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Ralph Gibson: Monochrome Master Michael Kenna: Eternal Explorer Lewis Morley: Spirit of the Sixties

Issue 108 April 2015 US $7.95 Can $9.95



“Approaching subject matter to photograph is a bit like meeting a person and beginning a conversation.” — Michael Kenna



Think you know Michael Kenna? Although he possesses one of the most recognizable visual signatures in photography, a closer look at his work reveals new layers, textures and resonances. What’s also often overlooked is the immediacy and spontaneity of his images, as Kenna retains all the enthusiam, curiosity and passion for the medium as when he first started taking pictures.

Free spirit, radical, pagan—Anne Brigman was all of these and more. Most important, she was an innovative pioneer of the female nude in landscape, liberating this sub-genre from the overt sexism of the “male gaze” then prevalent. Cultural issues aside, her work is also profoundly moving and sublimely beautiful.

GABRIELE CROPPI: THE MODERN METAPHYSICAL LANDSCAPE — 34 Croppi’s enigmatic photographs bear obvious affinities to the work of the Surrealist painter Giorgio de Chirico, yet his visual iconography is imbued with its own singular take on the loneliness and alienation common to our 21st century urban spaces.


LEWIS MORLEY: SPIRIT OF THE TIMES — 52 Although he’s not as well known as David Bailey, Lewis Morley was equally gifted when it came to documenting London during the swinging sixties. His affectionate and witty images memorably evoked Britain’s optimism and creative energy in that charmed decade.



64 “I’m coming up with a kind of image that is more abstract but essentially has its origins in our society and social matrix.” — Ralph Gibson

76 DIMA GAVRYSH: INSALLAH — 64 As a grade schooler in Kiev, Gavrysh and his classmates were judged on their ability to strip an AK-47 and don a gas mask. As an adult photographing the conflict in eastern Afghanistan in 2009 and 2011, his childhood perceptions of war—and his attitudes about friendship, trust and mortality—were irrevocably transformed.

RALPH GIBSON: MASTER OF MONOCRHOME — 76 The longtime darkroom virtuoso created something of an uproar among purists when he began shooting digitally. While he doesn’t rule out returning to film at some point, he finds the digital language stimulating, creatively challenging and conducive to the chiaroscuro aesthetic that made him famous.




Cover image: Mono, 2013 by Ralph Gibson



Contest entries accepted thru June 30, 2015

BLACK & WHITE SINGLE IMAGE CONTEST 2016 NEW SPOTLIGHT AWARDS: A best photograph will be chosen from each category and will be featured in a regular issue of Black & White with a short bio of the photographer and background information on the shot. CONTEST AWARDS: More than 210 winning images will be chosen in 15 different categories and each will have a full-page display in the Black & White Special Issue. This is your chance to have your images seen by more than 35,000 viewers worldwide. NEW JUDGING: We have expanded our panel of judges. Each judge will act independently and winners will be chosen from merged lists of all judges. MORE WINNERS: A panel of lay judges will select their favorite photograph in each category for a special “People’s Choice” award in the Black & White Special Issue.

1 – Animals 2 – Landscape/Nature 3 – Conceptualization 4 – Nude/Body 5 – Still Life/Objects 6 – Architecture/Interiors 7 – Photojournalism/Documentary 8 – Music/Sports/Dance 9 – Seascape/Water 10 – Flowers/Plants/Fruits 11 – Portraiture/Children 12 – Travel/People/Places 13 – Cityscape/Street 14 – Metaphor/Abstract 15 – Pattern/Texture Cover of the 2014 issue.


