top コラムRecommended photobook28 Nikon Salon 50th anniversary: Spelling out half a century through exhibition postcards 1968-2017. 『ニコンサロン開設50周年記念 写真展案内はがきで綴る半世紀 1968~2017』

Recommended photobook

28 Nikon Salon 50th anniversary: Spelling out half a century through exhibition postcards 1968-2017.
『ニコンサロン開設50周年記念 写真展案内はがきで綴る半世紀 1968~2017』

John Sypal

This is a book for a very, very specific audience.  While you could probably create a small library with all the publications on Nikon Photography (Nikkor Annuals) and equipment (Collector Guides, historical information, etc.) that have been made a thoroughly detailed book of photography exhibition promotional postcards seems less likely to exist. But one does- and I am sure glad a copy came my way. 


The Nikon Salon was established in 1968 to celebrate Nikon’s 50th anniversary. First in Ginza, a second Tokyo venue (Shinjuku) opened its doors in 1971, followed by the Osaka branch in 1974. A pillar of Japanese photographic culture, the Nikon Salon has facilitated some 4000 (and counting) photographic exhibitions since its founding. In addition to exhibitions, the Nikon Salon offers workshops, lectures, and portfolio reviews. 


It’s important to note that the Nikon Salon is neither a commercial gallery nor a demonstration showroom. It is first and foremost a venue for photographic culture and appreciation. It’s unbelievably special. With a legacy of exhibiting both renowned and “unknown” photographers, anyone can apply to have their work -taken with any camera- shown here. In fact, Nikon’s website states that the purpose of the Nikon Salon is to “remove the barriers between professionals and amateurs and pursues the true nature of photo exhibitions as a venue for exhibiting outstanding photographic work from all genres, uninfluenced by corporate strategy.”


Back to the book. 

What’s it about? Installation views of exhibitions? 

Well, no. (Although that’s a book I’d like to see.) 

This is essentially a book of postcards.  


Generally, exhibitions in Japan are promoted with postcards called “DM’s” (Direct Mail)- paper rectangles that remain essential parts of exhibition promotion. Whether they can effectively compete with social media’s reach is debatable, but they are commonly found in stacks in galleries and camera shops across the city. In exhibition venues themselves DMs are found next to the gallery guestbook, offering visitors a souvenir of their visit. 


Chronicling fifty years of the Nikon Salon, this book gives each year (from 1974) a double-page spread. The schedule for each is provided: exhibition date, photographer, and title.  Above it twelve postcards from that year are featured. 


DM cards have a few things to get across (Who What When Where)- but each time I flip through this book’s pages I find myself fascinated by the variety of graphic design used. 

This book is also important for understanding just how many now legendary photobooks began as Nikon Salon shows. In these pages are Legends- and unknowns who, some forty-plus years later have sold me on their show with a single image. 

Let me just say that, should I ever get access to a time machine, “Tokyo Nikon Salon, mid 1970s” is one of the first places, er, times, I’ll go. 


My own first encounter with the Nikon Salon was in September of 2001.  I actually only found out about the place because I went to the neighboring Nikon service center for a replacement battery cap for my Nikon F2. The following summer I participated a Nikon Salon hosted portfolio review, and, after moving to Japan in 2004 made regular visits to see photography exhibitions.  

So, while the earlier pages of this book fill me with a longing for a past that I never got to see, the pages from 2004 onward get me feeling downright nostalgic. My first exhibition in Japan was at the Shinjuku Nikon Salon in 2005 (Page 88) and my third there in 2008 (Page 95).  There are more than a few postcard images in this section that I remember well. 


Part history, part culture- this book can lead to ponderings about the ephemeral nature of photography exhibitions. It’s a curious thing! Unlike a photobook, an exhibition is something that physically comes together and exists in that configuration for such a short time- and then, if you’re lucky, afterwards only as memories in the minds of its visitors.


One final note and reflection on DM collectability.


Over the years I have brought home and tossed out far more kilograms of these cards than I care to admit- but I’ve kept some my favorites.  

Interestingly, despite the intense popularity and collectability that photobooks currently enjoy, these DM cards are still basically “uncollectable”. No one sells them. 

What I mean is, even if you were after a particular one- like how badly I want to own a DM of Araki’s “Yoko, My Love” (April 20-25, 1976)- you/me are basically out of luck. 

It’s so strange- I know of a shop in Jimbocho that has binders and binders of meretriciously cataloged telephone cards of bikini girls and delicately wrapped J-Phone advertisements featuring particular actresses, but if you wanted to find a certain DM from a photography exhibition 1998 it’d probably be best to contact the photographer themselves. Aside from occasional appearances on online auction sites (Big Names only: Araki, Moriyama, Fukase, etc.) vintage photo exhibition DM cards and flyers just do not exist on the used market.  


Could Photographic Paper Ephemera be the next thing?  


Does anyone have that Araki DM card I was talking about? Anyone?










  • プロ・アマの壁を取り払い、企業戦略に影響されず、あらゆる分野の優れた作品の展示場として写真展本来の姿を追求する「ニコンサロン」。作品発表の場として、どなたでもご応募いただけます。




















だからこの本の初期のページは、私が見ることができなかった過去への憧れに満ちているのですが、2004年以降のページは、まさにノスタルジックな気分にさせてくれます。私の日本での初個展は2005年の新宿ニコンサロン(88ページ)、3回目の個展は2008年(95ページ)に開催しました。 この頃のページには、私がよく覚えているポストカードの写真がいくつもあるのです。














もしかすると、フォトグラフィック・エフェメラ※ が次の流行になるかもしれませんね!

※エフェメラ(ephemera)…… 《短命なものの意》ポスターやちらしなど、長期の保存を前提としない印刷物





  • Nikon Salon 50th anniversary:
  • Spelling out half a century through exhibition postcards 1968-2017.
  • (Nihon Shashin Kikaku, 2017)
  • 『ニコンサロン開設50周年記念
  •  写真展案内はがきで綴る半世紀 1968~2017』
  • 出版社:ニコンイメージングジャパン、日本写真企画



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