Kazuhiko Motomura 


Kazuhiko Motomura passed away

Many people will be touched by this

Such a beautiful man


Not long after I published my first book Heartbeat in 1994, I received a letter from Japan from Mr. Kazuhiko Motomura. It was a friendly letter telling me he had found my book in Tokyo and he asked if I would send him a dedicated copy. He would be happy to pay my price plus shipping, or he could propose a Japanese photo book in exchange.

I sent him my book and received a Japanese book in return. At that point I had already entered the world of Japanese photography books and I knew who he was: the Japanese publisher who, in the early seventies, asked Robert Frank to do a book, which became The Lines of My Hand. Frank writes warmly about the visit by Motomura in one of the editions of this book. Motomura also published Frank's simply wonderful Flower Is, and he published Jun Morinaga's River, its shadow of shadows, which comes close to the most perfect meditative object.

The first book he sent me was Daido Moriyama's Inu no Toki from 1995, with work made in New York, Okinawa and Tokyo. Motomura had Moriyama dedicate it to me and in his fax he described the exhibition, the differences between the series and what Moriyama had told him about this work.

In 1995 conversations about photography books were still about the content of these books. It was about the photographs and the ideas they proposed and not about their pricing, their condition, their so-called innovative importance. We would go to the antiquarian bookstore, we would first check the section on countries, as it was there you could find La France de Profil by Paul Strand, William Klein's city books, Roman Vishniac's Polish Jews . . .

Motomura and I exchanged many, many books. First we kind of kept an eye on what we each spent, but we dropped that as we went along. I remember finding a copy of Dutch Details by Ed Rusha in a small Dutch town. Not really my thing, but I could see it was a strong and interesting book and told Motomura about it. The fax machine answered in two minutes, with a large YES handwritten on a piece of paper. I sent him all Johan van der Keuken's books, some books by Ed van der Elsken and Sanne Sannes, these being my favorites from my own country. Dave Heath, A Dialogue with Solitude; David Seymour, A Loud Song; Ken Schles Invisible City; Christer Strömholm Poste Restante; Anders Peterson Grona Lund and Ingen har sett allt . . . hardcovers of Vietnam Inc. by Philip Jones Griffith and The Destruction Business by Don McCullin - too many to recall.  And in return he sent me known Japanese books, his own publications, and also many (to me) unknown Japanese books. There was one unexpected box with all eight titles by Kiyoshi Suzuki. I sat on my floor unpacking each one, happiness to the top !

We finally met in 1999 when I went to Tokyo to meet photographers who were going to be part of the exhibition Wonderland, for which I was guest co-curator. Noorderlicht in Groningen, produced this exhibition. Motomura had asked me to meet some photographers, like Jun Morinaga and Kiyoshi Suzuki. It was my first time in Japan and I spent three, four days going around, to galleries, museums, second hand bookstores, libraries and meeting photographers. Motomura had hired an interpreter, Gallery Mole was the central place, we spent from early morning to late evening together, I drank more than I ever had and ate little transparent fish, I believe it was to celebrate spring.

We met several times in the following years, in Japan and in Europe. On his request I introduced him to one of my dearest friends, the writer Catherine Duncan. They talked about Kate writing a text for the next book of Jun Morinaga. I had shown Kate Morinaga's River book, which touched her very much. She felt a connection with Paul Strand's photographs on his garden, the work she knew so well.

Motomura helped when Yoko Suzuki and I met to discuss doing a retrospective exhibition with Kiyoshi Suzuki's work, again with Noorderlicht. We had tea way up in one of Shibuya's skyscrapers, Shin Kajimura was helping with the language. Motomura sat there at this table, with smiling eyes and he said almost nothing. It was his presence that made us all feel safe.

How can you describe a man who is nothing but kind? Who is so important to Robert Frank, who at the same time pushed the work of many young photographers in Japan. He was always showing me someone's work - a small exhibition, a set of prints or a book dummy.

  (Kazuhiko Motomura, in the library by Gallery Mole, Tokyo 1999)

It is strange we never understood each other's words while we talked. Until translated I could only guess what he said. By then it had mostly become practical. Perhaps we spoke with our eyes. One time in Amsterdam I had dinner with him, Jun Morinaga and Reinier, another close friend. There was nobody to help with the language; the conversation was about photo books, philosophy, the dinner, Kate. Now I realise it was mostly the personality of this one man that made all that possible. His presence alone implicated many layers of kindness and trust.

In recent years we had less and less contact. I wondered about him and his family and hoped everything was ok. I also wondered about his many friends, in Japan and around the world and I was sure everyone was missing him and wondering too. 






