Elephant ゾウサン by Kurama

Kurama is a discrete photographer about who we know very little. Most of the information available can be found at the end of his book : Little information is public about Kurama. During the last 20 years he has exhibited in different countries (USA, Argentina, Taiwan, France and Japan). His work is not limited to silver gelatin photography ; he has experimented with serigraphy and lithography as alternative printing methods. And that’s all !

So we can try to know him a little more through the pages of his book. What he shows us here is his eroticized way of looking at the world, at every moment, even outside any notion of intimacy. This book is his diary; he reveals his two main passions : elephants and women. These are the two recurring themes that punctuate the book; they come back again and again, like a little jingle haunting, which would have nestled in a corner of our head. And then, slowly, we understand that every image eroticises the world it represents. Sequencing is clever, it keeps us in suspense! We cross shadows of some great names of Japanese photography : Moriyama, Araki, Nakahira… and many more who have definitely influenced Kurama. From them, he certainly learned the freedom to photograph (in the meaning of writing with light to tell), this freedom in favor of a sensitive representation, the ability for a stronger narration rather than just a collection or a compilation of photographs. It also refers to this sentence from Jean-Luc Godard: It is not a just image, it is just an image (ce n’est pas une image juste, c’est juste une image, in French)! Blur or precise, dark or black, all photographs meld into an “out of time” narration. The book has no beginning, neither an end, even if, ultimately, it is an elephant who opens and closes the book.

Black and white are great, we can almost feel the grain of the baryta paper on which Kurama realizes his prints. It also reveals the wait, so proper to film photography. Lab time is a long time compared to the digital speed. The image, first developed then enlarged is only delivered to us after a long process in which excitation and relaxation blend. Instants elongate and when an image is out of focus, our mind wanders and escapes into a reverie that only the blur of inaccuracy allows. We thus interfere in the history of Kurama, we fulfill it to make it ours.

Oh, and through the pages, we will also meet an orangutan, a sort of ironic spectator of this story with a funny similarity between its exercising area made of ropes and those used in bondage practice, seen in some photographs. Finally, we kind of, come out of a dream, the interwoven pictures still resonate within us, but we struggled to reconstruct the story; we have to deal with that; we still remember, and memories are, well… a bit peculiar to photography.

Softcover book, 14,8 × 21 cm, 122 pages, black & white photos. Produced by in)(between in an edition of 100 copies.

More info : in)(between

And Josef Chladek’s virtual bookshelves


Exposure by Kazuma Obara

30 years ago, on April 26th 1986, an explosion occured in a reactor of the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl. It has been, so far, the worst accident that has ever happened, in terms of costs and casualties. The unimaginable had become real. Lot of commemorations happened this week, and this post is a kind of small contribution to help us never forget the risks of nuclear hazard !

So here comes the time of a new crossover with my friend Gabriela, with a beautiful book about the aftermath of Chernobyl, of which only ten copies are in circulation.


The series « exposure » by Kazuma Obara has been awarded by the World Press Photo in the category People. This is a first. At all times, the WPP has always been a traditional institution and therefore, rather awarded subjects, certainly brilliant, but nonetheless of traditional form. For once, the award has welcomed an aesthetic images portfolio, certainly, but above all a story with a strong storytelling without any documentary documents.

Kazuma is passionate about history. His previous book « Silent Histories » restored a voice to the civilian victims of US bombing on Japanese territory at the end of the Second World War. This time, Kazuma is interested in the indirect victims of the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl. To do this, he created a story. It tells the life of a young woman who was born five months after the disaster, in Kiev. Fetus exposed to radiation, she suffers from a young age thyroid disorders, but she will only be operated at the age of 24… Interweaving « autobiographical » texts and photographs, Kazuma takes us in the footsteps of this disaster . Much has already been shown, whether ruined buildings or remaining population, in the manner of Guillaume Herbaut – The Zone – which now has regained a tourist attractivity, and the effects on health with deformed children born after the explosion, in the manner of Paul Fusco and Magdalena Caris – Chernobyl Legacy. They both are incomparable factual documents that show reality as it is. However, it lacked a representation that can show us the reality as experienced, something that is like an… interpretation.