Contest entries accepted thru June 30, 2015

BLACK & WHITE SINGLE IMAGE CONTEST 2016 CONTEST GUIDELINES: ELIGIBILITY: All photographers are eligible except employees and contract workers of Ross Periodicals. CATEGORIES: Do not choose a category. Choice of category for images selected is at the discretion of the judges. IMAGE CAPTURE: Images may be captured using film or digital. Only CDs/DVDs will be accepted for entry. No prints/slides! PREPARING YOUR CD/DVD: • Write your complete name, phone number and email address on the CD/DVD itself. • Save images at 300 ppi (lower resolution files cannot be used), 8 bits, in grayscale (NO RGB), as jpeg files. • WIDTH must be 7 inches – Width is measured from left to right and will total 2100 pixels. Enter 7” in WIDTH option when resizing and allow LENGTH to proportion itself naturally (pixel count will adjust accordingly) Use MEDIUM for Quality option. If prepared correctly the image file size will be approximately 1MB. Naming Images: • Name each digital image as follows: Title of image, Location, Year of capture. [Example: Boardwalk, Santa Monica, CA, 2009 or International: Eiffel Tower, Paris, France, 2008 • If more than one image is Untitled, name them Untitled 1, Untitled 2, and so on. • Do not use: all capitals, all lower case, underscores, or personal reference numbers in your titles. • Avoid using the following characters in an image file name or CD/DVD name: \ | / ? : “ * < > • Do not use Picasa, iPhoto or similar file-sharing programs to burn your CD/DVDs. • Before sending CD/DVDs, double-check, using another computer, that the CD/DVDs and your image files open properly. ENTRY FEES: Fee for the first image is US$30. Additional images are US$15 each. There is no limit to the number of images that may be entered. Payment may be made by check (payable to Black & White), money order, PayPal (pay to or credit card (MasterCard, Visa or American Express). Include number, expiration date, 3-digit security code on back of card, name exactly as embossed on card, cardholder’s signature and amount to be charged. ONLY Mastercard, Visa, American Express, PayPal, or International US Dollar Money Orders are accepted for international entries. We do not accept bank or money transfers. Entry fees are non-refundable. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: CDs will not be returned (they will be destroyed after review or eventual use). PHOTO RELEASES must be available and furnished upon request for all individuals prominently featured in an entered image. This rule is not generally applicable to street photography. Do not include any releases with your entry. Please forward questions to or call us at 805.270.3312. COPYRIGHTS AND THE WEBSITE GALLERY: By entering this contest you give your permission for Black & White to print your images in our magazine or on our website for one-time use. Images entered in this contest will be posted on our website gallery with a link to your website unless you NOTIFY US IN WRITING that you do not want your images placed in the gallery. Please refer to our website to see the formatting and copyright protection currently being used. DEADLINE: Entries must be postmarked no later than June 30, 2015. NOTIFICATION: The selection process will take several months to complete. All entrants will be notified by email. If you wish to have a confirmation of receipt of entry, please include a stamped, self-addressed postcard. WHERE TO SEND: Mail: Black & White, PO Box 700, Arroyo Grande, CA 93421. Other carriers: 1789 Lyn Road, Arroyo Grande, CA 93420. WHAT TO SEND 1. On a sheet of paper, TYPE your name, mailing address, phone number, email address, and website address (this will be published if your images are selected and also on the web gallery). DO NOT include an artist statement or curriculum vitae—entries are judged solely on the merits of the images. DO NOT include an image list separate from what is on the CD. 2. Your CD/DVD—see above. 3. Payment—see above.



Exiles and Iconoclasts

Dean Brierly

IN THE MUSEUMS J. Paul Getty Museum Josef Koudelka: Nationality Doubtful (11/11/2014 through 3/22/2015) It’s hard to believe, but it’s been a quarter-century since Czech-born Josef Koudelka, one of the very few photographers who can accurately be described as a living legend, last had a retrospective exhibition in the United States (1988 to be exact). All credit to the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago (in association with Fundación MAPFRE) for jointly rectifying this oversight. The exhibition spans five decades in more than 140 iconic images— which just scratches the surface of Koudelka’s prodigious output. Although he received training as an aeronautical engineer and worked in that capacity in Prague and Bratislava, Koudelka (who was born in 1938) turned to photography in the 1960s, initially taking photos of stage productions for Czech theater magazines. A nomadic spirit, he also spent extended periods photographing Gypsy communities throughout Slovakia, Moravia and Bohemia, a project that became a decades-long obsession and led to his formative book, Gypsies (Aperture, 1975). Koudelka was an active witness of the 1968 Soviet invasion of what was then Czechoslovakia. The pho-

Koudelka’s work can be dark, brooding and disturbing, yet it’s balanced by a poetic and emotionally affecting lyricism.


