Golden Age, 2020


Location: Three Shadows Photography Art Centre, Beijing, China 
Artists: Nobuyoshi Araki, Daido Moriyama, Masahisa Fukase, Miyako Ishiuchi, Eikoh Hosoe
Travelled to Three Shadows Xiamen Photography Art Centre, China; Chengdu Contemporary Image Museum, China
The exhibition is one of the “2020 Sino-Japanese Photography Exchange Festival” program.

Influenced by culture, politics, economics, and other factors, we as humans retain a sense of mental distance, and the thing we call reality produces an understanding that encompasses many different elements. This transcends the visual and points to a mental interaction. At the same time, we can only perceive the world through these appearances; it’s simply our mode of existence.
——Koji Taki, “The Metaphor of the Eye”
“Golden Age: Five Masters of Japanese Photography” presents 118 classic photographs by Nobuyoshi Araki, Daido Moriyama, Masahisa Fukase, Miyako Ishiuchi, and Eikoh Hosoe. They emerged in Japan in the 1960s and 1970s, and influenced by their predecessors, they contributed fresh ways of working to the development of Japanese photography. They are now considered a golden generation that is influential even today.
The exhibition presents the photographers’ most familiar and important works (Moriyama’s Hunter, Araki’s Sentimental Journey, Hosoe’s Ordeal by Roses, and Fukase’s Ravens), as well as Ishiuchi’s Moving Away, shown publicly for the first time. The exhibition does not follow a chronological path; the three sections “Under the Burning Sun,” “Eros and Provocation,” and “Eternal Void” link nearly fifty years of personal development that falls under these larger historical labels.
“Under the Burning Sun” presents pieces that show how the photographers’ times influenced their work. Eikoh Hosoe reconstructs childhood memories in Kamaitachi while Daido Moriyama captures the suffocating feeling of Tokyo’s back streets. “Eros and provocation” is fascinating and beautiful. Setting aside body politics, the works in this section give a wonderful response to the depression and gloom of the larger environment through the power of individuals and the beauty of their limbs.
Everything ends. Even the creators of this golden era have departed from stagnant history and confronted ordinary themes, such as the deaths of family members or self-exploration, all alone. “Eternal Void” presents a somewhat indeterminate conclusion. The peace of Ishiuchi’s beautiful street scenes extends to the present in which we find ourselves, but it also forces us to recognize that era is long gone.
Every generation of young people feels that the previous generation was full of rising stars, while their feet are still stuck in the mud, but what does it matter? As Takahiko Okada wrote in a poem in the final issue of Provoke:
No need to rush down the road.
Those who fear making mistakes always perish.
The value they have to threaten the morrow is an illusion.
If you freeze the wind’s shadow, you will flinch at its vulgarity…
No need to rush down the road.