To do this, Kazuma Obara has recovered old color films from the Soviet time, which he had found in Pripyat. Expired, irradiated, the results could only be surprising, especially since the products to develop no longer existed. Whatever, the result would be part of the process. After all, the title plays with the ambiguity of the term « exposure », both the photographic process of exposing the film with light, and the exposition to the invisible radiations after the explosion of the nuclear reactor. Before being used by the photographer, these films have already printed on them, the past history … Kazuma will improvise a black and white development with these films. The result is very imprecise, and, from a sensitometric point of view, quite bad, but who cares since these images tells the History. Black and white are sometimes faded, sometimes smoky, but still vague and it is in this inaccuracy that lies the beauty of the images.

The compiled phootgraphs tell us thiry years of the life of Maria. Inhabited places, abandoned places, in between locations and evanescent faces, the images are symbolic (including a view of the famous ferris wheel in Pripyat, a group of children…). I have to confess that aesthetics of certain images, for me, refer to another photography of a tragic youth, the one of Francesca Woodman, died at the age of 23. Destinies, both similar and opposite of these two young women. A form of photographic afterglow as a metaphor of the ability to register memory of the film.

The book is superb in his form and so touching by its content, it is an undeniable success which we would like it to be the subject of a public reissue, as was the case with Silent Histories, first published in 45 copies, then published by Editorial RM. Beyond the joy of being one of the lucky ten owners, this book deserves to be seen by many more.


Hardcover, 13 x 19,5 cm. 62 pages with 27 black and white photos. 10 copies signed and numbered. Sold out.

More info : http://www.kazumaobara.com/aboutme/index.html

exposure from Kazuma Obara on Vimeo.

All images copyright Kazuma Obara, can be removed on request.


Here is Gabriela’s review : https://gabrielacendoya.wordpress.com/

Exposure. Kazuma Obara.Autoeditado.                                                                                               

Hoy una nueva colaboración con Christer Ek ! Es un placer y un honor poder compartir esta pagina con el por segunda vez, esta vez con un nuevo libro de Kazuma Obara. Encontraréis su texto a continuación del mío.


Tapa dura, en tela.19,5 x 13 cm. Encuadernacion a mano.Blanco y negro.

27 fotografías. Texto en inglés, editado por Michael Thomason.

Impreso en Japón.

1° edición, numerada y firmada. Tirada 4/10.

Auto editado Kazuma Obara. Marzo 2016.


Hace poco presenté aquí el libro Silent Histories de Kazuma Obara. El fotógrafo japonés (1985 ), afincado entre Londres y Japón, ha ganado este año el premio del World Press Photo, en la modalidad de People ( gente ), con Exposure. Un premio nuevo del World Press Photo, con una credibilidad añadida en este caso, después de varias polémicas sobre la idoneidad de premios anteriores. Kazuma  hizo un trabajo sobre las consecuencias del tsunami en Japón, que originó la catástrofe nuclear de Fukushima, (siendo el primer fotoperiodista que entró en la central después de lo ocurrido). Se dio entonces a conocer, con un libro publicado en 2012, Reset beyond Fukushima, antes de publicar Silent Histories, con un gran éxito. Exposure sigue la linea de ese trabajo acercandose  a las propias víctimas y dandoles voz y protagonismo.


Kazuma encontró 20 carretes de color a pocos kilómetros de Chernobyl, de la época del accidente o poco después ( obsoletos en 1992 ), para fotografiar la zona. Exposure, el titulo, trata tanto de la exposición a la radiación que ha sufrido la población de la zona como del tiempo de exposición de las fotografías. Trabajadas en blanco y negro, llevan, indeleble,  la marca del escape radioactivo. Son imágenes roídas,  en proceso de desaparición, casi fantasmagóricas, de lugares y personas bien precisos. Habitaciones, salas de hospital, escuelas, la noria de Pripyat, espacios de juego, cercanías de la central… Espacios que tienen que ver con la vida de Mariya, nacida en Kiev a los 5 meses de la catástrofe, y cuya historia seguimos aquí, a través de su propio testimonio, en los textos que acompañan las fotografías. Mariya pasó años en habitaciones de hospital, con graves problemas de tiroides y de corazón, sufriendo para siempre en su cuerpo las terribles consecuencias de la radiación.