tographs he took, at considerable risk, were smuggled out of the country to the Magnum photo agency, and were published anonymously out of fear of reprisals. Yet their impact eventually led to Koudelka being forced into exile in 1970. Unable to prove he had born in Czechoslovakia, he acquired the legal status of “nationality doubtful”—hence the title of this exhibition. Becoming a member of Magnum in 1971, Koudelka continued to photograph Gypsy populations, as well as religious rites and festivals throughout Europe, work that eventually appeared in another iconic book, Exiles (Aperture, 1988). His imagery from this period is marked by an obsessive yet empathetic focus on themes of isolation, alienation and displacement. Koudelka’s work can be dark, brooding and disturbing, yet it’s balanced by a poetic and emotionally affecting lyricism.

Josef Koudelka, Romania, 1968. © Josef Koudelka/Magnum Photos For the past couple of decades Koudelka has made panoramic landscapes rather than 35mm documentary images, but his thematic focus is congruent with his earlier, more famous work,

showing industry’s often scarring effects on the environment. The graphic approach is more linear, but imbued with a similar stark atmosphere. Throughout the entire trajectory of his career, as this exhibition clearly demonstrates, Koudelka has always marched to his own singular drumbeat. “I photograph only something that has to do with me, and I never did anything that I did not want to do,” he once stated. Harn Museum of Art Copia: New Photographs in the Harn Permanent Collection (12/16/2014 through 6/28/2015) Talk about growth spurts. The photography collection at the Harn Museum of Art, University of Florida has grown by more than 300 images in just the past two years. The influx has come through purchases and gifts from local and national artists and collectors. This exhibition not only celebrates these acquisitons, but also photography’s 175th anniversary and the growth of the Harn’s collection as the museum enters its 25th anniversary year in 2015. Copia showcases 90 images, beginning with Jesse Whitehurst, considered the South’s first daguerrotypist, to early scanograms made in the Nash Editions studios by Los Angeles photographer Darryl Curran. To learn more, visit /photography.




Clergue imaged the female form in a graphic, almost abstract yet still sensuous manner.

IN MEMORIAM Ray Metzker (1931-2014) The photography world lost one of its most iconic and irreplaceable figures in the person of Ray Metzker, one of the foremost modernist artists of the past six decades. Metzker, who was born in Milwaukee, received his first camera (a present from his mother) at the age of 12, and demonstrated a precocious affinity for the medium, winning high school photography competitions.

Ray Metzker, City Whispers, Philadelphia,1983 After graduating from Beloit College with a fine arts degree in 1953, he served in the Army in Korea, then studied at Chicago’s Institute of Design from 1956-1959 under Aaron Siskind and Harry Callahan. His work quickly made an impact— images of downtown Chicago made for his master’s thesis were purchased by the Museum of Modern Art and were shown at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. From the beginning, Metzker’s imagery manifested a profound intellectual and emotional engagement with his subject matter and a refusal to adhere to conventional modes of visual representation.


He was always searching for new ways to deconstruct and reassemble the reality of the urban cityscape, whether that meant in-camera multiple exposures, combining multiple images into large-scale composites, printing two sequential frames on a roll of film, or even printing a complete roll as a single image. His City Whispers series showed his adeptness at using light and shadow to create graphically abstract effects in a single “straight” image. Metzker was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1966, two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships and the Royal Photographic Society’s Centenary Medal and Honorary Fellowship. He published a number of superb, forward-looking books, including Unknown Territory (Aperture, 1984), City Stills (Prestel, 1999), Landscapes (Aperture, 2000) and Light Lines (Steidl & Musee de L’Elysee, 2008). His work resides in numerous collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; to name but a few.

Lucien Clergue (1934-2014) When it comes to photographing the female nude, no one does it quite like the French. Beginning with the famous (or infamous) French postcards of the late 19th century, through early 20th century artists like E.J. Bellocq and Julian Mandel, and continuing with Willy Ronis, Édouard Boubat, Jeanloup Sieff and others,

Lucien Clergue, Nu de la Mer, Camargue, 1966 Gallic photographers have invariably approached the genre with a light touch, creating images that are sensual (and not often sexist), beautifully lit and composed, and imbued with a relaxed documentary intimacy. One of the prime exponents of French nude photography was Lucien Clergue, who passed away last November 15 at the age of 80. More than most of his contemporaries, Clergue imaged the female form in a graphic, almost abstract yet still sensuous manner. He often situated his models in the sand dunes and waters of the Camargue region of France. The rugged, otherworldly setting, poetic quality of light and Clergue’s unique visual perspectives gave his nudes an imposing, larger-than-life presence. Clergue’s range was impressive: His subject matter extended to entertainers and artists (notably Pablo Picasso, a lifelong friend), bullfights, gypsies and landscapes. But undoubtedly it will be his arresting nudes for which he will primarily be remembered.


