“A TERRIBLE SORT OF BEAUTY”
TOMATSU, Shomei. I Am a King. Tokyo: Shashin Hyouronsha, 1972. Square octavo, original black paper wrappers, original photographic dust jacket, original cardboard slipcase. $1250.
First edition of this powerful photo essay by Japan’s pre-eminent postwar photographer, with over 200 black-and-white photogravures, intermixed with vivid color plates.
"An approach which consisted of transforming everyday subjects into powerful symbolic images was brought to perfection by Tomatsu. His photographs provide a powerful incentive to confront social reality, and his consistent openness towards others, through the medium of photography, means that he exercised a great influence on young photographers" (Frizot, 691). Tomatsu was a founding member of the avant-garde photographers' group VIVO, which broke "the taboo surrounding the areas of Hiroshima and Nagasaki" (Abrams, 125). In I am a King, Tomatsu offers a "requiem or lament for what he perceives as a nation of the walking dead, still damaged by war… Out of this he somehow manages to achieve beauty, a dispassionate beauty… The world is stranger and more unfathomable the more closely you look, Tomatsu reminds us. So look harder" (New York Times). Here, as in all of Tomatsu's images, "destruction and discord themselves could possess a terrible sort of beauty" (Rubinfien, 59). Text in Japanese.
A fine copy.