Towards The City

Toshi-e (Towards the City)  Yutaka Takanashi

My goal for 2011 is to buy a significant photo book each month. (I would love to buy ten a month! but I've set a budget for one) This means careful consideration and research goes into each monthly selection. One of the best ways I have found over the years to select choices is to look at the Best Of photo book selections on the Photo Eye web site. Each December a number of top photographers, critics & curators provide their list of the best photo books for the previous year. I spend quite a bit of time looking through these lists and developing wish lists for my future collection. My book purchase for March came from Alec Soth's list, Yutaka Takanashi's Toshi-e (Towards the City). Published by Errata Editions.

Yutaka Takanashi’s Toshi-e (Towards the City) is a landmark two-volume set of books from one one of the founders of the avant-garde Japanese magazine Provoke. Published in 1974 and considered the most luxurious of all of the Provoke era publications, its brooding, pessimistic tone describes the state of contemporary life in an unnamed city in Japan undergoing economic and industrial change. Books on Books 6 reproduces all one hundred sixteen black and white photographs that make up the two volumes. Photographer, writer and book historian Gerry Badger, contributes an essay called Image of the City - Yutaka Takanashi's Toshi-e.

I chose the book primarily because of it's connections to my own interests in New Topographics photography of the late sixties to mid-seventies.(New Topographics was my first photo book purchase of 2011) Takanashi's book was published in 1974, the "year of the oil crisis", and the images are about economics, consumption, urban society, and the tensions between free flung consumerism and the resulting price to be paid down the road. Many of the images were in fact taken by Takanashi through the open sunroof of his car while speeding down the road. In his essay for the book, Gerry Badger describes the images as "Robert Frank or William Klein on speed." These are not the careful, quiet studies of Lewis Baltz, Frank Gohlke, Robert Adams, or the other New Topographers who were photographing the man-altered landscapes of America during the same period that Takanashi was recording urban Japan. I like the subtle similarities versus differences that involve the Japanese and American responses to urban landscapes during a time period when both countries were still deeply enmeshed in a post-war economic and political relationship, what Badger describes as schizophrenic (from Japan's point of view).

One really interesting thing about this book... I ordered it from Photo-Eye earlier this week and it arrived in my mailbox on the day of the Japan earthquake and tsunami. I sat in the safety and comfort of my living room paging through this book on a day of terror and sadness for many Japanese. I was amazed by the images below from the book in light of the events that had taken place on that very day.

At times like this we want to reach out and help in our own individual ways. I was pleased to learn that some quick thinking photographers on Facebook have organized an online photo auction to benefit victims in Japan. Photographers can donate a print to be auctioned in a limited edition of ten 8" X 10" prints to be sold for $50 each with 100% of proceeds going to Japanese quake relief efforts. The group is called Life Support Japan, and I will post more details as they develop. I am donating Curtains (Rhawn Street) which was chosen by Larry Fink for ONWARD 11, and will be traveling in a group show to Ring Cube gallery in Tokyo, Japan this coming May. I thought it was an appropriate selection. My thoughts and prayers go out to those who are suffering in Japan.

Photo Eye Best Books of 2010

Errata Editions

Life Support Japan