This roundtable explores distinct challenges confronting the historiography of Japanese photography, outlining emerging directions of recent research and writing, and addressing the structuring limits and exclusions of existing discourses. Despite measured forms of selective reception of Japanese photography by art museums, art markets and art history, photography itself has always encompassed and exceeded the discursive, institutional, and material conditions of art as such. How might an interdisciplinary inquiry contribute to critical, comparative, and even, planetary perspectives on photography’s manifold contours? What novel expansions of the given conceptual and geopolitical imaginaries of photography can we discover through the lens of thinkers, writers, and photographers working within and without the bounds of photographic practice in Japan? In response to these and other urgent questions, roundtable participants will discuss key issues wrought from their work to collectively investigate the prospects and problems of an interdisciplinary historiography of photography in Japan.
Mycah Braxton will reappraise the close ties between the nascent advertising photography industry and Japanese avant-garde photographic artists from 1929 to 1934, through both restrictive art circles and national commercial production. Yuri Handa will examine Fuchikami Hakuyo and Japanese photographers in Manchuria as a jumping off point to discuss larger challenges with the writing of the history of Japanese photography. Daniel Abbe will discuss the canonization of Provoke, a Tokyo-based photography magazine from 1968-1969 that is now taken as the emblematic representation of "Japanese photography" in popular and museological contexts outside of Japan. Charting systemic exclusions by gatekeeping institutions and critics in the Japanese photography world, Kelly McCormick will rethink the production of historical knowledge about the practice of photography from feminist perspectives. Franz Prichard will explore how the critical writings of Nakahira Takuma and the contemporary installation practices of Komatsu Hiroko reveal the decisively unsettled, uncertain, and yet, inexhaustibly generative eco-critical insights of photography. Finally, Ayelet Zohar will consider the changes photography in Japan went through over the past decades (Heisei era), when the indexical mark lost its primary significance, and photography has transformed from an image-making apparatus, to a medium of performative “photographic” presentations in Japan.