El libro cuenta una historia de una difícil superación, la recuperación de una infancia robada por terapias y sufrimientos, sentimientos de culpa e incomprensión y abandono. Kazuma retransmite la visión positiva de una posible superación humana . A pesar del horror que documentan sus fotografías, siluetas fantasmas y habitaciones destruidas. La fotografía, frágil imagen que ha sobrevivido a la tragedia, nos recuerda que la vida es mas fuerte que la muerte.

Exposure es un libro que deja huellas, como la historia que cuenta, fuerte y conmovedora. Sobrio y perfecto en su presentación, irradiando en su interior.


Solo puedo desear, sinceramente, como dice Christer en su reseña, que el libro tenga otra edición con tirada mas importante , a pesar de sentir satisfacción de tener una de las diez copias de esta primera edición. Kazuma Obara es un fotógrafo que cuida mucho sus publicaciones, haciendo muchas maquetas, y esta vale mucho la pena.

All images copyright Kazuma Obara, can be removed on request .




Made me better than before, Pilsen, Chicago, by Akito Tsuda

For four years, Akito walked the streets of Pilsen, a Latino neighborhood of Chicago: an immigrant among immigrants, which is that story that Akito tells us in his book. Slow work, in which we discover the life of a neighborhood. A piece of work that requires a lot of patience and availability, and, of course, a high level of empathy.


It has, however, taken twenty years to discover this work. Akito first came in Illinois in 1989 to work as a housekeeper, then started studying photography in Chicago. It was during his second year that he discovered the neighborhood of Pilsen, in 1990. Fascinated by the life of this neighborhood, people in the street and the atmosphere, he returns frequently and bind with locals. He quickly gaining their trust, despite the language barrier, since he did not speak Spanish and his English was limited. It is the photographs that linked. The people were open mind to him, both on the street and in their homes. Once finished his series, he only showed some pictures to some fellow students, a few magazines… and that’s it. Only recently, with the emergence of social networks, his work has surfaced. The possibility, via Facebook, to find those people who appear on the old photographs, to know what happened to them 20 years later, will enlighten this work and the idea of making a book will see the light.


It is a book of humility, self-published in a small print run (only 150 copies). The layout is simple but generous, generally one photo per page, and sometimes series that share a double page. Print quality is a bit poor, but ultimately, we could say that it gives justice to these people. There would be a paradox to see these images printed on a luxurious paper, almost disrespectful, and thus it remains an affordable book. The book is quite dense, and when browsing through the pages, one enters the district of Pilsen, reflecting its charm, which lies mainly in the friendliness of its inhabitants; the aesthetics of the area remains that of a poor suburban neighborhood as found in all American cities. The photographs are invading us, a gaze captures us, it is like walking in the street alongside Akito, one would even try to answer to this child who challenges us. Akito has a soft look, full of empathy on these people. Despite the social context, we never fall in a dark aesthetic ease of misery, whatever the circumstances, people are happy to live, proud of what they are and what they have.044596_e97196905b4648098776a64c1fc12bba


We also find in the book some stray dogs, recurring subject in Akito Tsuda’s work since he published two other books on stray dogs and cats. Impossible not to see the metaphor of the foreigner into an unknown territory struggling for a daily survival. We even find them on the cover, as the symbol of this shelter that Akito found in this neighborhood, a blended family. And of course, there are also references for the young photography student he was. Impossible not to think of New York by William Klein, Bruce Davidson’s Harlem, or more generally to America seen by Jim Goldberg, basically all these photographers, before Akito Tsuda, who were interested in… others.


Softcover book, 21 x 21 cm, 124 pages, black and white photos, laser printing. 150 copies signed and numbered.

