Ningen no Kioku (Memory of a Human Being)Issei Suda

(Creo, 1996)

Japanese photographer Issei Suda was part of a generation of young artists who were engaged in unraveling and defining Japan’s post-war identity; a culture governed by recent historical events, fuelled by a lust for modernity, yet overpowered by the cloak of American imperialism.

In the late ’60s Suda worked as the photographer for the Tenjo Sajiki theatre company, collaborating with writers, artists and academics who were motivated by this social shift, and the placement of/connection to traditional Japanese cultural values and motifs. The juxtaposition between the Japan of old and new characterizes Suda’s work, but unlike many of his contemporaries, looking back governs his vision of this hybrid culture.

Modernity and the urbanization of the Japanese landscape have an alienating quality in Suda’s work. His locations are that of anonymous industrial structures, suburban backstreets or small provincial towns. The young and elderly alike are absorbed into the heavy shadows of his frame– lending the protagonists an unsettled melancholy and awkward tension. Issei Suda discovers order in the shape, patterns and symbolism of the city – building a quiet and brooding sense of the theatrical.

Although Issei Suda has received numerous awards in Japan, until recently his work has been somewhat overlooked in the west, largely as a result of the artist’s focus on magazine assignments, rather than the production of photobooks. This is slowly changing, however, and many are now discovering this independent and distinct voice in Japanese photography.

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