Transient, Fleeting: The World of Ishimoto Yasuhiro part 24

Things Uncertain Looking at the clouds and imagining all kinds of shapes is fun. Like a playful response to those shapes, the clouds have been given a variety of different names, but those in Ishimoto’s photos aren’t clouds that suggest any concrete kind of object. If anything, he chooses misty or abstract looking clouds. Ishimoto’s photographs seem to be casually framing instances of clouds as accumulations of microscopic water particles that drift along, gather, and disperse again in the sky;

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Transient, Fleeting: The World of Ishimoto Yasuhiro part 23

Ise Shrine A person from the Jingu Museum at the Ise Shrine that I met about two years ago told me that they were “busy with sengu related events.” Surprised to hear that sengu, the periodic reconstruction/relocation of the shrine, is just around the corner again, I checked and found out that the next sengu ceremony was indeed scheduled for 2013. That’s still a few years away, but since there are as many as thirty different events during the period

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Transient, Fleeting: The World of Ishimoto Yasuhiro part 22

The Artistic Beauty of the Meguro River Can you imagine that this is the water surface of a river? Even after being told that it’s a shot of the Meguro River, to me it looks like a modern ink painting. The Meguro River is a river in urban Tokyo that crosses the Meguro and Shinagawa wards before arriving at Tokyo Bay. “The water downstream is dirty and black, but that’s actually what makes it look beautiful in photographs. When photographing

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Transient, Fleeting: The World of Ishimoto Yasuhiro part 21

Around the Yamanote-Line, Tokyo   The cat that poses at a 45-degree angle while looking straight at the camera makes a pretty good model. With its dignified presence it almost looks like the owner of this fruit and vegetable shop, while comparing it with the kuroneko (black cat) symbol of a certain delivery service on the fluttering banner on the left makes one laugh. This photo was shot on 8 x 10 inch film with a large format camera. 8

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Transient, Fleeting: The World of Ishimoto Yasuhiro part 20

Magazine Work There is an almost prayer-like silence surrounding the worker that humbly lowers her gaze as she puts her hoe down to the ground. The layered texture of the slope in the background, the handle of the hoe, and the striped pattern together project a moderate evenness, while the dots on the apron add a soft accent. When looking at this photograph, Ishimoto always admires the woman’s appearance. “People used to dress like this back in the day, very

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Transient, Fleeting: The World of Ishimoto Yasuhiro part 19

Someday Somewhere I took my slightly belated summer vacation recently and went to France. There was no particular purpose other than seeing Marc Chagall’s stained glass at the Reims Cathedral, and Chapelle Foujita, so the plan was to just ”take my time and stroll through the pretty streets.” But then, out of the blue came the news that Yasuhiro Ishimoto was having a one-man exhibition at a gallery in Paris, so I added the desire to ”see that by all

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Transient, Fleeting: The World of Ishimoto Yasuhiro part 18

Japanese Festivals Once the Yosakoi Festival that annually adds some color to the summer in Kochi is over, so is the peak of the summer heat, and the city slows down to its laid-back daily routine. Initially launched with the aim to enliven the local shopping district, the festival is held for the 53rd time this year (2006). In addition to the obvious religious festivals dedicated to the gods and ancestors, there are quite a few Japanese festivals with community-building

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Transient, Fleeting: The World of Ishimoto Yasuhiro part 17

Individual Realism “This is in front of Wako in Ginza. Just when I was about to shoot the vagrant kind of man in the back, a soldier of the Allied Occupation forces and a prostitute passed by, so I released the shutter in that moment. It was in the winter, at 4 or 5 in the afternoon I think.” 50 years ago, there was no sign of the pomp and glory that the Ginza district is known for today. Many

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Transient, Fleeting: The World of Ishimoto Yasuhiro part 16

Hinomaru Sceneries With European teams including that of host country Germany advancing to the semifinals, the soccer world cup is exciting enthusiasm around the world. I watched one of the “Zico Japan” team’s matches on TV, earnestly from players taking to the field to the end, but they unfortunately dropped out at the group stage. When the national anthems were played prior to the match, I was fairly surprised to hear “Kimigayo” (Japanese national anthem) reverberate across the stadium, as

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Transient, Fleeting: The World of Ishimoto Yasuhiro part 15