More info : http://akitotsuda.wix.com/akitotsuda#!made-me-better-than-before/cmqco

And an interview here : http://chicagovoz.org/2015/12/30/a-book-published-in-japan-captures-mexican-pilsen-in-the-90s/

Photos copyright Akito Tsuda

Poet Island, by Atsushi Fujiwara

Poetry can drive us far beyond our own perceptions. It can reveal the unknown or, to better say, the unperceived. At a very intimate level, it just tells the truth… or not, because poetry can’t lie. It has to deal with personal feelings which can only be considered as real, even if you happen to fall in a total disarray; your feelings will remain real.

As far as I can remember, I had problem with literature courses, I could simply not stand a teacher who gave an official interpretation of a text, killing any possibilities of a personal divagation. But time has passed and things have changed.

Well, once again, I started to digress, and it does not look like a photobook review, but in fact, what I wrote here above is the perfect explanation of my fascination for Atsushi Fujiwara new book : Poet Island.

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With a complete humility, Atsushi takes us to visit Nagashima Island where is located the Nagashima Aiseien Sanatorium. I have first to say that it meant nothing to me before I read the book, but was revealed a strong interest for the story because Atsushi knows how to introduce a story. The Island hosted a leprosarium where the famous Japanese pre-war poet Akashi Kaijin was held in confinement. Well, to be honest I never heard of him before I discover this book, and I don’t know him better know, because it remains impossible to find any translation of his work. And this is why I like so much that book.

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As a boy, Atsushi visited his uncle who worked on the Island, and he kept an abstruse image of the place mixing « its natural untouched beauty and the anguish he felt at the sad fate of the patients ». He went back thirty five years later as a photographer and came across a poem :

Like luminescent fish dwelling in the darkness of the deep sea,
There is no light until I alight from within – Akashi Kaijin

And from that, Atsushi walks on the traces of the poet. He tracks all those « in between » moments that are the thickness of life. The place is not anymore in function nowadays and we visit the island accompanied by the ghost of the poet. We walk through the places he has been, we focus on details or stop and stare at the sea. Everything and every gesture has already been done before and that’s exactly what we feel, even if the landscape has changed to a more contemporary shape. From a cell door to an open landscape, we imagine what the poet could have in mind when he wrote the lines above. Some old words or sentences on a wall and a few old personal photographs of the poet and his family. No captions, we have to assume this is not documentary but just a personal recording of the place. Another photographer would have focused on different things and places and this is what makes this book so beautiful. It is like sitting beside Atsushi while he read us some poems he likes ; this is how he introduces us to Akashi Kaijin’s world.

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I haven’t said so much about the photographs. As usual with Atsushi Fujiwara, we discover some beautiful black and white pictures with sophisticated shades of grey and perfectly framed and composed. There are no coïncidences in these photos ; by the light or the shades of grey, we can feel the thickness of the time which has imprint itself on the buildings, in the ground or even on the objects, since about eighty years.

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This book reminds me two excellent works with a strong connection with the Poet Island. The first one is the wonderful film by Iranian poetess and film maker Forough Farrokhzad : « La maison est noire » (the house is black) realized in 1963 about the daily life in a leprosarium in Iran, filmed in black and white and with a strong empathy for the residents, to change ugliness into compassion.

The second one is the work of a French photographer Jacqueline Salmon in 2004. The book is called « Rimbaud parti », published by Marval in 2006 with a text by Jean-Christophe Bailly. This was a commission work for the 150th commemoration of Arthur Rimbaud’s birth, and what we discover here are the landscapes of the place where Rimbaud came from (around the familial farm) and that supposedly shaped his work as a poet.

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Poet Island, hardcover book, published in 2015 by Sokyusha. 24 x 28 cm, 72 pages, 61 black and white photos.

More info about Atsushi Fujiwara : http://atsushifujiwara.com/

And the gallery in)(between in Paris : http://www.inbetweengallery.com/

Some thoughts in Spanish with Gabriela’s blog : https://gabrielacendoya.wordpress.com/2015/04/09/9-de-abril-2015/

Nozomi Iijima, living at the farm !

