By Fiona Sibley
And now, news from another small island. The changing world of modern Japan, and its many faces beyond the dazzling urban scapes of Tokyo, is presented this month in an exhibition charting more than 60 years of art photography since the end of World War II. Numerous historic portraits in black and white chronicle a nation undergoing massive post-war social and economic changes, as seen through the lenses of such respected observers as Nobuyoshi Araki, Ryuji Miyamoto and Naoya Hatakeyama. Like the Tate’s recent exhibition How We Are: Photographing Britain, the historical gaze then shifts seamlessly into the present tense, bringing together a group of contemporary photographers who render present-day concerns in dizzyingly vivid hues and contemplative moods. An image by §Miyamoto of a cardboard shelter nestled into a neon-lit subway, topped bathetically with an umbrella, leaves a lasting impression. Destruction and loss, wrought physically upon buildings, places and people, make captivating subjects, seemingly underwritten by their photographers’ philosophical subtexts. The scope and subtlety of these image- makers integrates into a coherent language of seeing, and as a country renowned for its voracious consumption of popular photography, this exhibition shows just how the medium has played an equally vital role in Japan’s artistic culture.
Eyes of An Island runs from 4 October to 1 December at Michael Hoppen Gallery, 3 Jubilee Place, London SW3