(26) Hand in H/// with Gr//t Bo/ks
Then came a minute of silence in the café. The three friends sat and watched the evening sun casting shadows from the vinyl lettering adhered to the store-front window, creating partially obstructed words on the floor:
Great Cof/// goes hand in h/// with Gr//t Bo/ks
Bento broke the silence and asked, "What have you bought Yoji?"
"Two books, America by Andy Warhol, and Avedon's France. And you, you?" Yoji passed an inquiring look to both Bento and George.
"The latest book from Sally Mann: a thousand crossings; The Writings of Marcel Duchamp." Bento said.
"I've got The History of Japanese Photography. I know so little about the development of photography in Japan. Do you know this book Yoji?" Asked George.
"I know there has been an interest in rediscovering photography in the East for the past twenty thirty years. In fact Japan has a parallel development in photography like the West but largely unknown, and the world has already begun rewriting the history of photography. I have a friend in Toronto who does research on this topic and if you guys are interested, we can invite him out and chat."
"Definitely. But before we do that, let me briefly run through the book. By the way the cover design is really eye-catching." George handed the hard cover book to Bento.
Mr. Bento took over the 400 page book with both hands, "This big red sun is so Japan … wait, this is actually a huge five-blade iris. Such a clever and effective design." He paused and took a sip, "I have always thought the Japanese has a natural tendency to merge east and west culture, but before all of that, trade always came first. As early as in 1543 the Portuguese traders had already landed Tanegashima to sell their firearms. Followed by the English, Dutch and Spanish who didn't want to fall behind. The Americans came in the 1850's but their influence, good or bad, continues till today. It was also around this period the Meiji Restoration took place, creating a massive influx of western technology and culture. Japan picked up photography as soon as it was brought over from the French and the English. There were already Japanese photographers in the mid 1850s, only thirty years after the first photographs Niépce made."
"Not many people know that Japan has a photo history that paralleled and mirrored western photography, and the medium had developed with more or less the same pace along with the west. All this happened very fast just because Japan had abandoned the policy of national seclusion, and within decades, had replaced its feudal government with a constitutional monarchy and moved on to rapid modernization." complemented Yoji, but stopped before it went too deep down into history.
"But we're still fascinated by the West! Look what you've bought, Andy Warhol's America photographs and Avedon's France. Tell me what do you see in them that interest you?" George said with a smile.
"I used to think Andy Warhol's photographs were just party pictures, or snap shots of famous people, celebrities he happened to come across. But I must admit I have other thoughts now. This guy was really persistent, obsessed with images and carried a camera everywhere he went, constantly living and recording his experiences. In hindsight, he had documented an era, if not a complete picture, certain class and aspects of US life. To say Robert Frank's the Americans seemed to have experienced the quintessential America of the mid 1950s, Andy Warhol's America revealed to us, through his inner circles, and life-long pursuit of lifestyle, glimpses of the relaxed and unguarded selves of the rich and famous in the 70s and 80s. Right now I'm also looking into the history of the US, going back to as early as the 20s, an interesting period when she just climbed out of the first World War, only to march to the second." Yoji fixed his eyes on the Black and white cover of Warhol's America. Hovering over the back of the statue of Liberty, was a shot taken from an aerial point of a helicopter at night.
"Talking about wars, I noticed there's a picture book of WWI in BMV, and it says the very first war photographer was actually an American, attached to the U.S. forces fighting in the Mexican War in 1846 and 1847. These images were captured using daguerreotype, which was just invented in 1939. Unfortunately this photographer's name has been lost to history." Mr. Bento looked at the time in his cell phone, it was almost 9. The sun was getting lower, closer to the western horizon, the sky tinted a blushing red, "It's time to go?"