Lifetime

Photograph taken in May 1935 by Sukezō Fukase, Masahisa’s father, on the banks of the Teshio River. From left to right: Fukase’s aunts, one-year-old Masahisa, his mother and his grandmother.

1934

Birth of Masahisa Fukase on February 25 in Bifuka, Nakagawa District, Hokkaido. He is the eldest of three children (two boys, one girl) born to Mitsue and Sukezō Fukase. His father, Sukezō, runs the Fukase Photographic Studio, by then into its second generation.

1940

Begins primary school.

1946

Starts at Nayoro Junior High School, Hokkaido.

1948

Fukase sets up a school photography club. He is also an avid reader of photography magazines.

1952

After high school, he enrolls in the photography department of Nihon University College of Arts in Tokyo.

1956

After graduating, he gets a job at the Dai-Ichi advertising agency and begins living with his companion of the time.

1960

Photographs he takes for Dai-Ichi lead to his first exhibition, Sky Above an Oil Refinery (Konishiroku Gallery, Tokyo).

1961

Kill the Pig exhibition (Ginza Gallery, Tokyo).

1962

His partner leaves him.

1964

Begins working at the Nippon Design Center. Marries Yoko Wanibe who he had met the previous year.

1967

Appointed photography director of the Kawade Shobo Shinsha publishing house, and contributes regularly to Asahi Journal.

After the Kawade Shobo Shinsha goes bankrupt, he returns to freelancing, and, with his marriage on the rocks, moves out of his home and goes to live in Shinjuku, a district in eastern Tokyo.

1971

Returns to Hokkaido, and takes photographs of his family in the Fukase studio. Publication of the book Homo Ludence (Chūōkōron-sha, Tokyo).

1972

Continues photographing his family, getting the actresses and butoh dancers who accompany him on his trips to Hokkaido to pose alongside them.

1974

Begins photographing Bifuka with the 6 × 8 view camera that he finds in a storeroom in the family home. He appears in the family portraits for the first time. Shoots the images that will become his parents’ “funerary portraits.”
Visits New York for the New Japanese Photography exhibition at MoMA, curated by Shōji Yamagishi and John Szarkowski, for which his work has been selected. Co-founds the Workshop Photography School.

Family photograph taken by Masahisa Fukase on September 17, 1974, in the pastures of Onnenai, in Bifuka.

1975

Photographs Shitamachi, the “lower districts” of Tokyo. In October, he publishes “Black Box—To My Grandfather” in Camera Mainichi. Stops the series of family photos for which he has returned to his family home every year.

1976

Just before his divorce from Yoko, he makes a trip to Hokkaido and returns with the photographs that would be published in eight parts in Camera Mainichi under the title “Ravens” from October 1976 to November 1982.
In October, he has his first exhibition for 15 years, Ravens, at the Ginza Nikon Salon, then at the Shinjuku Nikon Salon and Osaka Nikon Salon. He moves to Harajuku, western Tokyo.

1977

His photographs of ravens in front of the castle gate are published in Camera Mainichi (January 1978) under the title “Ravens 3—Ishikawa Gate, Kanazawa, at Dawn.” Adopts a kitten, Sasuke, and decides to photograph it for a year, putting himself at the cat’s eye level. Wins the Nobuo Ina Award for his exhibition, Ravens.

1978

Yohko exhibition at the Shinjuku Nikon Salon in February, then at Ginza Nikon Salon. Publication of the book Yohko (Asahi Sonorama, Tokyo). His photos of Sasuke are published in two books, Viva! Sasuke (Pet Life-Sha, Tokyo) and Sasuke!! My Dear Cat (Seinen Shokan, Tokyo).

1979

To keep Sasuke active, he adopts another cat, Momoe, and publishes photographs of them both in The Strawhat Cat (Bunka Shuppan Kyoku, Tokyo). Ravens 1979 exhibition at the Ginza Nikon Salon in May, then at the Shinjuku Nikon Salon and Osaka Nikon Salon. After Shōji Yamagishi’s death, Fukase begins going out with his camera every day to photograph landscapes.

1981

Ravens: Tokyo Episode exhibition, from June to July, at the Ginza Nikon Salon, then at the Osaka Nikon Salon.

1982

Exhibition of the photos of his trip to India, Ravens: Last Episode, at the Ginza Nikon Salon in November, then at the Shinjuku Nikon Salon.

1983

In October, simultaneous exhibitions of two series of photographs of the 14 different places where he lived over 30 years, including numerous images of the Matsubara residential complex where he lived with his wife (Walking Eyes 1 at the Ginza Nikon Salon and Walking Eyes 2 at the Shinjuku Nikon Salon). Realization of “A Game,” a series taken with a giant Polaroid, published in the December 1983 issue of Camera Mainichi.

1985

After a 10-year gap, he restarts the family photographs in the Fukase studio, which he continues until 1989.

1986

Publication of the book Ravens (Sōkyūsha, Tokyo).

1987

Death of his father, Sukezō, in January.

1988

Memories of Father exhibition in March at the Ginza Nikon Salon.

1989

Closure of the Fukase family studio. Break-up of the family: his mother, Mitsue, enters a retirement home; his brother and wife divorce; and his sister moves to Sapporo, Hokkaido, with her husband.

1990

Private Scenes—Letters from Journeys opens in November at the Ginza Nikon Salon, then at the Osaka Nikon Salon.

1991

Simultaneous publication of two books: Family and Memories of Father (IPC, Tokyo).

1992

Private Scenes ’92 opens in February at the Ginza Nikon Salon. Awarded the Higashikawa Special Prize. On June 20, he falls down the stairs of his favorite bar causing serious brain damage, leaving him incapable of doing anything for himself. Spends the next 20 years in a care home.

2012

Masahisa Fukase dies on June 9, aged 78.