Mika Ninagawa – ‘Tokyo’

Mika Ninagawa‘s Tokyo is a nice-enough foil to, and last round of, my silly back and forth between Daido Moriyama’s super-saturated, high contrast, gritty black & white photography (made fairly continuously from the mid 1960s to the present*) and Hiromix’s color work made between ~1995 and 2000. Why Ninagawa and not another Hiromix book? Well, sadly, I’m fresh out of Hiromix books,** and given that the last Moriyama book in my collection is Tokyo, a catalog from an exhibition of his and Somei Tomatsu’s work from the titular city, Ninagawa’s view of that same city roughly a half-century later seemed appropriate.

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Daido Moriyama & Shomei Tomatsu – ‘Tokyo’

Tokyo is an exhibition catalog from ‘Tokyo: Daido Moriyama, Shomei Tomatsu,’ which ran at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie (MEP), Paris, November 11, 2020 through February 28, 2021. I wasn’t in Paris at the time, and bought this from publisher Akio Nagasawa, and I very much hope it’s the last Moriyama book on my to-review shelves….*

Be aware: there are a few NSFW photographs in the catalog.

I don’t wholly regret picking up a copy of Tokyo. Copies of Tomatsu’s books from the 1960s-1980s are scarce and expensive, and while Chewing Gum & Chocolate saw several reprints, others are long out of print and it’s nice to see even a small selection of other work.

My favorite part of the catalog is probably the volume of texts, which includes an introduction from MEP director Simon Baker and statements from both photographers, written in 1970, 1972, 1997, and 2007 (Moriyama) and 1976, 1987, and 1999 (Tomatsu). It’s interesting to see how their thoughts changed over the years, or not, and to compare their thoughts to those from, say, Stephen Shore over the same period. (Short answer: they’re all pretty much thinking the same sorts of things, and just expressing and working through their thoughts in idiosyncratic ways.)

The catalog contains three volumes: the text one, and one each for Moriyama and Tomatsu. I might’ve liked to see everything in one volume, with images from the photographers carrying on a conversation. Instead, the volumes sort of function as a greatest hits album for the two, with works made in Tokyo over 40 or so years. (Images from Moriyama are undated, but I recognize many from the Pocket 55s book; Tomatsu’s pictures were made between 1954 and 1981, with the vast majority coming in the 50s and 60s, most of which I hadn’t seen before.)

So, short answer, it’s a nice introduction to Tomatsu and Moriyama, if nothing else.


The only place the catalog falls down, in my opinion, is in the binding of the two image volumes. Tomatsu’s book is ever-so-slightly wider than Moriyama’s: the cover overhangs the pages by a millimeter or so. This gives Tomatsu’s book a somewhat more finished and quality feel. Tomatsu’s images also have some white space, titles, and etc. Moriyama’s book is pretty much a smaller version of one of his Record zines, all glossy and printed full bleed.

Overall, I rate Tokyo a not-quite-recommended 4 stars.

Tokyo remains available direct from the publisher, and in pulling that link I discovered a second version, produced for the exhibition when it ran in Rome. Tokyo: Revisited includes some additional images and costs the same, and I won’t be buying a copy. Both are cheap-ish and maybe worth if you need a rather overly-specific overview of both photographers and their work.

*There’s one more… smh. It’s not really a photobook, though. It’s more of a how-to thing. Still….

‘Polaroid Now’ – Steve Crist & Gloria Fowler, ed.

Polaroid Now: the History and Future of Polaroid Photography collects recent (2010s) work on expired Old Polaroid and Impossible/Originals New Polaroid stocks by rising (Insta)stars of the medium. There’s some killer work in it, for sure, and seeing the images larger in print—in this book, anyway—gives a slightly different impression than the images did when I first saw (some of them) on the ‘gram.

Steve Crist reprises his editor role from The Polaroid Book, and contributes a brief introductory essay. Given that I recently spent a week with the earlier book, I was stuck by a single line early on: “I stepped through the gates of the Polaroid Corporation in Waltham, Massachusetts, back in 2004.” Hummm… Strange. In The Polaroid Book, which came out in 2004, he says “… I first visited the Polaroid Collections in the fall of 2003.”

Memory is notoriously fickle, and maybe the Polaroid Collections were held somewhere other than the Polaroid Corporation headquarters—I don’t think so, since he also mentions meeting with Barbara Hitchcock in both locations—and I don’t blame Crist for this error, and where was the copy editor, the fact checker?


