PhotoHistory 2000

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Chronological history of photography in Japan in 2000 (Heisei 12)

Researched and compiled by Philbert Ono

The Feb. issue of egg magazine (which hit the newsstands on Jan. 1) showed the results of an "I Love Photography" survey taken among 100 young and hip Japanese women.

The survey revealed that 66.4% of the respondents use a single-use camera, 18.5% use an ordinary camera, and 15.1% use a Polaroid camera. Among single-use camera users, Fuji Film's "Utsurundes" was the most popular brand followed by Kodak's Snapkids and the Konica Mini. Almost 75% always carry a camera. For film and other expenses, 34.9% spend over 3,000 yen/month, and 22.9% spend over 5,000 yen/month.

Over 86% prefer to be a professional model rather than a photographer. Slightly over 50% would like to pose nude as a remembrance of their youth. About 28% actually did pose nude before. The Japanese photographers they thought to be most famous were Kishin Shinoyama, Tenmei Kanoh, and Nobuyoshi Araki (in this order). The survey (which shouldn't be taken too seriously) also had silly questions such as "If you could photograph a decisive moment, what moment would that be?" About 12% said "when the sperm ejaculates," 5% replied "the face of my boyfriend when he climaxes."

Other answers included "when a baby is born," "when someone jumps off a building," and "when someone sneezes." Another silly question was, "If you had to pose nude (with pubic hair) for a magazine, how much would you do it for?" Some 21.6% said they would never do it. About 15% said they would do it for 1 million yen. And 11.7% said they would do it for 100 million yen. And one respondent even said 10 yen "as long as the photographer is skillful enough to make me look good in the photos." (egg magazine stopped publication with the March 2000 issue and was resurrected under new management several months later.)

The digital camera pixel race escalates further with major camera makers Canon (with the PowerShot S20), Epson (with the CP-900Z), and Nikon (with the Coolpix 990) announcing 3-megapixel models to be marketed in the spring. The cameras are priced from 99,800 to 128,000 yen.

On March 25, Canon markets its new flagship SLR camera, the EOS-1V. Priced at 270,000 yen (body only), it succeeds the EOS-1N. New features include 45 focusing points (but no Eye Control), a magnesium alloy exterior, water- and dust-resistant construction, 21-zone evaluative metering, 20 Custom Functions and 31 Personal Functions, and a maximum continuous shooting speed of about 10 fps (fastest in the world). The camera can also be connected to a Windows 98 personal computer (with USB port) via the EOS Link Software ES-E1 (sold separately for 19,800 yen, comprising a connecting cable and CD-ROM). Picture-taking data such as the date and time, shutter speeed, aperture, etc., can be downloaded to the computer to create a database. The computer can also be used to set various camera settings. The "V" in the camera's name stands for "Vision," as in looking toward the future. It also connotates the roman numeral for 5, symbolizing Canon's 5th-generation flagship SLR camera starting with the Canon F-1.

Tokyojin Tokyo-jin magazine devotes its March issue to photography with the title, "Tokyo as Told by Photographs." The issue features interviews of Nobuyoshi Araki and Kishin Shinoyama, and introduces established younger generation photographers like Takashi Homma, Masato Seto, Masashi Sanai, Yurie Nagashima, and Chikashi Kasai. A section on vintage photos of Tokyo is also included. The monthly magazine covers various Tokyo-related topics.

Helmut Newton's giant photo book titled Sumo Book goes on sale at major bookstores for 200,000 yen ($1,500 in the US). A limited edition of 500 copies is alloted for sale in Japan by publisher Taschen. The book's misleading title apparently only refers to the book's size (50x70 cm) and weight (30 kg) since there are no photos of sumo wrestlers in the book. The book comes with a dedicated stand designed by Philippe Starck.

On April 1, the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography receives a new museum director, TOKUMA Yasuyoshi, who is also the 78-year-old president of Tokuma Shoten, a large media company with interests in publishing, music, and movies. Tokuma was handpicked by ISHIHARA Shintaro, the Governor of Tokyo who is also a personal friend of Tokuma. Since Tokuma does not have a background in photography nor does he know much about Japanese photography and art, the appointment has ruffled a few feathers in Japan's photography world. However, most people have accepted the reasoning behind his appointment.

The Governor wanted someone with a strong business background to help increase the income of the museum which operates very deeply in the red. (In fiscal 1998, the Museum had expenses totaling 680 million yen while income from admission fees, etc., was only 44.15 million yen.) A museum director with a photography background would not have that business sense, the Governor claimed. (A veteran photographer who was also a candidate for the directorship thereby did not get the appointment.) Tokuma, who has a strong interest in film and animation, said that he plans to hold film showings (with films from the Tokuma Group) at the museum's 190-seat hall to attract more of the 10 million people that visit Ebisu Garden Place (the shopping complex where the museum is located) annually.