Book Reviews

Narrative Variations

Dean Brierly

Anders Petersen Thames & Hudson Photofile 144 pages / SC / $15.95

“Here I was assigning people to cover the war at risk of life and I figured I should share it.”

Although Petetersen’s imagery has been compared to that of Daido Moriyama and Diane Arbus, the Swedish photographer’s work resonates with a haunting, idiosyncratic presence all its own. He is perhaps best known for the pictures he made from 1967-1970 at the Cafe Lehmitz, a working class bar in Hamburg, Germany—indelible candids of prostitutes, transvestites, drug addicts, alcoholics and others living outside the mainstream. “The people...had a presence and a sincerity that I myself lacked,” Petersen observed. “It was okay to be desperate, to be tender, to sit alone or share the company of others. There was a great warmth and tolerance in this destitute setting.” Petersen’s images are raw, honest, unsettling, and don’t provide easy perspectives or narratives. He has continued to photograph— with great sensitivity and a


kind of subjective objectivity—environments populated by those society tends to overlook or ignore: prisons, psychiatric hospitals, nursing homes for the elderly. In each setting, Petersen becomes a participant as well as an observer, an outsider as well as an insider, one who is accepted without reservation by his subects, who allow him entree into their private fears, desires, despairs and joys. Quelque part en France Photos by John G. Morris Marabout 168 pages/ HC / EUR 19,90

One of the most remarkable photographic discoveries of recent vintage is a series of images made in the aftermath of the D-Day invasion of June 6, 1944, focusing on civilians and soldiers throughout villages in Normandy and Brittany while the fighting between Allied and German forces was still going on. Remarkable because the images were taken not by photojournalists like Robert Capa and George Rodger, but by the photo editor, John G. Morris, who was tasked with

coordinating Life magazine’s photographic coverage of the Normandy landings. Morris, then 27, felt his responsibilities didn’t end with sending the publication’s photographers into harm’s way. “My self-appointed task was to go out and work with the different pool photographers on a daily basis...I felt it was my job. Here I was assigning people to cover the war at risk of life and I figured I should share it.” Even given the expectation that a Life picture editor would have a sharp eye for composition, Morris’ photographs are surprisingly expressive and accomplished. Working with a borrowed 6x6 Rollei, he filled the frame with gritty, upclose images of bombed-out villages, war-weary refugees, resolute Allied soldiers and dispirited German POWs. His even-handed approach accorded equal respect and empathy to participants of both sides. Unseen since they were made, the images were recently discovered by Robert Pledge at Contact Press Images. They have since been exhibited to great acclaim and now appear in this book. While the captions are in French, they’re relatively easy to decipher. And Morris’ emotionally charged cables and letters to his wife are presented in English. (Available at An English edition is planned. To learn more, visit



Michael Kenna: The Eternal Explorer Joel Meadows

“Photographing is like life. I embrace the short amount of time we have in this life and I make the most of the limited time I have to photograph. I cannot imagine ever being tired of this profession. There are so many aspects about what and why we photograph: visual pleasure, personal empathy, intellectual stimulation, technical excellence.”

