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July 2, 2018

The Surreal Photographs by Kansuke Yamamoto, the Pioneer of Japanese Surrealist Photography

In the act of appropriating the political voice and thematic structure of European Surrealism and melding it with uniquely Japanese subjects, Kansuke Yamamoto (1914–1987) deeply influenced the development of Japanese Surrealism, and became a singularly important figure in the history of Japanese photography.

Yamamoto’s images offer a fascinating insight into an isolationist culture that was at the time largely inaccessible to Western inquiry, and while his elaborate and poetic images can inspire an emotional response even in the absence of context, in order to critically appreciate his work it is important to understand the cultural and political climate of Japan during his lifetime.

“Artwork comes out of some disobedient spirit against readymade things of society. ... Pure spirit should be a proactive spirit that attracts a new generation. ... Rebellion against each generation and the reformation of a generation is our purpose.” – Kansuke Yamamoto

Self-portrait, 1950.

A photograph by Kansuke Yamamoto, 1950.

‘Stapled Flesh,’ 1949.

‘Thin Aired Room,’ 1956.

‘A Peculiar Grounding,’ 1956.

An image from Yamamoto’s photographic series ‘Anxious Corridors,’ 1937.

‘The Closed Room,’ 1959.

‘Work,’ 1956.

‘Is it Raining in the Town?’ 1956.

‘Suddenly in the Morning,’ 1968.

‘Reminiscence,’ 1953. Birdcages were common images in Yamamoto’s work which he used as metaphors regarding his ability to express himself artistically.




The earliest known photograph by Kansuke Yamamoto entitled, ‘Aru Ningen no Shinsou no Hatten…Moya to Shinshitsu’ (Developing Thought of a Human, Mist and Bedroom), 1932.

(via Dangerous Minds)



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