From April to June, Nikon starts accepting orders for a limited edition of the Nikon S3 rangefinder camera (with Nikkor S 50mm f/1.4 lens) which it will ressurrect to commemorate the year 2000. The S3 originally appeared in 1958 (and discontinued in 1967) as the cheaper version of the Nikon SP. The camera's original price was 86,000 yen. The price of the millenium Nikon S3 is 480,000 yen. The camera is assembled by hand by ten men and women at Nikon's factory in Mito, Ibaraki Pref. By the end of April, Nikon received over 3,200 advance orders which far exceeded the sales target of 2,000 units.

The 13th issue of Out of Photographers magazine published on May 25 becomes the last to be published by Shinchosha three years after the first issue came out. The magazine was devoted to publishing photo-diary type pictures submitted by readers (especially young females such as high schoolers). The good news is that a company called Office sama-sama will be restarting the magazine from autumn.

To commemorate their 50th anniversary since being founded in 1950, the Japan Professional Photographers Society (JPS) opened a 13-day photo exhibition called "The Heart of Japan" in late May at Bunkamura The Museum in Shibuya, Tokyo. Photos taken by 1,000 photographers from all over Japan are displayed. The exhibition later traveled to Fukuoka (June) and Osaka (Aug.).

Cell phone operator NTT DoCoMo markets a palm-size, cell phone accessory called the "camesse petit" (miniature camera messaging) which is a digital camera and e-mail terminal rolled into one. It connects to a cell phone and can take digital pictures (with a 110,000-pixel CCD) to be transmitted via cell phone to other people who have a camesse petit or personal computer. It has an LCD screen which displays the image taken. A stylus pencil can also be used to write messages or draw on the picture. Like Print Club stickers, it also provides various frames that you can select for the picture. The unit is compatible with Smart Media storage and costs 500 yen per month plus telephone charges.

For its June 2 issue which went on sale on May 19, weekly tabloid magazine Friday publishes a pitiful picture of the late prime minister Keizo Obuchi (died May 14 at age 62) in the Intensive Care Unit of the Juntendo University Hospital. The picture showed Obuchi in bed with a gaping mouth and tubes going up his nose. The picture was taken without authorization and the photographer has not been identified. The hospital denied the possibility that any of its staff could have taken the picture.

For the June issue, Studio Voice magazine once again provides a major section devoted to shashin-shu (photo books). It reviews 130 of the best photo books (mostly imported) that were recently published. Japan's Camera Press Club awards the Camera Grand Prix 2000 to the Canon EOS-1V and the Camera Press Club Special Award to the Nikon D1 and Konica Hexar RF. The Camera Press Club consists of camera magazine writers who evaluate new cameras. The awards go to the cameras voted to be the best of all new cameras introduced in the past year from April 1 of the preceding year

On June 1 (Photography Day in Japan), the Imamura-gu Shrine in Okayama conducted a Shinto ceremony to exorcise evil spirits and then burned photographs and photo albums disposed of by about 30 people who wanted to throw away photographs and old cameras. The rite was sponsored by Okayama Prefecture's camera shop association.

The annual Month of Photography, Tokyo is held in May and June. The Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography held a nature photography exhibition showing the best nature and wildlife found in Japan as captured on film by prominent landscape and nature photographers such as MAEDA Shinzo, TAKEUCHI Toshinobu, SHIRAHATA Shiro, and MIYAZAKI Manabu.

The Museum also held seven separate slide show lectures featuring a different photographer each time. They included IMAMORI Mitsuhiko, KUWABARA Shisei, SETO Masato, HASHIGUCHI George, and TATSUKI Yoshihiro. Meanwhile, the Shinjuku Park Tower displayed 565 photos by amateur female photographers whose work was selected from among 3,547 entries. And the Konica Plaza gallery in Shinjuku showed photos taken by 18 foreign students studying in Japan. Up to last year, this exhibition was limited to foreign students from Asia. However, from this year, "Asian" has been dropped from the title and the exhibition included photos by students from Argentina, Germany, and Brazil.

In June, Casio Computer Co. markets the WQV-1 Wrist Camera, the world's first digital camera that can be worn like a wristwatch. It weighs 32 grams and retails for 22,000 yen. It can take pictures while the camera is worn on the wrist. A 120x120 dot LCD viewfinder is on the "watch face" and the lens is on the top edge of the wrist camera. With 1 MB of memory built-in, it can store up to 100 black-and-white photos which can later be transferred to a personal computer via infrared wireless signals. It also functions as a wrist watch.

According to the Japan Camera Industry Association (JCIA) the total value of digital cameras (50.6 billion yen) sold during the first half of 2000 (Jan. - June) exceeded that of film-based cameras (excluding single-use cameras) (29.9 billion yen) for the first time in Japan. In terms of units sold, film-based cameras (1.75 million units sold) still exceeded digital cameras (1.11 million units sold), but the average per-unit cost was higher for digital cameras. The average amount spent for a film-based camera was 17,000 yen, and 46,000 yen for a digital camera.