“The Course of Nature” and “Thorough Pursuit” After returning to Japan from his second stay in Chicago, Ishimoto began to teach at the Tokyo College of Photography and Tokyo Zokei University among others, while continuing to roam his everyday life environments in the Tokyo and Fujisawa areas, and observe people’s daily activities, just like he used to do back in Chicago. Even without particularly dramatic happenings, there are minute shifts that instantly occur in the otherwise largely static everyday, and

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Transient, Fleeting: The World of Ishimoto Yasuhiro part 14

Color and Form Overlapping The multi-exposure work of Color and Form that this part is about has been gracing the cover of the Takenaka Corporation’s in-house magazine Approach for a long time. By capturing the beautiful silhouettes of trees, superimposing architectural structures and other manmade elements, and occasionally adding shots of sketchbooks with painted pictures, Ishimoto has created a set of playful photographs. Preferring the tight air in the winter, he mainly did such multi-exposure work in that time of

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Transient, Fleeting: The World of Ishimoto Yasuhiro part 13

The Eros of Abstinence The “Mandalas of the Two Worlds” is a set of two mandalas – the “Taizokai (Womb World) Mandala” and the “Kongokai (Diamond World) Mandala” – that are kept at the Kyoo Gokoku-ji (To-ji) temple in Kyoto. Each of the two mandalas measures about 180 x 150 cm. Depicted on canvases the size of a grown-up man with his arms stretched out is the world of Dainichi Nyorai (Vairocana), the personification of absolute existence in esoteric Buddhism,

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Transient, Fleeting: The World of Ishimoto Yasuhiro part 12

The Beautiful Simplicity of the Katsura Imperial Villa The stage this time is Japan. One of Ishimoto’s most representative set of works is the Katsura series of photographs of the Katsura Imperial Villa in Kyoto. The airy rhythms that shoji screens and tatami mats create in the soft light; the multiple straight lines of the roofs’ edges; the modernist style expressed through lines and surfaces; the delicate arrangement of steppingstones… Encountering this set of photographs that highlight the appeal of

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Transient, Fleeting: The World of Ishimoto Yasuhiro part 11

The Final Years in Chicago “Half a year after returning to America, Shigeru (Ishimoto’s wife) found employment at S.H. Mori’s gallery selling works of Japanese arts and crafts, while I started working as a photographer. With the Minolta SR1 over my shoulder, and usually about ten rolls of film in my pockets, I was crisscrossing the city of Chicago from one end to the other.” (Asahi Camera, 1962) During the second period of Ishimoto’s stay in Chicago between 1959 and

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Transient, Fleeting: The World of Ishimoto Yasuhiro part 10

Chicago Snow Designs In the proliferating Japanese cities where architecture happens randomly and regardless of how a building integrates into its environment, and everyone puts up giant billboards for himself in order to stand out, urban planning is largely unrelated to aesthetic aspects. To the eyes of foreigners, the cities built on the principle of not adopting any principle seem to look rather interesting as uniquely novel Japanese urban landscapes. Even sceneries that are normally an eyesore naturally turn into

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Transient, Fleeting: The World of Ishimoto Yasuhiro part 9

Codes in Photographs Grouped around two men in the center, the crowd in this picture hold their breath as they gaze at a certain point. The photograph is charged with a sense of tension that suggests that something is about to happen this very moment, whereas the massive pillar that marks the central element here pushes the tension further up. What is it that these men are staring at? A hint can be found painted on the pillar. As you

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Transient, Fleeting: The World of Ishimoto Yasuhiro part 8

Lights and Shadows of Chicago The Ishimotos’ wedding anniversary was at the end of last month (October). As they married in 1954, they would have celebrated their golden wedding last year (2004). Matchmakers between the couple were ikebana artist Sofu Teshigawara and architect Kenzo Tange, and their wedding reception was held at the International House of Japan in Tokyo, organized by members of the Japan Design Committee of which Ishimoto was a founding member as well. The collection of private

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Transient, Fleeting: The World of Ishimoto Yasuhiro part 7

