Book review – Domon Ken: The Master of Japanese Realism

SKIRA’s release of two seminal books on the past and present of Japanese photography mark a renewed appreciation of this increasingly varied genre. In the first Domon Ken: The Master of Japanese Realism, Domon is recognised as the leader of post-war Japanese realist photography. His razor-sharp vision, shifting from propagandist images of the second World War, evolved to its zenith with his quest to capture the true meaning of being Japanese throughout the ages.

Domon Ken 15Photograph by Domon Ken

The honesty and authenticity of what follows is haunting – occasionally raw and very compelling – pictures of Hiroshima a decade after the atomic bomb being a great example, with plastic surgery scars of the survivors a reminder of a past that should never be repeated.

Domon Ken 13Photograph by Domon Ken

Domon’s most famous collections are featured here, organised in themes such as Pilgrimages to Ancient Temples which some readers will recognise as source inspiration for artists such as Hiroshi Sugimoto. Other examples of his important work that broke new ground include scandalous (at the time) images of the Tokyo Red light district (1964) and a heartbreaking series on orphaned post-war children.

Domon Ken 4Photograph by Domon Ken

by Ethan Long

Domon Ken: The Master of Japanese Realism by Rossella Menegazzo & Takeshi Fujimori, retails at £30, is available from Skira

Leave a Reply