Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Masao Horino Photography Exhibit in Tokyo

Gas Mask Parade by Masao Horino
Gas Mask Parade, Tokyo, by Masao Horino
Image Source:
Back on March 23, I wrote about a couple of exhibits at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, which I hoped to visit on my trip to Tokyo.

Well, it just so happened that I found the perfect day to go - typhoon rain and winds were headed for Tokyo, and people were warned to leave work early to avoid the weather. So, I took the Hibiya subway line to Ebisu Station, and viewed the Masao Horino exhibit.

Horino lived from 1907-1998, but stopped photographing and exhibiting after WWII. The exhibit gave a great feel for his whole career, which began in the mid 1920s, photographing actors and actresses in a small theater in Tsukiji, Tokyo. These are classic posed images, both head shots, and full body shots of performers. One characteristic that came to me right away is that the subjects were always looking outside the frame. It made for a somewhat impersonal style, but may have been due to cultural norms.

In the 1930s, Horino began experimenting with photography of mechanical structures, reportedly in order to find new applications for his cameras. I can identify with that. This is when his bridge images, including the one posted in my March 23 post, were done.

Also in the 1930s, Horino began experimenting with montages (multiple images on a single page, sometimes with a modest amount writing) and overlaying exposures from multiple negatives onto a single print. In this style, he did a series called "Flowing Through the Capital: Sumida River Album." In this series, he photographed people and their association to the river.

In 1932, Horino declared that his experimentation was concluded, and that he was taking his "first step as an artist," focusing largely on photojournalism. I get the distinct feeling that the war affected Horino deeply; some of his most striking pictures of that era included the gas mask parade in Tokyo, shown above, and a celebration parade in honor of kamikaze (suicide bomber) pilots. As mentioned before, after the war, Horino stopped exhibiting his work, claiming that it was lost in the war.

A few of his best works, in my opinion, are:
  • "The Beggar," 1932 - in this case, the straggly-looking man is looking directly into the lens.
  • "Coffee Break," 1933 - two boys and a dog at a table. The interplay between the three characters is really something to see.
  • and the very best, in my opinion, is "Beach" ("Nagisa" in Japanese), taken somewhere between 1934-38. This image shows a girl sitting on a high bluff above the beach, waving to several people on horseback far down below.

I have got to see if I can find some of Horino's images online. Horino is not well-known, partially because he disappeared from the scene after the war. His work is certainly worth seeing.

(Click Here) for a few more of Horino's images.

The typhoon came in, as promised. It rained cats and dogs, and the wind was fierce all night long. In some parts of the country, buses and trucks were blown over, and buildings were destroyed. If my conversions from meters per second are correct, the maximum winds were about 80 mph. By morning, skies were clear and sunny.

Running For It, By Reed A. George
Running For It, by Reed A. George
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3, Pana-Leica 45mm f2.8 Macro-Elmarit