Photobooks of 2019: John Sypal
Tibet by Shinya Arimoto
Shinya Arimoto spent the late 1990′s hitchhiking around Tibet with a Rolleiflex and a backpack full of film. That’s the simplest introduction to these pictures. Arimoto- over the course of three separate six-month visas- produced portraits that are as interesting, as proud, as thoughtful, and as beautiful as any in the history of the medium. This book, beautifully printed by Zen Foto Gallery in Tokyo, is a compilation of his 1999 Taiyo Award winning series with a second set of unpublished photographs from 2009.
Gekko Shashin by Nobuyoshi Araki
In the seven years (1964-1971) prior to his declaration of being a photographer Nobuyoshi Araki spent his late twenties filling twenty-six large scrapbooks with a dizzying amount of wildly experimental and until now, mostly unseen work. Editor Toshinori Arai’s decision to make these pages available was a great one, but trying to condense as much of the original material as possible into a single book- even one that’s over five hundred pages thick- was surely a difficult yet amazing experience.
Crossroad by Hiroyoshi Yamazaki
My favorite book of the year- the sheer clarity of Yamazaki’s fill-flashed panoramic street photographs of early 90’s hold visual pleasures in a quantity that few other books could match. There’s always something new to see- and if it’s not the content that keeps you hooked, his improbably successful compositions will. This is an instant classic and one I can’t recommend enough.
Judy Zhu by Coca Dai
There are lots of ways to organize a photobook collection – Photographer, country, or subject matter.- maybe “street”, or “landscape”. If you’ve got a space on your shelf labeled “Photographer Wives”, well, this book goes there. Coca and Judy’s lives are presented as one that’s combined into something that’s sometimes grainy, sometimes date-stamped- sometimes mundane yet mostly interesting- and often but not always clothed. In short, it (both the book and their lives) makes for an experience overflowing with life and love.
Todoroki by Keizo Motoda
Motoda’s street portraits feature a lot of black leather and chrome- he is drawn to the outlier/rocker sensibilities he finds in Tokyo. This set, made over the past two decades is a follow-up to his 2001 book Blue Water. Motoda’s pictures present the style and persona of his subjects- but also the cracks where vulnerability peeks out.
Who is Michael Jang? by Michael Jang
This is The Big Book of the Year and all the buzz and praise is aptly deserved. Jang’s photographs from the 70’s and onward prove that an open print made from a camera steadied by wit and sensitivity make for the best kinds of pictures. Mr. Jang, next please put out a book of your notes & stories from studying under (around?) Friedlander and Winogrand.
Photography needs this – and you, and Lee, and Garry, now more than ever.
City Confessions #1: Tokyo by Ed Templeton
Ed Templeton gets around- and has for a long time now. Luckily, this new series smartly published by Super Labo is set to show what he’s seen, city by city. Tokyo fittingly starts this international journey and I can’t wait to see more.
Showa 96 by Kazuyoshi Usui
Slick, vivid, and garishly cool, Showa 96 brings to a close a future that is never to be- and at the same time a present that never is. Photographer Kazuyoshi Usui’s has pulled from all sorts of tropes and patterns to reveal a Japan made “real” through his considerable technical skills- and sense of humor.
John Sypal is a photographer living in Tokyo. He regularly exhibits his work as a member of Totem Pole Photo Gallery and celebrates the city’s photographic culture through Tokyo Camera Style. He contributes monthly to Nippon Camera magazine and publications include Zuisha (Zen Foto Gallery, 2018) and Tokyo Camera Style (Thames & Hudson, 2015).
Images: top – City Confessions #1: Tokyo by Ed Templeton, below – Who is Michael Jang? by Michael Jang