RONA YEFMAN: LET IT BLEED
In 1975 Kitajima joined the Workshop Photo School where he studied with Daidō Moriyama and established relationships with other distinguished photographers. The Workshop dissolved the following year, but it allowed Kitajima to make a place for himself in Tokyo's photography community. Subsequently he established an alternative gallery space, Image Shop Camp, with Moriyama and Seiji Kurata in 1976. During that time he built a photographic body of work that focused on Tokyo and culminated in a yearlong series of monthly solo exhibitions at Image Shop Camp in 1979, titled Photo Express: Tokyo. This work presents a disorderly and aggressive portrait of the people of Tokyo.
Moriyama encouraged Kitajima to expand his scope to beyond the confines of Japan. In 1981, Kitajima spent six months in New York roaming the gritty streets and frequenting clubs. The rich black and white aesthetic of his New York series combines soft edges with a classic urban street photography style. The images he captured during his visit present a vision of eighties New York that was full of energy and abundance while also encapsulating scenes of quiet desperation. He later published the work in a book titled after the city.
In the fall of 1990, Kitajima received a commission from Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper to visit the Soviet Union. It was an overwhelming duty and opportunity for Kitajima to spend a year documenting both people and places of 15 republics, 11 time zones, and thousands of miles in between. He captured images of a nation and its people in a time of turmoil, all the while maintaining a level of open objectivity. Kitajima’s USSR 1991 series is an aesthetic departure from his high contrast black and white photography, as it was photographed with the now obsolete Kodachrome slide film, and offers a painterly account of his assignment.
The photographs in A.D.1991 were made during a series of trips between 1983 and 1990 throughout Eastern and Western cities, including Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong, New York, London, Paris, Berlin, Budapest, Warsaw, and Prague. The images in this body of work feature close-up color and black-and-white street-style portraits, juxtaposed with images of unpopulated urban landscapes.
About Keizo Kitajima
Keizo Kitajima was born in 1954 in Suzaka (Nagano Prefecture), Japan. He began photography at an early age; his discovery of the precursory works of Nobuyoshi Araki and Daidō Moriyama marked his teenage years. He was an original member of the Workshop Photo School. Like Moriyama, Kitajima developed an interest in the creative potential of photography’s reproducibility, but he took the notion of transformation in a very different direction, focusing on the layers of reproduction in his own work rather than the degeneration of cultural media. Kitajima’s photography is haunted by an obsession: identity, or rather the opposite; what Kitajima himself calls un-identity.
Image credit: Keizo Kitajima, A.D. 1991.
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