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Takuma Nakahira

August 19, 2019

A figure stood on Zushi Beach in Kanagawa Prefecture one night in 1973, silhouetted against a fire as he fed piles of prints and negatives into the flames. This solitary figure was Takuma Nakahira, then at the height of his influence as both a photographer and radical cultural critic. Nakahira was born in 1938 in Tokyo and died in Yokohama in 2015. By the time of his death he was all but forgotten in the art world and, for the last 40 years of his life, had lived at the family home. In 1977, Nakahira had fallen into a coma as a result of acute alcohol poisoning. Although he regained consciousness, he had lost most of his memory and also been struck by aphasia, a brain disorder that severely affects an individual’s ability to communicate linguistically while leaving their intelligence unharmed.


From his nihilistic and radical rethinking of the language of photography in the '60's and early '7o's and from being one of the creators of the most seminal magazines on photography [Provoke] in 1968,  Nakahira was to spend his last four decades observing a strict routine of setting out at the same time twice each day to repeatedly photograph seemingly mundane scenes he encountered around his riverside neighborhood.


At his outset, Nakahira argued that photography could only mount a challenge to the status quo once it abandoned artistic aspirations and instead presented “things as they truly are,” devoid of a creative expression that would only end up being co-opted and commoditized by the establishment. The photographer should become, essentially, an impassive “human camera.”


Nakahira’s seminal 1970 monograph For a Language to Come revealed his quest to capture a world unseen by the human eye; a dark brooding visual space on the precipice of the unknown that can only be exposed through the lens of a camera. He contorted and reshaped forms into a language beyond words, balancing fragments of a reality simultaneously known and otherworldly. The results are an affirmation of the tenants first introduced in the1968 Provoke manifesto, “Today, when words are torn from their material base – in other words, their reality – and seen suspended in space, a photographer’s eye can capture fragments of reality that cannot be expressed in language as it is”.


Takuma Nakahira, 1969, For a Language to Come

Takuma Nakahira, 1970, For a Language to Come

Takuma Nakahira, 1970, For a Language to Come

Takuma Nakahira, 1970, For a Language to Come


Takuma Nakahira, 1970, For a Language to Come

Takuma Nakahira, 1970, For a Language to Come



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