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Black and White
05.09.2008 - 08.02.2009


Black and White – Classics of Japanese Photography

This autumn, Ateneum's series of photography exhibitions introduces the work of Japanese photographers after the second world war. Depictions of landscapes, urban scenes and everyday life convey the traditional Japanese way of life, as well as changes in Japanese culture. The exhibition is curated by Ateneum's Museum Director Maija Tanninen-Mattila and acting Chief Curator Pirkko Siitari from Kiasma.

The exhibition Black and White. Classics of Japanese Photography presents 64 works from eight photographers. Photography gained in popularity in Japan after the second world war. This is linked to the distinctive visual culture and strong graphic tradition of the country, also manifest in woodcuts and brush paintings. The artists featured in the exhibition are key names in the history of Japanese photography, and their work has had a great impact on younger generations of photographers. Most of them are now shown in Finland for the first time.

These photographers have lived through the war, and many of the works deal with its physical and intellectual consequences as well as the subsequent, difficult period of rebuilding, depicting landscapes, still lifes and the human body. Several works also reflect a strong autobiographical element, such as Shomei Tomatsu's (b. 1930) photographs of objects destroyed in the bombings. Tadahiko Hayashi (1918–1990) photographed post-war Tokyo, while Kikuji Kawada (b. 1933) depicts the impact of war through a more symbolic approach.

Shoji Ueda (1913–2000) for his part refused to photograph the war, turning his gaze towards the personal. He is known for his surreal, carefully staged family portraits. Privacy and intimacy can also be found in the photographs of Katsuji Fukuda (1899–1991), many of them depicting the relationship between man and woman.

Ihei Kimura (1901–1974) had a central role right after the war as a founder of photographic realism in Japan. His best known series Akita documents the life of a single province over a period of almost 40 years. Another realist photographer, Hiroshi Hamaya (1915–1999) depicted the everyday life of farmers in Japan's remote areas. The impact of American culture on the life of Tokyoites has been photographed by Yutaka Takanashi (b. 1935).

Ateneum's exhibition has been produced in cooperation with the Yamaguchi Prefectural Art Museum, and all photographs in the exhibition come from the latter's collection.