International New York Times - 5 August 2014 Fotomuseum The Hague

SIMPLE, YET STRANGE   The work of the Dutch Photographer Machiel Botman often consists of isolated fragments of reality, distorted in various ways to infuse a sense of beauty, and sometimes menace. Through Aug. 24, the Hague Museum of Photography is showing the first major retrospective of Mr. Botman's career from 1965 to 2012, including photographs that have never been published.

STILL LIFE   Mr. Botman's black-and-white images reproduce a world in which time appears to stand still, a world of feeling and a certain sadness. Every 10 years he releases a book of photographs that aim to create a visual poem. Clockwise from top left: "Homecoming, 1994"; Window Toscana, 2002"; "Horse & Church, 2008"; and "IJke Flowers, 1993."


Click her for the Photomuseum in The Hague




Three Books 

Last night the Fotomuseum Den Haag opened my exhibition! And we had Three Books there! What can I say? 

For now I just post some pictures of the book. It is for sale in the museum, at Kahmann Gallery in Amsterdam and you can write for copies. I will soon post more information and images. 

This is a book about all my years, images from the previous books and many images that were not published. And it shows lots of spreads from my bookdummies. 


Fotomuseum The Hague & a book called Three books

Ok, in two weeks this exhibition opens, on saturday 17th of may. Victor Levie and I worked on this since over a year. About 100 prints with images from my beginning to now, many images I never used. The prints are with the framer and we are working on final things re the book. First time for me to print on uncoated paper. The printer is Robstolk drukkerij, the tests - very good stuff.

cutting pages for the dummy of three books


One Photograph


   (Santa Monica 1978)


Of course it’s a great image.  Just on its own and without the stories around it.  I was 23 years old, a boy with a beat-up Pentax and not thinking about photography or how to make this picture.  It just happened. But looking at it weeks later many things crossed my mind. It was mainly about the potential of photography. And it hit like lightning. If this could come about from a subconscious universe, shit, the possibilities are endless.

The place is Santa Monica, California, by the pier. I decided to forget this city and the dreams I was chasing.  My landlord screamed at me for giving such short notice and I overpaid him with the little extra money I had. I couldn’t care less. The next day I had my flight back home. But for now, I escaped the walls of my apartment. 

I went to the pier to find the few friends I had made and say goodbye, but I only found Phil, the clown. I met him months before. Once he told me of the two of us, I was the real clown, the one with the constant sad eyes.  He was right. I had been unhappy all along. Phil stood there in this crazy light between day and night and without dropping his clown act, said “Shit, your eyes can smile, did you finally get laid?”.  I told him I had fallen in love back home and was leaving the next day.  He refused to have a drink “I hate to have a drink with someone I'll never see again. Why don’t you piss off!”. 

I then asked to photograph him. Once I had the camera in my hands, his posture changed, as if he went on stage. Every inch of his body smiled at me.  He crossed his legs with a beautiful slow gesture, like a heron on water and told me “Thanks a lot Machiel, I will miss you a lot”.

This all takes place almost 35 years ago and I write this with a life behind me, a life that became filled with photography.  I look at this image now, as I have so many times before.  I never liked clowns very much but I loved Phil.  And yes, we never saw each other again.  How perfect can a photograph be? The clown melts into what's around him, but Phil stands out because he shows me something he never showed before - love. Was he aware that I didn’t see it when taking the picture but would see it later on?  I’m quite sure he was. 

The lights shining through Phil's clown skull reminds me of his stories “Of course I’m a psychopath.  But in this country they don’t see it when you act like a clown.  Look at Nixon!” While the clown stands solidly on the pier, the undefined structure of the wooden planks gives the illusion that his personality is floating. The rest of this image is space or matter inside space. Years later, the Dutch painter Constant stared long at this image and said “I didn’t know that photography could do this”. He didn't care about Phil, or about the clown. He was interested in the feeling that space implies.

I'm a b&w photographer. In my book Drifting the clown is printed in black and white. This was a mistake and the image lost its soul. Gone are the colors of the hair, the lips, the bow tie and the white shoes lost their secret - their ability to float yet stand firmly on the ground.

I never thought much about shooting color or b&w. I simply went for b&w because I could then do my own printing, in solitude. This photo ended a three or four year period of living the life of someone I was not. The image also gave me direction in photography.  Right from the start there was total clarity despite its blur. That clarity originates from a harmony between the many layers inside; dynamics, light, the clown who was indeed a psychopath and a photographer who is so present in the clown's pose. Above all, this image reveals photography's wonderful ways to record something we are not aware of.

Much later I understood that these moments of transition are the key to absolutely beautiful photographs, as we move with a sense of floating, unconnected to our past and future.


(for his patient text editing and corrections: my gratitude to Barry Kornbluh)