That statement, so simple yet disarmingly revealing, might be the clearest indicator yet of what drives Michael Kenna to keep taking photographs, and why he continues to produce compelling, passionate work. The danger for any artist who has been as aesthetically and commercial successful as Kenna—and who is known for a particular style and subject matter—is to guard against complacency. Yet Kenna finds ways to keep things fresh visually and thematically. His starkly beautiful cityscapes and landscapes evoke a strong sense of place, with a subtle yet powerful emotional underscore. And while the dynamic

Michael Kenna (photo by Joel Meadows)


graphic quality of his images has “inspired” countless imitators, one can always tell the original from the ersatz. There’s an organic purity and texture to a Kenna photograph that is his and his alone. Asked to comment on his “signature,” he says, “My work is about the juxtapositions, relationships and connections between the natural elements: earth, water, sky, etc., and the structures that we humans leave behind. I enjoy the patina of age, the passage of time, the footprints, traces and memories left in the landscape.” Kenna has pursued those “relationships” and “footprints” in countries the world over, including but not limited to Australia, Belgium, Brazil, China, Czech Republic, Egypt, England, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Thailand, Russia and Ukraine, finding fresh inspiration in different cultures, outlooks, topographies. Certain countries, however, keep drawing him back, in particular the French Republic. His latest book, which is simply titled FRANCE (Nazraeli Press, 2014), features photographs from the 1980s to the present, including many never published before. Kenna’s connection with France is due in part to the inspiration he’s found in the collective legacy of classic European photographers. “I was born in England and my early work comes out of the European tradition of photography,” he says. “My masters were Eugene Atget, Bill Brandt, Brassaï, Mario Giacomelli, Josef Sudek and others. These photographic giants influenced me greatly. I


Vidal's Cain, Tuileries Gardens, Paris, France. 2010



“My work is about the juxtapositions, relatiionships and connections between the natural elements: earth, water, sky, etc.” Kussharo Lake Tree, Study 6, Kotan, Hokkaido, Japan. 2007

suppose they are all romantics at heart, all concerned with photographing a feeling as much as documenting external reality. France is a huge country, enormously varied, and as far as I’m concerned it has unlimited potential for photographic expression.” In fact, Kenna sees parallels between what he photographs in France and what he was exposed to while growing up in England. (He was born in the industrial town of Widnes.) It is the emotional resonance between people and their environment, built or natural, that he finds hugely rewarding as an artist. “I photograph what I am drawn to, which can be directly linked back to my childhood experiences in the north of England: train tracks, church interiors, parks, gardens, seafronts, industrial buildings, bridges, urban environments. France has all these elements and many more,” Kenna says.


“I first visited France in the late seventies and have been photographing there fairly consistently since the early eighties. It is a country that I feel very much at home in. In 2011 I had a small monograph published in Japan titled In France. I wrote in the introduction: ‘Photographing in France could be more than a life’s work, and I fully realize that the 57 images in this publication barely scratch the surface of this country.’ “When researching material for FRANCE, I was astonished at how many photographs I actually had. Originally, the plan was to have a book with perhaps 80-100 plates. However, I found it impossible to edit from the wealth of images in my archive, and even though I eventually cut the choice down to 275, there could easily have been double that amount. “I feel exactly the same about this selection as I did in the earlier monograph. These


Freezing Morning, Kussharo Lake, Hokkaido, Japan. 2014

Ratcliffe Power Station, Study 46, Nottinghamshire, England. 2003



photographs are from my limited experiences in the places I have so far been fortunate enough to spend time. This is not a comprehensive survey of France, far from it. I see this collection as more of an ongoing personal visual diary. I’m sure I could spend the rest of my life photographing in France and there would still be much, much more to see and photograph.” Kenna is also attracted to places that remind him of his birthplace. Japan in particular has numerous characteristics similar to England. “Japan is a country of islands, surrounded by water. It is a place that has been lived and worked in and on for centuries. It is geographically small and spaces are quite intimate in scale. There is a powerful sense of atmosphere in the Japanese soil, and as I like to

“I photograph what I am drawn to, which can be directly linked back to my childhood experiences in the north of England.”

Trocadero Steps, Paris, France. 1987


photograph memories and stories, I feel very comfortable wandering around this country. There is also a wonderful reverence for the land, often symbolized by torii gates, which mark the entrances to Shinto shrines. The shrine is often the landscape itself, an island, rock or group of trees. If one spends time in Japan, I think it is impossible not to be influenced by the Japanese sense of aesthetics, the kanji characters, the simplicity of artwork, the reverence of a Buddhist temple.” Kenna has photographed Japan over roughly the same time period as he has France, with the Zen quality of his work apparent at the outset. He has always preferred suggestion over description, black and white over color, winter over summer. His imagery largely focuses on the interaction


Window View, Château d'Haroué, Lorraine, France. 2013

Night Shadows, St. Malo, France. 2000

Window and Vines, Abbaye de Fontenay, Bourgogne, France. 2013 29

Lace Factories, Study 29, Calais, France. 1999


“I’m sure I could spend the rest of my life photographing in France and there would still be much, much more to see and photograph.”