Children at Halloween The photograph introduced in the previous installment of this series shows a girl playing at a park. The girl is tied to a tree, and to many it obviously looked as if she was being abused. Children are sometimes ruthless and cruel. It probably was some kind of game in which brave boys would free the captured heroine. Children’s games are changing with the times (in different ways depending on the country). Yasuhiro Ishimoto used to play

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Transient, Fleeting: The World of Ishimoto Yasuhiro part 6

Between Two Countries As this year (2005) marked the 60th anniversary of the end of the war, various media had put together special programs reviewing the war. NHK’s “Shin-Nichiyo Bijutsukan” (“Sunday Museum”) did a showcase of internationally renowned sculptor Isamu Noguchi’s work. The program shed light on the issue that his plans for the Hiroshima Peace Memorial were rejected for the simple reason that he was American. The cenotaph for the A-bomb victims was eventually made by Kenzo Tange, and

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Transient, Fleeting: The World of Ishimoto Yasuhiro part 5

North Avenue Beach One of the Chicagoans’ favorite leisure activities in summer is swimming in the lake. Chicago is located in the inland region and therefore remote from the seashore, so their beach is at Lake Michigan, one of the five Great Lakes. Covering an area of 58,000km2 (about 90 times that of Lake Biwa), Lake Michigan is not only the sixth biggest lake in the world, but it also has beautiful sandy beaches. When standing on the lake’s edge,

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Transient, Fleeting: The World of Ishimoto Yasuhiro part 4

Black People’s Quarters in Chicago Every year between June and August, Chicago turns into a stage for a variety of blues and jazz festivals such as the Chicago Blues Festival, the world’s biggest admission-free blues festival that has been attracting hordes of blues fans to the city. The event offers an extensive program of blues performed by musicians ranging from amateurs to professionals, and even though black music styles tend to be associated with the southern states, Chicago has turned

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Transient, Fleeting: The World of Ishimoto Yasuhiro part 3

The New Bauhaus The Chicago Institute of Design (aka New Bauhaus) was established in Chicago in 1937. The faculty consisted of a number of leading figures in the realms of modern architecture and photography, such as photographers Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind, as well as architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and Buckminster Fuller, creator of the Fuller Dome. Ishimoto studied here from 1948 until 1952. In addition to the Photography department, the New Bauhaus had Design, Architecture

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Transient, Fleeting: The World of Ishimoto Yasuhiro part 2

Black Woman and White Baby In the terminal phase of World War II, Ishimoto left the Amache Japanese Internment Camp in Colorado, and found in Chicago the city where he chose to settle down. Before the end of the war, he was permitted to leave the camp, but it was still forbidden to go to the coastal areas. While Chicago, as I wrote in the previous part, is also called the “Windy City”, the State of Illinois where Chicago is

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Transient, Fleeting: The World of Ishimoto Yasuhiro part 1

Chicago, The Windy City Ishimoto Yasuhiro is a leading Japanese photographer who captured cityscapes of Chicago and Tokyo, children, and the Japanese traditional architecture of the Katsura Imperial Villa and Ise Jingu Shrine, in photographs combining warmth and exacting picture composition. Following is a brief summary of his career that is intended to serve as a basic introduction for all those unfamiliar with Ishimoto Yasuhiro, and as a reminder for those familiar with his work. Ishimoto was born in 1921

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Collection

Ishimoto Collection (1) Prints (34,753 items) Japan (Tokyo, Expo, Tohoku, Matsuri, Hiroshima and others) / Chicago / Shape (Product, Study, Paper) / Utsuroi (Cans, Leaves, Clouds, Snow Steps, Flow of People) / 8 x 10 (Yamanote-Line 29 and others) / Katsura / Ise / Flower / Multi Exposure / Mandala / Portrait / Nude / Shibuya, Shibuya / Buddhist statue and others. (2) Motion-picture film “The Church on Maxwell Street” (3) Photographic film Film positives (55,609 items) Islam / Claude

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Profile

Ishimoto Yasuhiro Profile Born 1921 in San Francisco. Left the USA to relocate with his parents to their Japanese home province Kochi at the age of three. Graduated from Kochi Prefectural Agricultural High School in 1939. Returned to America in the same year, shortly before the Pacific War broke out and Ishimoto experienced life at an internment camp. After the war, he studied photographic techniques at the Institute of Design (also known as New Bauhaus) in Chicago, and further trained

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