Last night thanks to Koji Onaka I ended up getting an early copy of the 5th offering from Osaka based Vacuum Press- another fantastic book by Jun Abe: Kokubyaku Note.
The title itself is an unusual reading of two common kanji, Black (黒) and White (白). Normally in Japanese monochromatic photography is called “白黒”, White and Black- here he’s reversed it to the same sequence used in English, indeed “note” is in Katakana, the syllabary reserved for foreign loan words.
Stylistically this book picks up right where his previous book, Citizens, left off. While the work in Citizens was taken in 4 years between 1979 and 1983, Kokubyaku Note is a collection of pictures shot from 1996 to 1999.
In Kokubyaku Note Abe presents even more intensely dense pictures with overlays of people (his citizens), consumer trashy kitsch, and the scuzz of streets in Osaka.
I feel there is a tonal shift in some of these pictures- not in printing but rather something that makes it just slightly less desolate and at times more touching. A photo of a pigeon preening it’s mate in a maze of iron girders and rivets comes across as tender as any two humans might look pictured together. Other pages feature images living creatures which look like the descriptions of basic animals given by someone who has only heard of them secondhand.
I’ve spoken with Ota san of the Tokyo publisher Sokyusha and he figures that Mr. Abe has at least enough work for another 4 or 5 books.
I can’t wait.