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What's this? Book review of Ken Domon's photo book.

The Japan Ken Domon Wanted to Convey
Photos: DOMON Ken 土門拳

Ken Domon
Larger image (at Kinokuniya)

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Reviewed on: Dec. 12, 2000
Last modified:

Retrospective collection of this legendary photographer's visual record of Japan, the Japanese, and things Japanese.


Published: Sept. 15, 2000
Publisher: Mainichi Newspapers Co.
ISBN: 462060559X
Price in Japan: ¥2,940
Qualities: Soft cover, B/W and a few color photos
Size: A4, 255 pp.
Language: Japanese
Sample photos: Image 1 | 2 | 3
Related reviews: None
Status: Out of print
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Impressions: It's been ten years since legendary photographer Ken Domon died after being comatose for 11 years. But his memory and work still live on thanks to his former disciples who are now prominent photographers or people in a position to keep his memory alive. (Having a photography museum dedicated to him also helps.) Domon's work continue to be published in one form or another, and this latest book is one that should be noted. It was published to pass on the "Cultural Assets of Ken Domon" onto the 21st century. It is also a remembrance and testament to Domon with essays written by prominent people such as fashion designer Hanae Mori, kabuki actor Koshiro Matsumoto, painter Tadanori Yokoo, and photographer Shisei Kuwabara. They even had most of the past winners of the Ken Domon photography award write an essay on "Ken Domon and I."

The book shows 182 "nitty-gritty" photographs selected from all his major works on Japan made between 1935 and 1978. The photos are divided into four sections: Japanese Faces, Record of Modern Japan, Japanese Children, and Japanese Culture.

"Japanese Faces" show 36 portraits of famous novelists, painters, poets, artists, kabuki actors, and other noted figures. They include painter Shoen Uemura, Nobel Prize-winning novelist Yasunari Kawabata, sculpturer Isamu Noguchi, writer Shintaro Ishihara in his youthful days, and sculpturer Taro Okamoto.

"Record of Modern Japan" presents 73 pictures of people in various places in Japan doing various things. See fish mongers in Okinawa, a farming family eating dinner at home, a street in Ginza festooned with Japanese flags to celebrate the fall of Nanking, an American MP directing traffic in Ginza, protest movements, and photos of Hiroshima atom bomb survivors.

"Japanese Children" are 27 candid shots of children in Tokyo's Koto Ward and in Chikuho, a now-defunct coal-mining town in Fukuoka. The kids are playing on the street, catching fish in the river, or studying at school. It was a healthy time when there were no video games.

"Japanese Culture" is a collectrion of 46 realistic pictures (including color photos) of Japanese temples (mainly in Nara and Kyoto), Buddhist statues, and Bunraku puppets and puppeteers.

The gruff-looking Domon was a leading advocate of realism in photography. His photographs therefore look very real, and sometimes too graphic (such as a skin graft operation on a Hiroshima bomb victim). Japan was his main theme and his photographs are a valuable record of Japan's culture and history. He has left behind a major legacy in Japan's photography world.


QUICK REVIEW PROFILE Quick Review Profile Help
What's Inside About the Artist Photo Evaluation
Genre: Documentary Domestic acclaim: 10 Artistic value: 9.5
Photo:Text ratio: 85:15 Dedication & effort: 10 Cultural value: 8.5
Understanding ease: 9 Vision & concept: 9.5 Historical value: 9.5
Overall impression: 9.5 Int'l acclaim: 8.5 Educational value: 9.5
*Rating Scale 1-10: 10-Outstanding, 9-Very good, 8-Good, 7-Average-Good, 6-Average, 5-Average-poor, 4-Poor, 3-Very poor, 2-Extremely poor, 1-No value, --Not applicable


Artist's Bio:

1909-1990 Sakata-cho, Yamagata Pref.
For a more detailed biography, also see PhotoWho'sWho.

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