This is a strange thing to lead a photobook review with, and more or less wholly immaterial to the rest of the book. Oh well. It’s the first thing that struck me, and the one that stuck with me most strongly, so….

The book opens with the picture of Andy Warhol holding an SX-70 with a selfie hanging out of its mouth that everyone knows. Actually, this picture is on the endpapers, so one could say the book opens and closes with now rather ancient history. Anyway. There’s Andy on the end papers, a page with the title on, two pages of pink, then Polaroid portraits of Debbie Harry and Jean-Michele Basquiat, two selfies by Keith Haring, a shot of Andy with a skull by Peter Beard, and a 9 image collage selfie by Chuck Close before you get to Crist’s essay.

After Crist, there are a couple of old ads and a shot of Polaroid iType boxes whizzing their way through a factory. Oskar Smolokowski recounts his early-ish involvement and thankfully mentions Doc Kaps in the process. Another picture of a Polaroid iType box— this time it’s being stuffed or sealed—follows, and then we’re in to the meat of the book: current (2010s) users of expired Old Polaroid, sketchy early Impossible Project, more stable Polaroid Originals, and (presumably) fairly rock solid New Polaroid films. Most of this work looks—to my eye—very much like it was made by very competent, if fairly new (and rather wealthy… or sponsored) users of the medium, users that cut their teeth on Hipstamatic and the like.

I don’t begrudge. Hipstamatic and an iPhone 4 got me interested (again) in photography after many years away, and we all take inspiration from wherever we find it.

This work looks great, and no question, and still I’m bothered by some of it. Much of it makes great use of the materiality of polaroid images, largely by destroying the print somehow: there are only a few emulsion lifts, but the emulsions lifted number more than a hundred (I’m guessing); many artists peel the layers apart and somehow show the color image with the border from the backside of the image, framing it like that Hipstamatic “film” I can’t recall the name of, but used with abandon in the 2011/12 timeframe; others are painted on or stitched or whatever, and in writing that, I remember seeing the stitched one on Insta in the mid 2010s.

Thinking about it now, and comparing the pictures in Polaroid Now to those in The Polaroid Book, there’s a sort of nostalgia for both the materiality of analog media and the look of Old Polaroid at work in these, and it all seems as much about likes and all than anything else, really. Maybe I’m jaded… I’m definitely feeling rushed (good old WordPress lost 4 paragraphs and I have 7 minutes to finish this before publication time), so I don’t really know what I’m trying to say except that I’m a bit ambivalent about Polaroid Now.


Used copies of Polaroid Now go for about 90% of what you can find new copies for, so maybe others are a bit ambivalent about it too? That, and it is a mass market book with many thousands of copies out there, so…. There is surely and certainly some inspirational and excellent work in the book, and if you’re interested in Polaroid media, then it’s worth picking up, if only for getting a good list of active Instagrammers using Polaroid.

And that’s probably what bothers me most, and I have to just leave it at that, with apologies.

‘The Polaroid Book’ – Steve Crist, ed.

The Polaroid Book: selections from the Polaroid Collections of Photography is, as one might guess, a selection of Old, formerly existing Polaroid’s collection of prints. Sadly, New, currently-existing Polaroid (fka “Polaroid Originals,” fka the “Impossible Project”) no longer owns most of the collection: a quick Google at the time I unboxed the book shows it was largely/partly sold off, with some portion going to the Impossible Project, and so this little book is a document of something that no longer exists. Equally sadly, I believe the book is also out of print.

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Thomas Campbell – ‘YOD’

As a child of the 1980s, and one long steeped in the (very mainstream) counterculture of the late 1980s and early 1990s, I have a large and abiding soft spot for skateboarding and skateboard culture, and I have this soft spot despite not really ever having the coordination to skate at all….

YOD, the book from Um Yeah Arts, seems like it could be the name of a skate crew out of California, much like DSC is a skate crew out in Dallas…. It’s not, but it sure seems possible. Looking at the list of skaters (in the publisher’s blurb), I suspect I met some of them during my time hanging around with DSC. I certainly spent a bit of time with some fine members of MSK and SWR and MF, and who likely knew some of the people in the film and book, not that it matters.

