top コラムExhibition ReportVol.30 Jun Abe "Kokubyaku Note" 阿部 淳 「黒白ノート」

Exhibition Report

Vol.30 Jun Abe "Kokubyaku Note" 阿部 淳 「黒白ノート」

John Sypal

In the world of Japanese Photography, I have unending admiration for Jun Abe. This is of course due to the quality of his work, but also how the its essence is so thoroughly connected to his unwavering interest in the nature of the medium and what it can reveal through the steadfast practicality of his simple methods.


As a young man in the late 1970s, Jun Abe found that the combination of a simple Nikon SLR, a 35mm lens, and Kodak Tri-X film- the kit of countless photo students around the world- was both a tool for exploring his surroundings- and more than enough gear needed to do it. 

This is a fine lesson for everyone– which is fitting because he is in fact, a teacher. 

An Osaka native- one perhaps uncharacteristically soft-spoken for a Kansai-citizen, he currently teaches photography at Visual Arts Osaka. Known for his monochromatic, often close-quarters street photography he helped found the Osaka based collective & publisher Vaccuum Press in 2006. 


A prolific photographer, Abe’s published work proves his appreciation of photography’s innate capacity for quantity. I can’t begin to estimate how many thousands of rolls of film he has shot on the streets over the past 45 years, but it has been enough to allow him to steadily publish his archive in the form of practically designed softcover B5 sized photobooks since the mid 2000s. 

While I’ve lost track of exactly how many books he’s published (I suppose he might have, too) I know that his exhibitions are, in Tokyo, anyway, rarer. I have only seen Abe’s work exhibited three times in Tokyo before: at Niepce in 2012, Place M in 2013, and at Case Tokyo in 2018.  This spring, Tokyoites are again offered the opportunity to enjoy a Jun Abe exhibition, Kokubyaku Note, at Studio 35 Minutes in Nakano. 


“Kokubyaku Note” was originally published by Vaccuum Press in 2010. It was followed by Kokubyaku Note 2 (2012) and Kokubyaku Note 3 (2021).  The photographs that make up this collection were taken in the 1980s and 1990s. Content-wise, Abe’s books- and this show- offer a peek into his photographic worldview, one which I feel is driven less from the desire for a beautiful image, but rather out of a compulsive interest in chance encounters with citizens and creatures and surfaces of his native Osaka.


Note for English readers: “Kokubyaku Note” is an interesting, sort of subversive title. “Black and White” is the term for monochromatic photography in English, but normally in Japanese it is literally sequenced as “White and Black” (shiro-kuro).  Abe’s title reverses the Japanese term, which, for linguistic rules that I won’t (can’t) get into, necessitates a different reading of the characters. “Shiro-kuro” (White and Black) becomes “Kokubyaku”(Black and White). The “Note” part is the noun the dictionary states is “ a brief record of facts, topics, or thoughts, written down as an aid to memory”. Quite fitting, as these photographs feel as if the snap of his shutter was jotting down a moment. 



This exhibition is held at Studio 35 Minutes in Nakano. Tucked into a charming, somewhat retro shopping street in Nakano, this cozy gallery was originally a 1-hour (well, 35 min.) photo lab- the kind that were once found in every neighborhood in Tokyo. Like so many local photo labs, the shop closed in the early 2010s. And yet, unlike any other photo lab, thanks to the investment of time and energy of photographer Kota Sake, it was lovingly repurposed into a unique gallery space.  Sake-san, who studied under Henry Wessel in San Francisco, kept the both the shop’s name and charming shop awning. After the neighboring ramen shop closed, Sake-san (fittingly, with his name!) opened a small bar which he connected to the gallery via a clever hole in the wall. Another unique aspect of Studio 35 Minutes are its hours: It’s an evening gallery, 4pm to 10pm.  (Closed Sun. Mon. Tue.)


While I had known of Studio 35 Minutes for years, I am embarrassed to say that this was my first visit. After enjoying the exhibition, the Oden served at the bar, and conversation with Sake-san, I know that it will not be my last time to drop by.  I can’t recommend this place enough. It’s a place designed for connections between art and people and represents everything I love about the photography scene in Tokyo. 


This exhibition consists of two parts: the first is up March 20th to April 6th, with the second half on display from April 10th to April 27th.  Prints- and several of Abe’s books- are available for purchase in the gallery. 





1970年代後半、阿部先生はベーシックなニコン一眼レフと35mmレンズ、コダックTri-Xフィルムという組み合わせを自身のものとして確立させました。この組み合わせは基礎的とも言えますが、阿部先生にとって世界を探索するための最適な組み合わせなのです。モノクロームのストリート写真家である阿部先生は、2006年には大阪を拠点とする写真集出版グループ「VACCUUM PRESS」の設立に参加しました。大阪出身で(関西人にしては珍しく)物腰の柔らかい阿部先生は現在、ビジュアルアーツ大阪で写真を教えています。





大阪を拠点に活動しているため、東京で写真展が開催される機会は滅多にありません。これまで私が東京で見た展覧会は、2012年のギャラリーニエプス、2013年のPlace M、そして2018年のCASE TOKYOの3度きりでした。





『黒白ノート』は2010年にVACCUUM PRESSから写真集として刊行され、その後『黒白ノート2』(2012年)、『黒白ノート3』(2021年)と続きます。これら写真集を構成する写真は、1980年代から90年代にかけて撮影されたものです。今回の写真展では、阿部先生の世界を覗き見ることができる内容となっていました。美しいイメージを求めるというよりも、むしろ、彼の生まれ故郷である大阪の市民や生き物、町の表面、瞬間的な偶然の出会いに強い興味を抱いていることを体感することができます。










スタジオ35分のもうひとつのユニークな点は営業時間です。 夕方16時から22時までのイブニング・ギャラリーなのです(日曜、月曜、火曜は休廊)。スタジオ35分の存在は何年も前から知っていたのですが、恥ずかしながら今回が初めての訪問でした。展覧会、バーで出されたおでん、そして酒さんとの会話を楽しみました。この店にはこれから何度も足を運ぶと思います。なぜならばここは、アートと人との繋がりのために作られた場所で、私が東京の写真シーンについて愛しているすべてを象徴しているのです。





Abe Jun 「Kokubyaku Note」

阿部淳 「黒白ノート」

前期「黒白ノート 2」2024年3月20日(水)〜4月6日(土)
後期「黒白ノート 3」2024年4月10日(水)〜4月27日(土)





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