It all began a few years ago when I discovered what I call now « The little red book » but which in fact is « Scoffing pig ». What a fantastic name for a book. This is a small (10 x 14 cm) hardcover handmade leporello double sided printed. The photographs are really Japanese style which means for me dark, grainy and highly contrasted.

But in fact, it all began long before, when Nozomi grown up beside her parents who had a farm with pigs and cows. During her childhood, Nozomi discovered the ambiguity of the situation, developing a tenderness for the cattle which has to be slaughtered for economical purposes. She felt sad for the animals but never resigned to become vegetarian (she claims that her favorite food is Korean Barbecue and intestines).


So far Nozomi had made three series of handmade photobooks, each in different editions.


Scoffing pig « leporello edition » was ultra limited and became instantly widely acclaimed, so a newsprint edition of 1000 was produced later.

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This first book focus on pigs in piggery. When you open the book, you discover landscapes from and around the farm, small details, larger views, but all in a « daily life in the countryside » ambiance.

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You walk on a path where you come across who can possibly be Nozomi’s father with a cow, you can play with a calf in the yard, or watch a sunflowers field covered by the first autumn snow. Despite the photographic process and some specific landscape, that could be in a farm we know, close to the place we live. And then you turn the book to discover the other side of the book and, suddenly, there are complete different photographs.

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A series of 46 close up portraits of pigs, all facing us and sometimes behind bars, like detainees in cells. These become grotesque photos (some similarities with Bruce Gilden street photography transposed in a piggery), but they are sad at the same time, the future of the pigs is already written. It seems that one side shows some freedom at the farm while the other could be the dark side of the custody. The permanent ambiguity…


The second book that I called « The triangle book » was even more limited (10 copies) and its subject was the milk and meat production from cows. Its title is « Milk and meat from happy farm ». Still handmade, it has a nice funny shape of a triangle and when you open it, the pages open in a square. Apart from the cover and the colophon page, the book still associates the black and white photos with a red background which becomes an aesthetic identity in Nozomi’s work (it will reach perfection in the here below « red edition »). In this book, we discover the daily life of a farmer, the fields, the buildings. It is like visiting the farm with Nozomi’s father explaining the production, introducing some cows. Our eyes are caught by details on walls, plants or flowers in the yard, the number of a cow. We could even smell the animal musk. Triangle hardcover, 20 x 20 cm, 48 pages, signed and numbered .

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The Hidden Blood (third book) was published early this year in conjunction with her exhibition at Reminders Photography Stronghold.

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Published in three versions, all printed on demand during the time of the show, there was a trade edition, a red edition and a collector edition. Far before the others, my favorite is the « Red Edition ». The trade edition is a bit common and the collector’s one a bit pricey. The « Red Edition » is probably the accomplishment of Nozomi’s sophisticated book design and handcrafted fabrication. It is made of twelve leaflets assembled by a band, including an introduction with a small color photograph pasted and the last one which is the colophon. Those two are on red paper. The ten others are made of photographs printed full frame on different white and red paper. Opening with black and white photos, you finally open it on a red photograph. Inside the leaflet, there is a loose print in black and white of the photograph printed in red, creating a mise en abyme of the depicted landscape. The result is very intriguing because you finally don’t read the image the same way, depending on the print effect. The hidden blood refers to the slaughterhouse and the red prints uses the same cinematographic effects from some horror movies, when the sight of a victim is tainted by the red of the blood, we discover landscapes as a metaphor of those seen by the slaughtered cattle. The sophistication of the book remains hard to describe, like the fact that the leaflets are paired by the previous back and the next front, but this book in red edition is absolutely one of very best of the year ! Wonderful print quality for this softcover book, 20 x 28 cm, 68 pages, signed and numbered for the red edition.

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I had a discussion with Nozomi a couple of years ago about the possibility of her to come in France for a kind of résidence in farms I know. That would be fantastic and I hope she keeps that in mind !

More about Nozomi Iijima : http://iijimanozomi.com/

A video of « The Hidden Blood » : https://vimeo.com/116326472

Reminders Project and Reminders Photography Stronghold : http://reminders-project.org/rps/

All images copyright Nozomi Iijima and RPS.