10x10 Japanese Books at the ICP Revisited

On the occasion of 10x10 Japanese Photobooks Reading Room at Carnegie Hall for the PHG Photo Fair (May 2014), we were asked to choose one book from our original selection (here with a short essay on Postwar Japanese photobooks). Below is our choice, along with the full (but all too short) 1000-character commentary. Here is the post on the ICP Library's blog. Trading cards were issued and a catalogue is to be published in September (now available for pre-order).

NARAHARA Ikko. Spain / España: Idai Naru Gogo / Grand Tarde — Fiesta — Vaya Con Dios. Tokyo: Kyuryu-do, 1969.

Thick 4° (33 x 26 x 4.5 cm), (174) p., 2.7 kg. Pict. clothbound hardcover & slipcase, b&w gravure photographs (3 spreads in color), 33 fold-outs. Altogether with: NARAHARA Ikko, Yakusoku no Tabi / The Promised Journey, a separate volume of text & notes (pict. softcover, 44 p., 2 b&w portraits), in Japanese & English (transl. by Mitsu SAWANO). Book design by KATSUI Mitsuo & MABUCHI Akira.

Narahara's España Grand Tarde is a beautiful object and a powerful depiction of Spain in three parts: bullfighting (a violent and passionate ceremonial), San Fermin festival (youth in celebration and dance) and Andalucia (suspended life and time in a poor, dry and luminous region): sacred and human excesses under the heat. The corresponding contrasts may be found in Katsui Mitsuo’s stunning book design (Warhol-like covers and bold color endleaves) and the outstanding gravure (by Toppan) that allowed the optimal rendering of the high-contrast black monochrome pictures (ranging from arebureboke close-ups to traditional wide-angled landscapes), speckled with scarce meaningful spurs of color hidden within gatefold spreads.

Grand Tarde, like Narahara’s first opus (1967), deals with Europe and was published in Japan at a time of social unrest and actively involved artistic avant-gardes. This hints at Narahara’s peculiar position: on the border, looking at and showing one side from the other, through the filter of his changing self. Japanesque (1970), serialized as early as Sept. 1966, precisely deals with traditional themes ambivalently seen by a native with the gaze of an outsider.