Shomei Tomatsu

Shomei Tomatsu: Skin of the Nation
by Leo Rubinfien
Publisher's Description Review
A beer bottle that withstood the atom bomb blast in Nagasaki is the subject of Shomei Tomatsu's most famous photograph. Mysterious and repulsive, the object looks like a deformed fetus. In a career spanning more than 50 years, Tomatsu has created strikingly ambiguous images that hint at tensions simmering below the surface of Japanese life. Shomei Tomatsu: Skin of the Nation is the first English-language survey of this brilliantly idiosyncratic photographer's work. Grouped by theme, more than 100 images contain subtle layers of meaning. On a Tokyo street in 1962, an abandoned high-heeled shoe, a cigarette butt, and a crumpled piece of tinfoil (likely from a stick of American chewing gum) are bitter souvenirs of a night on the town. A few years later, Tomatsu captured the sense of isolation that envelops both a lone protestor and a shadowy group of policemen. In Okinawa, Tomatsu photographed both the U.S. military presence and the traditional way of life that persisted into the 1970s--glimpsed in the breeze-stirred motion of a curtain against a window or the sight of prowling dogs in the hazy morning sun. Leo S. Rubinfien's revelatory essay about the photographer and his work has a lyrical grace that approaches poetry. Sandra S. Phillips deftly summarizes the shift from American-influenced photojournalism of the immediate postwar era to the subjective approaches of a younger generation. John W. Dower adds further historical context, including the disquieting fact that—due to U.S. censorship—photographs of the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not published in Japan until 1952. Excerpts from Tomatsu's own vivid writings add another layer of insight. The handsomely designed book accompanies a retrospective exhibition of Tomatsu’s work at the Japan Society Gallery in New York (through Jan. 2, 2005), which will travel to Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Winterthur, Switzerland. --Cathy Curtis
ISBN: 0300106041
Publisher: Yale University Press
Hardcover : 224 pages
Language: English
Dimensions: 9.1 x 10.4 x 0.9 inches
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