Japanese Photography – Panel Discussion on Masahisa Fukase

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The Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House, Strand, London

Thu 20 May, 2021

Consistently hailed as one of the most important photobooks in the history of photography, ‘Ravens’ by renowned photographer Masahisa Fukase was first published in 1986. A brutal yet beautiful story of love and loss, the haunting series has been interpreted as an ominous allegory for postwar Japan. To celebrate the launch of MACK’s new edition of this feted title, this panel discussion brings together three speakers, chaired by Julian Stallabrass, whose diverse engagements with Japanese photography should lead to a lively conversation surrounding Fukase’s body of work.

Made between 1975 and 1986, ‘Ravens’ was apparently triggered by a mournful train journey to Fukase’s hometown. The coastal landscapes of Hokkaido serve as the backdrop for his profoundly dark and impressionistic photographs of flocks of crows. MACK’s bilingual facsimile of the first edition contains a new text by the founder of the Masahisa Fukase Archives, Tomo Kosuga. His essay locates ‘Ravens’ in Fukase’s wider work and life, and is illustrated with numerous recently discovered photographs and drawings.

This event is supported by The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation.

Speakers’ biography:

Michael Hoppen is the director of his eponymous photography gallery, which he founded in 1992. Situated in Chelsea, London, it represents emerging and established artists from the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries, including many important Japanese Estates and photographers. The gallery boasts one of the most extensive collections of post-war Japanese photography outside of Asia, and coincides its exhibitions with an active publishing programme.

Dr Jelena Stojković is an art historian, writer and lecturer based in London. Stojković teaches across Fine Art and Photography courses at the University of the Arts London. Her book, Surrealism and Photography in 1930s Japan: The Impossible Avant-Garde, is forthcoming from I.B.Tauris. She holds BAs in Arabic and Japanese from the University of Belgrade, an MA in Art History from SOAS, and a PhD in Photography from the University of Westminster.

Ivan Vartanian is a publisher, writer and founding owner of Goliga, under which he produces photobooks, exhibitions, installations, performances and events. Vartanian co-edited the anthology Japanese Photobooks of the 1960s and ‘70s (Aperture, 2009). He is also Chief Director of the amana collection and Director of The Council for Photography from Japan – an independent organisation dedicated to promoting greater awareness of Japanese photography.

Dr Julian Stallabrass a lecturer, writer, photographer and curator with a particular interest in the relations between art and political issues. His research and teaching is in areas of modern and contemporary art, including the globalisation of art and the biennial scene, the history of photography and new media art. Most recently, he has been working on documentary photography, film and video, especially in the depiction of war.