The CCP and the Phoenix Art Museum host a Japanese exhibition devoted to historical and contemporary photography

University of Arizona Creative Photography Centeras part of its historic collaboration with the Phoenix Art Museumprovides unprecedented insight into how post-World War II Japanese photographers attempted to counter their government’s propaganda.

With 87 photographs preserved over many years, the Phoenix Art Museum hosts the exhibition “Farewell to Photography: The Hitachi Collection of Postwar Japanese Photographs, 1961 to 1989” until mid-summer.

Dr. Audrey Sands, assistant curator of photography for the Norton family, spoke about the upcoming exhibit.

“We have a responsibility as a cultural institution to reflect the incredible diversity of our audiences,” said Dr Sands.


The Hitachi collection is one of three annual photography exhibitions hosted by the Phoenix Art Museum, drawing from the CCP’s unrivaled collection of historic and contemporary photography.

The Hitachi images of post-World War II Japanese photographers attempt to change the narrative their country published after the war. In one image, a flock of birds sits on a tree, as three elderly men stand outside a doorway, a couple close their eyes as they smoke with the silhouette of a man walking down a hallway.

“These photographers were against traditional practices and what was traditionally accepted by the art world, the photographic world, and government-sanctioned practices,” Sands said. “They inspired a whole generation of artists. I think that’s a real lesson: think outside of the boundaries you inherit.

The origins of the exhibition began in 1988 when the CCP set out to acquire works by contemporary photographers in post-World War II Japan through grants from the Hitachi Corporation. After recovering these photographs, the UA Center collaborated with the Phoenix Art Museum to present the collection in the state of Arizona.

Sands said she hopes the exhibit will expand and challenge the worldview and perspectives of visitors to the Southwestern United States. As part of the team that brought together the PCC and the Phoenix Art Museum for the exhibition, it was important to present the parallels of post-war Japan. and the present day.

The post-war government in Japan soon used the medium of photography as a propaganda tool. The government’s documentary style sent a message to Japanese citizens that what they were seeing was the only truth they needed to heed.

“These photographers meant that all photography is manipulation and distortion,” Sands said.

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The Japanese were also dealing with the consequences of the American military occupation and the influx of Western culture that impacted and distorted Japanese culture to the point where these photographers wondered, “What is national identity?” »

The photograph “New couple who closed their eyes, Tokyo,showing a couple taken together in the middle of a shot, their eyes closed, smoking, is an example of distancing from the expected complacency and highlighting a new approach to photography.

“It symbolizes this moment in photography, signaling a totally new approach to vision. It alludes to a kind of beyond and a refusal to meet gazes and suggests that photography can be a screen between two worlds. There is a kind of surrealism in this image,” Sands said.

Other photographic techniques that grew out of the resistance against government propaganda were to shoot higher angles and boost contrast for grain in black and white photos. One of the biggest that is featured in the exhibition is the are-bure-boke, translated as “rough, blurry and blurry”, which can be seen in the photo “Ishikawamon, Kanazawaas a group of crows perched atop many branches with a dim light behind them.

“All of the exhibits are the result of collaborative work between so many individuals in the museums,” Sands said. “It was not just my work that entered the exhibition, but the collective work of my many colleagues at CCP and the Phoenix Art Museum.”

*El Inde Arizona is a news service of the University of Arizona School of Journalism.

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