Eikoh Hosoe - Man and Woman - Portfolio 8, Chikuma Shobo, Tokyo, 1971.
Portfolio containing 11 prints in 60 x 42 cm format.
New - It has never been opened. In perfect condition. The cardboard shipping folder is part of the auction.
The portfolio is an excerpt of 11 pictures of Hosoe's small book "Man Woman" published by Camera Art, Tokyo, in 1961.
Man and Woman is a strikingly avantgarde study of the human body. Already known for his work on writer Yukio Mishima and the dancer Tatsumi Hijikata, this would be the culmination, that has a psychological edge to it. This injection of psychology (as I remember mentioning in the Fukase write-up), was something that exemplified a lot of the post-war Japanese artists across a variety of mediums, from Abe Kobo in literature to Oshima Nagisa in cinema. It is no secret how Hosoe was affected by the war, since just after it, he changed his birth name of Toshihiro to Eikoh to symbolise the new Japan and then - to show his dismay of the atomic bombing - made a short experimental film in 1960 on the subject. It was all of that that went into the expression of Man and Woman.
Falling in line with the late 60s, the images in the book reflect the ‘Provoke’ style in being extremely high-contrast and grainy, which - in 2014 - is instantly refreshing, since most photography on the human body is overly concerned with detail and quality, so that we never get to see it done in such a raw way. Yet all that aside, it is the motifs he uses and the angles he shoots that make his work relevant today. In all of the photos, there is no background… just blackness or, in a few cases, grey. That bleakness is combined with the style of numerous post-war painters, who mangled and deformed their subjects. Hosoe does the same here in a number of compositional methods, whether it be a picture of a woman’s behind with an odd number of arms coming from out of the top right side of the frame or one of the model with just her head perfectly situated between a man’s torso and forearm.
A photo at the beginning of the book seeks to achieve the same effect of deformation by simply taking a low angle of the legs, whilst contorting the arm out in what is shot of a woman’s more conventional images in the first section. If forced to make a comparison, one could only say: Man Ray. Especially in the juxtaposition of the apple and a woman’s behind, this work is reminiscent of Man Ray’s view of a woman’s backside, suggesting a cello-like shape.
The Man Ray comparison is but a stretch, as the book is decidedly Japanese. An image that sees a woman’s head off centred to the right with an arm from the right side of the frame, extended across the photo horizontally holding an octopus makes me feel that way. Since the art period of ukiyo-e, octopuses were used as motifs to indicate sexual tension.
Also, there is a western model in some of the earlier shots, biting into an apple and again holding a bitten apple. This is something strangely taboo in Japan, as one does not just bite into an apple - it must be cut. Yet in the 1960s, this was seen as a rebellious act, best exemplified in the break-out of the Japanese New Wave film in Oshima Nagisa’s ‘Cruel Story of Our Youth’ that was slated as the ‘Breathless’ of the movement. In this film, the youthful protagonist defiantly bites into an apple in a close-up, while two doctors in the next room discuss the illegal abortion procedure they just performed on his girlfriend, while commenting on the Japanese youth in general. Subtle, but like the deformities of the human body mentioned above, and the look of the work here… it all embodies this time period.
The last portion of this book explores exactly what the title infers - the study of man and woman. In many of the images, there is a suggestion of being one or coming together. This idea begins with the most obvious - a kiss - and on the next page, a woman’s breast contoured to a man’s bicep. Later in the book, the photos show the limbs of the opposite sex coming into the already tight frames of a man’s or woman’s body, that he poetically poses in the manner of the Mishima photos of earlier years. In another photo, the silhouette of a man’s breast, that meets that of a woman’s, becomes abstract because of the grain and high contrast. playing well to the ‘Provoke’ aesthetic.
- Number of Books
- Author/ Illustrator
- Eikoh Hosoe
- Book Title
- Man and Woman Portfolio
- Publication year oldest item
- 1st Edition
- Original language
- Chikuma Shobo
- Binding/ Material