The book appeared some time before, and served, I think, as a round of funding for a skate film called, appropriately enough, Ye Olde Destruction.*

I’m not sure I ever watched a skate film before; if I had it’s been a long time, and I expected more of a documentary. What I found, though, is a collection of skate videos made at various spots in California—swimming pools in abandoned neighborhoods; curb spots behind mini malls; actual skate parks; etc.—with running soundtrack from shoegaze-ish, noise rock duo No Age. The group travels about in 1970s Cadillacs, which they often park haphazardly on one side of a hip ramp, and then use as rails to grind and whatnot. The film even opens with a scene of the group skating the main car out in an abandoned neighborhood. One member pops up onto the hood, loses his footing—maybe on purpose—and rams his board through the windshield.

Good times.

The book seems to be mostly stills from the film, and Campbell credits Brian Gaberman, Arto Saari, Jai Tanju, French Fred with some pictures. Running commentary appears throughout, scribbled over top of the images. and it would be more legible and more interesting—as a photobook—without the largely illegible notes scrawled across them. The notes are helpful, I guess, in that they note the tricks performed and who performed them, the photographer—if not Campbell himself—maybe locations, etc. I appreciate it as an example of combining text with image, and can see maybe doing something similarish, maybe, but in this particular case, I find it quite distracting.


Overall, Ye Olde Destruction rates a solid 4 stars.

At time of writing, copies of YOD remain available direct from Um Yeah Arts. IF you’re interested in skating as I am, maybe watch and enjoy the film first, and if you’re still interested, then pick up the book. It’s good, and the scribbled text contributes some to the whole “destruction” business, so maybe it’s more necessary than I want it to be. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the hour I spent watching the film, and the two or three hours I spent flipping through the book. I’m not sure how often I’ll return to it, but it’ll fit nicely into the library for sure.

*The book includes a link to a private VIMEO where one can view the film, and which the book requests to “Please keep the link to yourself, Thanks,” though at time of writing anyone can watch the film, so….

Daido Moriyama’s “Women in the Night”

In late 2020 or early 2021, Akio Nagasawa announced a new, 4 volume series of silk-screened canvas-bound photobooks from Daido Moriyama. I immediately preordered the first, and kept an eye out for the other three. Ends up, there were 5 total and there’s a surprise sort of ending, sort of. Taken individually, I don’t have much to say about any individual volume; collectively, though, I think they may be the best thing Moriyama has released.

Head’s up: three of the 5 volumes contain a few NSFW photographs.

Each book contains a brief postscript from Moriyama in Japanese and English, all of which follos the same (or a very similar) format: “There was a woman called [Name] in [Location]. She was a person who loved [Thing(s)]. It’s already [unit of time] since [I saw her, she disappeared from, etc.]. Even now, I still think of her sometimes. This is a profile of her as she appears in my memory.” At first, this may not seem to mean much, but, trust me, the text is pivotal to the work.

Shinobu hung around in Shinjuku’s red light quarter and loved flowers. At time of publication, Moriyama hadn’t seen her in a decade. Guess what? The images show mostly (what I guess is) Shinjuku and flowers, with various close-ups of hands and feet, ear, shoulder, etc. of a woman (or women: it’s hard to tell), and mid- and full–length faceless portraits of the woman in various states of undress. As with all volumes in the series, I didn’t get it the first time, or the third, but it grew on me.

Hiroko loved ENKA (whatever that is) in Osaka’s Minami district. Moriyama hasn’t seen her in five years. Now. The Safari web browser auto-completes to https://enka.network, which has something to do with “Genshin Impact player cards,” whatever those are, and probably isn’t the ENKA that Hiroko loved…. Wikipedia gives ENKA as a recent style of Japanese music that has some traditional elements, and maybe the mix of images—flowers, again, but fewer this time; city scenes of mostly what appear to be bars and clubs, and of people on their way to bars and clubs; and more explicit, if still faceless portraits of a woman (or women)—backs up this reading.

Naomi loved cars. Moriyama often took her out for drives in and around the Nishiki area in Nagoya a few years ago. Now. One might expect images of cars and driving, but one would be wrong. There are, by my count, 5 pictures of cars. Perhaps another five were made from a car. Overall, though, there are many more images of flowers, including a garishly-colored gatefold that makes my stomach churn. There might be more images of advertising than in other volumes, but I didn’t count.

