Masahisa Fukase 1961-1991 Retrospective, 2023

“I never think that I can capture a certain subject by taking a photograph of it. What is important for me is how deeply I can enter into it, and to what degree I can cause it to reflect me. I want the very act of looking through the viewfinder to be a flesh-and-blood action… I strongly feel that photography can be freer, more open. I believe it is possible to relate to it in a way that encompasses my entire being.”

Masahisa Fukase, 1969

By focusing intently on his personal life, Masahisa Fukase carved out a unique place for himself in the history of Japanese photography in the 1960s. While exploring the origins of photography, Fukase developed a major practice among a group of artists associated with what later came to be known as shi-shashin (“I-photography”).

Fukase pointed his camera at those in his immediate surroundings, including his wife and family; and while exposing his own private life, he consciously explored the madness that lay deep within himself. This madness led to remarkable and unparalleled works that combined Fukase’s loving gaze for his subjects with his carefree sense of humor.

This book “Masahisa Fukase 1961-1991 Retrospective” boasts a substantial assemblage of works, including major Fukase works, such as “Yūgi (Homo Ludence)”, “Yōko”, “Karasu (Ravens)”,  “Sasuke”, “Kazoku (Family)”, and “Bukubuku”.


Fukase said his work “always comes from things around me, things I can touch with my hands,” he “saw myself reflected in the (subjects’) eyes (and) wanted to photograph the love that I saw there.” He sought to convey “the multilayered nature of existence” in a single photograph by endeavoring to capture “a reflection of myself,” but as photographs do not reveal the photographer’s true intentions as well as words do, even when this practice was an expression of love, he repeatedly encountered “the paradox of being together for the sake of photography. However, Fukase was evidently confronted with the paradox of a love-hate relationship with photography since he was a child, long before he mastered language. ” […]

Most of the things that Fukase spent his life gazing at were familiar parts of his surroundings. In other words, while he engaged with the kinds of subjects that anyone could easily shoot on the spur of the moment, there is a definitive essence to his photographs, and it is this essence, of heartrending earnestness, that made Masahisa Fukase the photographer he was.

Fukase was a photographer with vision and willingness to experiment, who applied an extraordinary sensibility when he took photographs. He took them as if he were touching and stroking his subjects, as people do with their smartphones today, rather than observing them through a camera, and in the current era when posing with oneself in the scene has become commonplace, we can empathize all the more with the perspectives and sensibility expressed throughout his oeuvre, and even get to the primal roots of what people enjoy about photography. Fukase’s work was never lost to the past, but was playing a long game with photography that extended far into the future, when we would finally catch up with it.

Extracted from the text 

“A Game of Undifferentiated Subject and Object: The Paradox of Love and Photography”


Tomo Kosuga [Director, Masahisa Fukase Archives]