Sadakichi's Docks, Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan. 2012

between natural landscapes and man-made structures, which is one reason he loves photographing in Asian countries, where he frequently discovers human traces and remains, even in wild, remote terrain. In addition to ubiquitous subject matter, he finds creative inspiration in light, atmosphere and emotional response to place—elements in abundance throughout Asia. Despite the current dominance of digital photography, Kenna is a staunch traditionalist. He prefers photographing on film, and while he concedes the advantages that digital offers, using film is a more rewarding process for him as a professional photographer. “I’m not going to be popular saying this, but I have yet to meet a digital print that I could fall in love with. This is based purely on


my personal and subjective taste. Having worked with silver materials and film cameras for over 40 years, both commercially and in my fine art work, I now find it a little out of character to fully embrace the digital medium. It is true that the whole photographic process has been made much easier, faster, cleaner and more accessible to people by digital innovations, and that’s a good thing. However, I think photographers and artists should have the option to use whatever equipment and materials they consider most appropriate for their own vision. I am delighted that some photographers, or almost all photographers, have embraced digital technology and are using it for their creative endeavors. “For my part, however, I don’t need or desire instant gratification in photography. It is the long, slow journey to the final print that


Torii Gate, Study 2, Shosanbetsu, Hokkaido, Japan. 2014

Pont des Arts, Study 3, Paris, France. 1987



“It is the long, slow journey to the final print that captivates me. I still prefer the limitations, imperfections and unpredictability of the silver-based analog world.”

captivates me. I still prefer the limitations, imperfections and unpredictability of the silver-based analog world, and I love spending hours in the darkroom exploring the potential of a negative. It is an important part of the creative process for me. Digital and computer technology haven’t yet changed the way that I do things. While silver materials are still available, I suspect that I will stay with what I know and love best. But who knows what the future will bring?” Kenna’s old school outlook extends to his fidelity to black and white. Despite four decades of shooting in monochrome, he has no desire to experiment with color. Black and white, for him, provides an immediate interpretation of the world rather than a literal copy of what we see, where everything is in color. He finds black-and-white photographs to be quieter, subtler and more mysterious than those made in color, and thus more inspiring to the imagination of the individual viewer. Paradoxically, because they don’t attempt to compete with the outside world, black-and-white images persists longer in our visual memory.

Kenna hasn’t lived in England for a number of years now—and hasn’t seriously photographed there since 2007—but doesn’t rule out returning at some point. “I have photographed in the UK extensively, but it was primarily in the seventies, eighties and nineties. It’s an issue of time more than anything. If I could clone myself, a part of me would love to continue to photograph in the UK. However, I also like to explore and photograph in other countries. I hope there will be further opportunities to spend time photographing in England. I would find it interesting to see if my exposure to and influence by the Asian countries would have a visible effect on images that I now make in my homeland.” One thing that wouldn’t change is the immediacy and sense of spontaneity in his work, and his lack of elaborate preparation when he goes out to photograph. “Essentially, I walk, explore and photograph. I never know whether I will be there minutes, hours or days. Approaching subject matter to photograph is a bit like meeting a person and beginning a conversation. How does one know ahead of time where that will lead, what the subject matter will be, how intimate it will become, how long the potential relationship will last? Certainly, a sense of curiosity and a willingness to be patient and allow the subject matter to reveal itself are important elements in this process. There have been many occasions when interesting images have appeared from what I had considered uninteresting places. “The reverse has been equally true and relevant. One needs to fully accept that surprises sometimes happen, and control over the outcome is not always necessary or even desirable. This is photography, and it’s also life—unpredictable, uncontrollable and f…king amazing.” Fact File In addition to FRANCE, Michael Kenna’s books include Confessionali (Nazraeli Press, 2014), China (Posts and Telecom Press and Timeless Gallery, 2014), Shinan (Nazraeli Press, 2013), A Journey through Asia (Tasveer Arts, 2013) and Michael Kenna (Chris Beetles Fine Photographs, 2012). A visit to his website,, is always a rewarding experience.

