top コラムExhibition ReportVol.19 "Masahisa Fukase | The Whimsical and Eye" 「深瀬昌久展|眼差しと遊戯」

Exhibition Report

Vol.19 "Masahisa Fukase | The Whimsical and Eye" 「深瀬昌久展|眼差しと遊戯」

John Sypal

This is an opportunity to view an exquisite collection of original silver gelatin prints from Masahisa Fukase’s archives.


With three exhibitions so far, 2023 has been a generous year for Fukase enthusiasts.

First was a show of original prints from Yohko Wanibe’s personal collection at Akio Nagasawa Gallery in Ginza  (titled Yoko Collection , held Feb.28 – Mar. 25), which was soon followed by a large retrospective at the Tokyo Museum of Photographic Art ( Masahisa Fukase 1961-1991 Retrospective Mar. 3 – Jun. 4). 


The retrospective was a solidly TOP production: clean, safe, very museum-like. One could enter it knowing nothing of the man and leave impressed, if not more interested.

The MEM show however, being freed from having to set the same kind of context that a museum (or retrospective) needs to provide, instead has the goal of demonstrating the whimsical nature of Fukase’s work with prints from three of his major series: Raven, Yohko, and Sasuke.  


Now, I’m no Fukase expert, but I have spent a lot more with old Japanese camera magazines than is normal or even healthy- and, having seen dozens of pages of all sorts of his work in the 70s I was somewhat surprised that his unique sense of whimsy- one that’s cheeky if not a bit randy, was missing from the Retrospective. (I mean, his set in the July ’72 set in Asahi Camera is a comical riot. Maybe it was too Macho Showa for 2023? Too unserious for our time?)


So, the inclusion of “whimsical” in the title for the MEM show was, for me at least, a good sign. And I wasn’t disappointed. Sheesh.

It’s good.

Two rooms of vintage black and white silver gelatin prints? Come on. YES.  

I went as soon as I heard about it.


Compared to the TOP show, the prints in MEM were smaller- most no larger than 11x14 with many printed as 8x10s.  The show is neatly hung, with the Yoko and Sasuke images in a small room off the main one. Quite a few in the show I don’t think I had seen before.


But like I said, I’m no Fukase expert. I am however a total print nerd. 

By “nerd” I mean, a guy who approaches “real” photographs (prints) like these with a sense of awe and respect and reverence- and anticipation that I’ll feel something. That list got checked off pretty fast on my visit.  As a darkroomer myself, there’s a lot to “get” out of seeing prints like these in person- and, upon inspection of some of the Raven work, my admiration for Fukase’s technical capabilities went off the charts. From a technical standpoint, some of the Ravens negatives had to have been incredibly difficult to work with- no mere mortal could have printed them.  The Sasuke and Yoko prints were more straightforwardly exposed and printed- rather than interpretation/expression of a feeling, their charm lies in their direct enjoyment of a moment.


This exhibition had me reflecting on the importance of making prints. There’s a level of effort- of intention, of focus- to bring a print into existence.  That effort, as it builds up in a series of photos (and stack of paper) possesses a meaning that transcends time, or, in Fukase’s case, life. 

It’s a strange thing to know that a print/photograph will (hopefully) outlive its creator. I’m genuinely curious how photographers who work with digital cameras / data deal with this- it seems to me that a box of silver prints will be more readily viewed decades into the future than (possibly unreadable) jpegs on old harddrives. Maybe I’m just old fashioned.


And yet, there’s obviously a particular preciousness about prints. I always feel that, standing before one I’m looking at something that goes beyond an “image” to something even better: a photograph.



The gallery included some additional Fukase artifacts in a large case: photo magazines opened to Ravens, promotional postcards for exhibitions, and an original Workshop Issue 3, with his photo of Yoko on the front.


This wonderful show us up until May 21, 2023.  It is a definite must-see-  and a fine companion to the retrospective at TOP just up the hill.







銀座のAkio Nagasawa Galleryで開催された三好洋子さん個人コレクションのオリジナルプリント展「Yoko Collection」(2023年2月28日~3月25日)に続き、東京写真美術館で「深瀬昌久 1961-1991 レトロスペクティブ」(2023年3月3日〜6月4日)が開催されました。そのレトロスペクティヴは清潔で安全な、まさに美術館的なものでした。「深瀬」について何も知らないで入場したとしても、感動して帰ることができ、また来館前よりも興味をもつことができました。
















この展覧会では、写真の「プリント」を作ること(存在すること)の大切さについてすごく考えさせられました。プリントを作るには、意図と集中力が必要です。 その努力は、一連の写真(と紙の束)に積み重なることで、時間や、深瀬さんの場合、「命」を超える意味をもつのです。










この素晴らしい写真展は、2023年5月21日(日)まで開催されます。 必ず見てほしいです。東京都写真美術館で開催中のレトロスペクティブとあわせて、ぜひご覧ください。



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