Entries in Kazuhiko Motomura (2)


Jun Morinaga

"well, he isn't going to spoon feed us, is he?".


Photographer Jun Morinaga passed away on April 5. 

In the world of photography, packed with numerous trends, Morinaga was one photographer who kept maximum distance from them all.  His first book RIVER, its shadows of shadows, is an unequalled jewel.  Published in 1978, RIVER is true visual meditation as it gazes at life in motion, taking on darkness and death.  Above all, this book shows the connection between real and abstract, where the river becomes a floating house while abstraction turns into reality. 

Kazuhiko Motomura, the publisher of Robert Frank's Lines of My Hand and Flower Is, gave us only a handful of photography books and Morinaga's RIVER stands out among them.  One day I showed this book to Catherine Duncan, a writer who worked with Dutch filmmaker Joris Ivens and American photographer Paul Strand.  After a few pages, she turned to me and remarked  "well, he isn't going to spoon feed us, is he?".  How true that was!  Kate became fascinated with RIVER, "it is like taking a long walk without knowing where you are heading”, adding, "had Paul still been alive I would give this to him to use as the manual for his garden work".

Kate, Jun and Motomura later met to discuss writing the text for Jun’s new book titled Sea - on the Waves.  Her text was written and she titled it Notes.  Probably it was sent to Motomura but life took a turn.  Kate died and then Motomura.  Sea - on the Waves was later published but without Kate’s words.

With my two friends, Kate Duncan and Jun Morinaga in mind, Kate’s text follows (thanks to the kind permission of Maggie Keane, Kate’s daughter).  



(Catherine Duncan)

Born on an island, it is inevitable that the eye should travel beyond the precincts of the self.   Sometimes the heart does not follow to become a wanderer. Resisting the outward tug of  tides, the Rip, and those horizons north over which the Mainland lies, or south to the Pole under its crust of ice, the eye looks inward, to those caves of solitude where spirit rejoins its origins.    Here, wearing fur and hide, spear in our flanks, one in that dim coherence -hunter and hunted.


Born under Pisces, two fish inhabit our relationship with the sea.   One glides, caressed and comforted by transparent tides.   The other, fired by desire to escape, rockets upwards into light and air.  To gasp out its element on the deck of a ship perhaps, but the land is within reach, the fins are almost wings.


There is something grotesque about the heaving bosom of the sea, this massive opera singer spouting up through a blow hole in the cliff, song itself become expectoration.


The trouble is with memories that you go round and round them.   Nothing happens. Then, one day something happens. They get into time. Now what? Nothing to do with the now. Shoveling dirt on the shards. What's this sticking up? Escaped from the old turmoil. Aerial. Pulling on the past to escape.  And there we are, clutching at it for dear life, holding the life line.   Present.


Ocean is that absence from ourselves when we create the unknown, working at depths of memory before speech. Nothing is ever forgotten. Images float between two waters, unseen by the sun.  Only the click of a shutter can reveal an image in the present and how it is pieced together from vestiges of the past.


The reproduction of reality by a photograph empties that reality of its material presence. Even the naked eye is deceived by a technique that can reveal the invisible, enlarge or illuminate, transform , displace.

What was once distant can now be brought , by reproduction , into close-up enabling the viewer "to see the universe in a grain of sand" - a new and transitory possession of the unattainable . What we are looking at is no longer reality, simply one of many possible variants of how forms in relationship can change

It  may take many grains of sand to reproduce all possible angles of the universe.

For this reason perhaps, Morinaga works in series ­- Beach & Sea, River & Shadow, Sea & Waves - pitting himself against the irreversible change and movement of his material, to reveal the nature of their being.

These are words, and they in no way help us to see what these photographs keep so well hidden. They can only suggest that Jun Morinaga has shifted from an objective view of reality to a new perception of unlimited relationships .

With his work, reproduction itself becomes an essential part of how we perceive reality..


Sea - on the waves, made around 2000 


Thanks to Barry Kornbluh, for his patient text editing.

(C) Photos Jun Morinaga - all rights reserved.

The image of the slipcase from RIVER, its shadow of Shadows is shown with the kind permission of the publisher Yugensha.





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.