Black Path, Maiden Castle, Somerset, England. 1990



Hunter's Moon over Black Sea, Odessa, Ukraine. 2013




“Photographers who do self-portraits are holding something in their mind. I don’t think a a happy-golucky photographer wants to do a selfportrait.”

Fact File Tatsuro Nishimura Jersey City, New Jersey Contact the photographer for print size and price information.

Tatsuro Nishimura Portfolio Contest Winner

The world is rife with self-portraits. One need only pick a random selection of images off the pages of Facebook, Instagram or Tumblr to see what I mean. It was a scant 10 or so years ago when holding a camera at arm’s length to take an impromptu snapshot of our beaming face was a clumsy and mostly unrewarding task. But with the deluge of smart phones equipped with ever-evolving cameras, the overabundance of these throwaway images has left art-based photographers in a predicament. How does one still use the genre of the self-portrait as a legitimate form of self, and not selfie, expression? The answer is—not all is lost. For reassurance, one need only look at the work of Tatsuro Nishimura. Primarily an award-winning commercial photographer specializing in food, cosmetics and fashion accessories, Nishimura decided to turn his attention to a personal body of work. “For many long years, I’ve been using photography to show how I see the world. So I thought the opposite would be possible: letting photography see who I am. That was the concept of this self-portrait project.” Although the series was done using analog photography, processing and printing (these images were shot with a 4x5 camera), Nishimura’s approach harkens back to his digital commercial work. One can see in these a mastery of space, beautiful use of lighting and a propensity for the mysterious. It may be a combination of his Japanese heritage mixed together with his move to the New York/New Jersey area that flavors his unique vision. Nishimura’s commercial images are lush and bejeweled with a deep and rich saturation of bright, intense colors. His selfportraits are, however, a more studied and introspective collection of long-tonal-range, black-and-white photographs. While Nishimura admits to being influenced by Richard Avedon, Irving Penn and Robert Mapplethorpe, one can also see some similarities to the work of his fellow countrymen— the dissected, dissociated point of view of Daido Moriyama; the close-cropped human forms in Eikoh Hosoe’s poetic book Man and Woman; or the intense and confrontational


portraits of the denizens of New York portrayed in Ken Ohara’s book, One. In his first foray into the series, “Self-Portrait #1, New York City, New York,” we are confronted with his intense, side-view gaze bespattered with water. The droplets seem to reside on the surface of the image, a reminder of the blood, sweat and tears that photographers must go through in the darkroom to produce a worthy print. Indeed, the making of his seemingly straightforward self-portraits are complex in their use of multiple methods. “They are done on film,” Nishimura says. “I first photographed myself on Tri-X film and processed it, hung it with a thread and photographed it on Tri-X again. The image became positive, and then it was duplicated using litho film to make a negative. Finally, I printed it on paper.” Asked about the suspension of his photographed body parts using only thread, he says, “In my opinion, photographers who do self-portraits are holding something in their mind. I don’t think a happy-go-lucky photographer wants to do a self-portrait. I was somewhat lost and was at a very complicated time in my life at that point. Suspending the film with a very thin thread was the reflection of my mental struggles.” The images do speak to the tenuous nature of a man in a new world, hanging in space between his homeland and his newly adopted city. By focusing on his eyes, nose, ears, mouth and hands, Nishimura is “reflecting my five senses…showing what I had seen, tasted, heard and smelled—those five senses create my individuality.” Through the input interpreted by our sense of sight, provided by Nishimura’s photography, we come to understand that that there is still much to consider about the human condition. And that, as his consummate craftsmanship demonstrates, self-portraits, as a serious subject, are alive and well. — Larry Lytle


Self-Portrait #1, New York City, NY, 2010



Self-Portrait #2, New York City, NY, 2010

Self-Portrait #4, New York CIty, NY, 2010



Self-Portrait #3, New York City, NY, 2010


Black & White April 2015  

Black & White magazine. For collectors of fine photography. This issue has an exclusive interview with Ralph Gibson, plus features on Michae...

Black & White April 2015  

Black & White magazine. For collectors of fine photography. This issue has an exclusive interview with Ralph Gibson, plus features on Michae...