top コラムRecommended photobook27 Ishikawa Naoki "Hair" 石川直樹『髪』

Recommended photobook

27 Ishikawa Naoki "Hair" 石川直樹『髪』

John Sypal

Last week I shared Naoki Ishikawa's Tokyo book- this week I’d like to take a look at his 2014 book『髪』 (hair).


The title is a single kanji: "kami". It denotes "hair"- but is also a homonym with kami「神」. This "kami" in the Shinto religion refers to its deities, encompassing all holy, natural  divine phenomena. 


It’s entirely possible to view Ishikawa’s lauded photographic explorations of our natural world and its human cultures as glimpse of the divine.  Here though, rather than transcendental vistas of faraway ranges or the secrets of remote island festivals, this book closely focuses on a single young woman with long, rich black hair that has a spirit of its own. 


Ishikawa’s statement (printed on a loose sheet of paper slipped into the back cover) opens with the fact that this project was a commissioned job he accepted. The woman is a model, and the book opens with her at a window seat in a train.  


From this nod to Nobuyoshi Araki's Sentimental Journey the book then loosely follows the standard slow-reveal flow of decades’ worth of countless “gravure idol” books in Japan: A place is visited, a (hotel) room is entered, with a turn or two of the pages clothing disappears- and yet, rather than smooth flesh -or any actual nudity- the eroticism in the air is, despite the gravure thematic tropes, how the unnamed woman's face- and later, body- is always obscured by her hair. 


This subversion of the idol book genre is clever. Certainly, Ishikawa’s subtle, terrific sense of humor appears in all of his books. But obfuscation of the "good parts" that men buy gravure books for is more than just a gimmick or parody.  This use of revealing / keeping hidden is a fundamental part of Japanese aesthetics and thinking; being unable to see something clearly makes it all the more alluring. 


Curiosity, mystery, wonderment and celebration- Such is the stuff which makes up Ishikawa's photography whether on Everest or a hotel room in Oita. Regardless the subject or location, Ishikawa's vision shows not simply a particular subject- but somehow, also the mystery of its existence.  


This is a book titled Kami- yet maybe it's a book on Kami, Shinto's invisible gods which reside in every natural element- the divine found in each rock and tree and, as Ishikawa here suggests, strand of hair. 



The book’s afterward was written by another photographer who deftly captured the sublime, Issei Suda. An excerpt is featured on the book’s obi:


"The strangeness of such an elemental thing (hair) shakes the viewer's senses. Perhaps the origin of photography is found in the view of a photographer named Naoki Ishikawa." 



On design: This is a tall, somewhat thin hardcover. The book designer chose the perfect paper stock for its cover: in just the right light its black, thread-like texture glistens.


Somewhat rare and definitely underrated, Kami, possessing subtle eroticism and subtle humor, is a fascinating entry into the oeuvre of adventurer/photographer Naoki Ishikawa.  



先週は石川直樹さんの『東京 ぼくの生まれた街』を紹介しましたが、今週は2014年に出版された『髪』という写真集について語ります。写真集のタイトルは漢字一文字で「髪」。文字通り「髪」を意味していますが、「神」と同音異義語であることが面白いですね。






















  • 「素であることの奇妙さが、見る側の感覚に揺さぶりをかけてくる。もしかしたら、石川直樹という写真家のこの視点に写真の原点があるのかもしれない。」
  • ――須田一政






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