‘Ravens and Red Lipstick’ Tells the Story of Japanese Photography


Sato Akira – cover image - Takashima Mieko (Cold Sunset), 1960 Pg.64 Courtesy Satō Ema and Michael Hoppen Gallery, London. © Satō Ema

Ravens and Red Lipstick, a new book by a British art curator, offers a rare look at Japanese photography from 1945 onwards. In this 288-page book, Lena Fritsch deconstructs the stereotypes and other interpretative frameworks that Western criticism and research tend to apply to Japanese artistic production.

Taking a chronological approach, she studies the key periods of recent history one by one, from post-war realism to the more introspective and ‘pop’ photography of the last two decades, like the photo of lipstick by Ishiuchi Miyako, entitled Mother’s #38, from 2002, which inspired the title of the book, and also the work of Mika Ninagawa.

In each chapter, the photos featured in the book are accompanied by an interview with an artist and various explanations, notably concerning the socioeconomic context of the shot.

This exhaustive introduction to contemporary Japanese photography, in all its diversity and subtlety, comes from an expert eye. Lena Fritsch, who works at the Ashmolean Museum of the University of Oxford, specialised in the study of art and Japanese photography of the 20th and 21st century.

Shibata Toshio, Okawa Village, Tosa County,2007 Pg.183 Courtesy the artist and Zeit-Foto Salon, Tokyo. © Toshio Shibata

Fukase - Kanazawa – 1977, from the Ravens series, Pg.118 Courtesy Masahisa Fukase Archives. © Masahisa Fukase Archives

Ishiuchi Miyako, Mother's #38, 2002 Pg.261 Courtesy the artist and Third Gallery Aya, Osaka. © Ishiuchi Miyako

Moriyama Daido –Hunter series, 1972 Pg.82 Courtesy Moriyama Daidō Photo Foundation. © Moriyama Daidō Photo Foundation

Yoneda Tomoko - Lovers, Dunaújváros (formerly Stalin City) Hungary (2004) from After the Thaw series, Pg. 195 Courtesy the artist. © Yoneda Tomoko