurd in small-town America.

Ikko Narahara: 'Engraved arrow, Arizona' from the series: 'Where Time Has Vanished', 1972  ©Ikko Narahara

Time coming to a standstill is no longer the subject here, but rather the disappearance of time within a mythic space: ‘As I drove across the land in Arizona and Utah and New Mexico, I began to have hallucinations that this was not the earth at all and that I had been thrown onto some other planet’ (Ikko Narahara).

Ikko Narahara: "Shadow of car driving through desert, Arizona", from the series "Where Time Has Vanished" 1971  ©Ikko Narahara

In 1974, his final year in New York, Ikko Narahara took part in the first exhibition of ‘New Japanese Photography’ at the Museum of Modern Art. Since then his work has been shown in countless exhibitions, amongst others: ‘Japan: A Self-Portrait’, ICP, New York 1979; ‘Ikko Narahara. Photographies 1954-2000’, Maison Européene de la Photographie, Paris 2002 and ‘The History of Japanese Photography’, Houston 2004.
[Quotes: Galerie Priska Pasquer]

Ikko Narahara: Iro, from the series: 'Journey To 'A Land So Near And Yet So Far'', 1969  ©Ikko Narahara

Ikko Narahara, selected publications:

Where Time Has Stopped. Tokyo 1967
Espana Grand Tarde. Japan 1969
Japanesque. Tokyo 1970
Celebration of Life. Tokyo 1972
Where Time Has Vanished. Tokyo 1975
Domains (Ôkoku). Tokyo 1978
Venice – Nightscapes. Tokyo 1985
Human Land. Tokyo 1987
Tokyo, the ‘50s. Tokyo 1996
Stateless Land – 1954. Tokyo 2004

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