I expected Yukari to be the last book in the series. After all, original press claimed four volumes, and the text seems to back this up. “The woman who called herself Shinobu in Shinjuku, Hiroko in Minami, and Naomi in Nishiki, went by the name of Yukari in the Nakasu district of Fukuoka.” Aha. It’s all been a ruse!

“Someday, I’m gonna live in New York” – that’s what she always said.” So Moriyama missed her for a couple of years, then went into his archive and found a few rolls of half frame shots—I’m guessing—made in the City. Many pages show two sequential-seeming pictures in a nearly 4×3 aspect ratio that looks for all the world like half frame. Two obviously-sequential shots show Moriyama in a hotel room, taking miror selfies with an unidentifiable (by me) older camera that might be the Olympus Pen W he reportedly used in the early 1970s. Some of the pictures may have been made that long ago, based on the theater marquees in various images; others are far more recent, based on the Victoria’s Secret and other signage in Times Square and elsewhere, and I’m sure Moriyama—and or his editor(s)—mixed images from Moriyama’s long career for Yukari and other volumes. In fact, I believe a few images appear in multiple volumes. I noticed a couple during the flip-through portions of the unboxing videos, and think I saw more during my multiple trips through the different books.

Momoe was sort of a shock when it appeared. I expected four volumes, and found myself a bit peeved that I was going to have to buy another one….

She called herself Shinobu in Shinjuku, Hiroko in Minami, Naomi in Nishiki, Yukari in Nakasu.
Rumor has it that she is now living quietly in Ishikari where she was born, under the name she was given by her parents.
Momoe. I still think of her every once in a while.

Moriyama, Daido. Momoe. Akio Nagasawa, Tokyo, 2021. https://www.akionagasawa.com/en/shop/books/akionagasawa/momoe/ 3 April, 2023.

Surprise, surprise, the pictures in Momoe depict smaller towns and some countryside. There’s even a picture of a horse. The woman appears fewer times, and in far less explicit poses than in some earlier volumes, and there are no color images at all. I suspect a few of the pictures came from the Tales of Tono period, but don’t really know, and I don’t see a huge amount to date things. If I was able to read the Japanese text, I’d probably know more, and if I cared more, I’d point Google Translate at a few pictures… Alas.

Taken individually, the different volumes are sorta typical Moriyama affairs, what with their mix of flowers, street scenes, advertising, cats and dogs, shoes, etc., prominent throughout. Taken together, though, I think the series something special. Maybe it’s just that I spent $500 to acquire it all new and want to justify it? Well, I spent that money over the course of 2021 and it’s now 2023, so that money is long gone and had I not wasted it on Moriyama books, I would’ve wasted it some other way, and may Allah forgive me and guide me to better. Really, I think this series marks a high point in Moriyama’s career; that it serves as a sort of magnum opus.

The narrative, such as it is, is less heavy-handed than some of his other works. The imagery is more varied—looking at the 5 books together—than a normal Moriyama book might be, though, and as I’ve said before, if you’ve seen a handful of Moriyama images, you’ve pretty much seen them all: there’s not much new in these pages, but the way the work comes together is quite special, I think.

Recommended, but the whole set is wildly expensive and honestly probably not worth it.

If you want just one, I’d go for Yukari or Momoe due to the variety and pace of the images. Yukari is zippy and heater-skelter, much like the City itself; Momoe is sorta more pastoral and slower, but with a sort of static energy, like a city-dweller coming home, or that sense of impatiently marking time that I sometimes feel in smaller towns. The others sorta blend together for me, and I think they’re meant to.

If I have one complaint, it’s the numerous gatefolds in each volume. The paper is thin and the binding is floppy, and together, I find viewing the gatefolds a difficult and nerve-wracking affair. Beyond that, I’m not the biggest fan of the whole silkscreened canvas cover business. I think it works for the content, I just don’t like the feel of it in the hands.

Given that each volume is limited to 350 copies, I’m sorta shocked that all five remain available (at time of writing). I have #185 of Shinobu, #105 of Hiroko, #130 of Naomi, #164 of Yukari, and #102 of Momoe. Given I bought the last of these some 17 months ago, that doesn’t mean much; the fact that any remain should light a fire under you, if you have the funds and the interest. The “Woman of the Night” series may be a bit hopelessly patriarchal and most definitely stuck in the Twentieth Century, but it’s the most comprehensive expression of Moriyama’s work that I know of, and it may indeed actually be worth your time.