In July, Japan's photography world lost two of its elder statesmen. UEDA Shoji died on the 4th in a hospital in Yonago, Tottori Pref. after collapsing from cardiac infarction. He was 87. He was best known for his "Ueda-Style" Tottori Sand Dune pictures with object-like people positioned and posed to create aesthetic spatial compositions.

And WATANABE Yoshio died of pneumonia on the 21st in a hospital in Mitaka, Tokyo. He was 93. He is best known for photographing Ise Shrine's inner precincts three times in 1953, 1973, and 1993 when it was reconstructed every 20 years. He was the only photographer allowed to photograph inside the Shrine.

TOKUMA Yasuyoshi, director of the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography since April 1, 2000 and president of Tokuma Shoten, died on Sept. 20 after less than six months as the museum director.

The Nikon F3 HP, Nikon's flagship manual focus camera that was in production since 1980, is discontinued at the end of Sept. after selling all 4,000 units made that month. The F3 and F3 T Black models were already discontinued in March earlier this year. This leaves the Pentax LX as the only camera in production for 20 years.

Asahi Graph The Oct. 13 issue of Asahi Graph magazine (Japan's Life magazine) becomes the weekly magazine's last after being in publication since 1923 by Asahi Shimbun newspaper. (Life magazine in tne US also stopped publication in April 2000.) The magazine's circulation dwindled to 50,000 to 60,000 for recent issues while the peak circulation of 1.53 million was attained during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

University of Tsukuba professor emeritus SHIRAKAWA Hideki (64) is caught by surprise upon learning that he won the Nobel Prize in chemistry on Oct. 10. He is a co-winner of the 9 million kroner (US$915,000) award along with Americans Alan J. Heeger and Alan G. MacDiarmid. They are credited for developing plastics that can conduct electricity. The plastics they developed are now widely used in products such as photographic film and computer screens to prevent static charge. Shirakawa is the ninth Japanese to win a Nobel Prize and the second Japanese to win it in chemistry.

On Nov. 6 at Tokyo City Hall, Tokyo Governor ISHIHARA Shintaro meets and appoints FUKUHARA Yoshiharu, the 69-year-old chairman of Shiseido Cosmetics Co., to be the new director of the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography. The appointment was brought about by the sudden death of former director TOKUMA Yasuyoshi. Upon his appointment, Fukuhara remarked that the museum was in a difficult fiscal condition and that he wanted to make it a museum that people would want to visit again. Fukuhara is a nephew of FUKUHARA Shinzo (1883-1948), a noted photographer who was also the second president of Shiseido.

The Dec. issue of Taiyo magazine becomes the photo documentary magazine's last after being in publication since 1963 by Heibonsha. The magazine's circulation dwindled to about 50,000 for recent issues while the initial circulation in 1963 was 200,000.

Heibonsha, publisher of the defunct Taiyo magazine, announced that the annual Taiyo-sho photo award named after the magazine has been discontinued after 37 years. Nobuyoshi Araki was the first winner of this award in 1964.

Renown photographer HOSOE Eikoh stages a major retrospective exhibition titled "Eikoh Hosoe Photographs 1950-2000" at the Shoto Museum of Art in Shibuya, Tokyo from Dec. 12, 2000 to Jan. 28, 2001. The exhibition later travels to Kushiro in Hokkaido and Akita in 2001.

Young female photographer NAGASHIMA Yurie holds a big exhibition titled "Pastime Paradise." It includes works created from eight years ago when she made her spectacular debut with nudes of herself and her family. The exhibition is held from Dec. 18 to Jan. 31, 2001 at SCAI The Bathhouse in Yanaka, Tokyo.

In 2000, a number of major photo galleries such as Mole in Tokyo and Tower Gallery in Yokohama have closed. Major photo-oriented magazines like Asahi Graph and Taiyo have ceased publication and many publishers have pulled out from publishing serious photo books. As a result, Japan's photographers are feeling a pinch in finding mediums to show their work. The role of the Internet is thus becoming more important for photographers in Japan.

2000's most memorable photo books (random order): Pastime Paradise by Yurie Nagashima, A Chronicle of Japan by Shigeichi Nagano, Japanese War Brides in California 1978-1998 by Tsuneo Enari, The Japan Domon Ken Wanted to Convey by Ken Domon, Luna Rossa by Eikoh Hosoe, Underground by Naoya Hatakeyama, Okinawa by Okamoto Taro - by Taro Okamoto, Portraits in Sepia by Naomi Izakura & Torin Boyd, Invisible Power (Mienai Chikara) by blind photographers, 328 Outstanding Japanese Photographers by Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Rooms and Underwear by Maki Miyashita, Agnes Lum (Agnes Lum) by Kenji Nagatomo, Idols 1970-2000 by Kishin Shinoyama, Apple 1972-1977 (Nami Asada) by Yoichi Aoyagi, Camera Maniac Diary 1990-1999 by Nobuyoshi Araki, Shashin Shijo Shugi by Nobuyoshi Araki (See http://photojpn.org/books/index.html for book reviews.)

Next: PhotoHistory 2001

History of Japanese Photography Index
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