This post features 2 street photography books shot in New York by 2 different Japanese photographers.
The first book New York Is is by the late Takayuki Ogawa.
In April 1967, Takayuki Ogawa travelled to New York with his wife Wakako and spent about a year taking photographs. When I first looked through the photographs featured in the book, they reminded me a lot of Robert Frank’s The Americans. Like The Americans, the American flag appears interspersed throughout Ogawa’s book like a recurring motif.
The Japanese edition of The Americans was released a year before Ogawa travelled to New York and I suspect must have been a strong influence for him. New York Is shares the same title as a book that Robert Frank released in 1959 as a compilation of ads from the New York Times. During his stay there, Ogawa showed a portfolio of his New York photographs to Robert Frank. After carefully looking through Ogawa’s photographs, Robert Frank wrote the following on the front page of his book:
“To Takayuki and Wakako with all my best wishes. I think your photographs are much like it is in New York. Sad and …”
Ogawa’s New York Is was one of the nicest surprises for me this year when it comes to photography books. I had never heard of him before and bought this book based mainly on the quirky looking photograph he took of the elephant in the parking lot littered with trash, which I came across on the internet. The photographs in the book are both extremely strong when viewed together as a body of work as well as when looked at individually. His photos capture the prevailing mood of the late 60s with the civil rights, pro- and anti-Vietnam war movements as well as the hippie culture.
New York Is consists 125 black and white photographs over 163 pages. The book contains a reprinted essay in Japanese and English by Ogawa from 1968 and two essays by photography curators Nathan Lyons and Anne Wilkes Tucker. A DVD of film footage shot by Ogawa in New York is also included in the book. The book is in an edition of 1000 copies.
The second book 71 New York is by Daido Moriyama.
71 New York reprints the out-of-print 2002 ’71-NY book which collected together photographs Daido Moriyama shot on a half-frame camera (each roll of film yielded 72 frames instead of the standard 36 frames) while on a month long trip to New York City with famed graphic designer Tadanori Yokoo in 1971.
Whilst Ogawa’s main inspiration for his New York work seems to have come from Robert Frank, Moriyama’s comes from William Klein. Moriyama has frequently cited William Klein’s New York book which was released in 1956 as a major influence for his style of shooting. Moriyama writes at the start of the book:
“New York” by William Klein, “Brooklyn Gang” by Bruce Davidson, “Naked City” by Weegee, “The Silver Factory” by Andy Warhol, “Velvet Underground” by Lou Reed, “Midnight Cowboy” by Dustin Hoffman, “Another Country” by James Baldwin and “Underground America” by Kenji Kanesaka. They all were the entrances, the passages, and the whole of substance of ‘New York’ where I longed to visit since my young days. In the early winter of 1971, I stepped on the ground of NY for the first time, and was standing still on the pavement of Manhatten.
The photographs from 71 New York are shot in the typical are-bure-boke (rough, blurred, out-of-focus) style that Moriyama is known for. I found the mood of the book rather depressing. I must admit that I am probably suffering from ‘Daido Moriyama fatigue’ due to being saturated by his work over the last 3-4 years. The number of his books that I own (14 when I last counted) far outweigh the number of books I own by any other single photographer. He seems to be releasing a few new books a year.
71 New York (384 pages) features around 210 black and white photographs and a few pages of his contact sheets.
Between the two books, I obviously enjoyed Ogawa’s New York Is more than Moriyama’s 71 New York. I would not hesitate to recommend New York Is whereas like all Moriyama’s work, 71 New York remains an acquired taste. Both books are available from Japan Exposures.