December 2011 (6)

"Irving Penn and Me" vol. 10 Peter Barakan

In celebrating the "Irving Penn and Issey Miyake: Visual Dialogue" exhibition starting September 16, leading creators from all walks of art speak to us of their fascination with Irving Penn photos.

Inimitable Photographs and Clothing like Music by Thelonious Monk

──What are your thoughts after seeing the "Irving Penn and Issey Miyake: Visual Dialogue" Exhibition?

Peter Barakan (PB):
Seeing this exhibition it was evident that Irving Penn was a photographer who set up his shots in enormous detail in order to capture the images he had in his mind, as opposed to someone like Henri Cartier-Bresson, for example, who was a genius at capturing the 'definitive moment.'. You feel it especially in the large blow-ups; he must have spent an enormous amount of time on makeup and lighting. But although his photos are calculated in every detail, it doesn't look that way at all. They speak directly to the senses. The same kind of thing happens with musicians too. Even people with a genius for improvisation often practice for hours every day, and moving performances are the result of a lot of sheer hard work that we don't think about when listening to the music. In fact, if you do become aware of that effort it can really turn you off. With Irving Penn's work it looks very natural at first glance, but when you look carefully the depth in the work reveals itself. And in addition to the incredible quality of Penn's photos, Miyake Issey's clothes possess a unique aesthetic that is leaves you speechless.

── I agree. I imagine that Miyake-san's clothes struck a chord with Penn as well.

PB: No doubt. These photos have such an impact that you wonder if there could possibly be another photographer who could interpret Issey's designs so well. I'm basically a music person, but I think that in the same way that Issey-san's work is literally inimitable, in music, for example, you have people like the jazz pianist Thelonious Monk. He has all these little traits that are uniquely his, and you know it's him as soon as you've heard a few notes. That's why only musicians who truly understand his nature can play with him. I think the same applies for Miyake Issey's clothes. It would be really hard for someone that doesn't have a deep understanding of his work to create photographic art out of Issey's clothes. When you see Irving Penn's photos you can tell that he understood.

── You did Miyake-san's voice in the animation for this exhibition. What were your thoughts after performing the dialogue between Penn and Miyake-san?

PB: I really felt, in a good sense, the distance between the two. Irving Penn never once attended one of Issey's fashion shows, and Issey never once sat in on a photo session. It seems both were conscious of maintaining that distance. I can relate to that.
If it weren't for that short animated film on show at the exhibition, I'm sure the process in which those posters were created would be something most people never even thought about. I thought Midori Kitamura's idea to focus on clarifying that process was a very good one. At any rate, I really think this exhibition is a masterpiece. There's nothing elaborate; the presentation is simple but powerful and it is an exhibition that people will want to go back to several times.

── Thank you. Lastly, please tell us about your recent work.

PB: A column that I wrote for the Japanese version of Playboy magazine for about 6 years has been published as a book, "Peter Barakan Ongaku Nikki (musings on music and radio....)". If you can read Japanese, please give it a read!

(interviewer: Keiko Kamijo)

Peter Barakan

Peter Barakan

Born in London in 1951. Graduated Japanese department of School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, in 1973, and has been living in Tokyo since 1974. Has worked in broadcasting since 1980, with particular emphasis on introducing a wide variety of music from different parts of the world to a public that is often force-fed only what is commercially convenient for large corporations.
Currently hosts a weekly free-form radio programme on NHK-FM, and a weekday morning programme for Tokyo area commercial station Inter FM, in addition to the Japanese broadcast of the US news magazine show 60 Minutes. Also co-hosts a weekly talk show "Begin Japanology" in English for public broadcaster NHK's foreign satellite service NHK World, introducing different aspects of Japanese culture to an international audience. Has written several books including a beginner's guide to soul music, and and a book explaining some of the subtleties of rock lyrics for Japanese readers.

"Peter Barakan Ongaku Nikki (musings on music and radio....)"

List view of "Irving Penn and Me"


Exhibition "Irving Penn and Issey Miyake: Visual Dialogue" is covered by Taiwanese magazine "ART COLLECTION + DESIGN."


"Irving Penn and Me" vol. 9 Taishi Hirokawa

In celebrating the "Irving Penn and Issey Miyake: Visual Dialogue" exhibition starting September 16, leading creators from all walks of art speak to us of their fascination with Irving Penn photos.

Original Prints with Overwhelming Power

──Which Penn series is most memorable for you?

Taishi Hirokawa (from hereon, Hirokawa):
When I was asked by Kazuko Koike to photograph a catalogue for the 1980 "Evolution of Fashion" exhibition at the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, Ms. Koike handed me "Inventive Paris Clothes" as reference. I always admired Penn's works but these photos were a first for me. It was a completely new experience. I assume it was taken in Penn's studio but I distinctly remember the photos with the close trimming, squeezing in the head and foot combined with the unique backdrop.

Later on in the late 80's there was a Penn retrospective at the Pace/Macgill Gallery in NY. This is where I saw his original vintage print for the first time. It was quite a shock. Of course, it didn't look vintage at all. It had this quality as if it had been developed only recently and this is when I realized what it meant to archive a photo. I mean it's clear as day. It hits you with a pounding force, utterly impressive.

Though Penn was still alive at the time, this is when I realized that photos keep on living even after its creator's death and how important it is to always maintain a complete archive of your prints. I'm nowhere as close to Penn but this is when I vowed to make a habit of archiving as much as possible while still alive (laugh).

──Please tell us what you learned from Penn photos.

Hirokawa: This applies to photographs in general but the moment you press on the shutter means everything. Whereas with paintings which you can fix by painting over the spot; photographs are a one-time shot. You can only take it at that moment. I don't know if I learned this from Penn but his photos helped me realize once again the importance of capturing the moment.

──Lastly, please tell us about your recent work.

Hirokawa: I'm a bit perplexed to be gathering attention in this way (wry grin) but my "STILL CRAZY" nuclear power plant series released 18 years ago has been put on exhibit again recently at several galleries. I felt the need to show them again now at this time. Also, though not for presentation, I am working on a project in which I take photographs of families living in the temporary houses at evacuation centers in Soma and Kesennuma and send these as gifts to them. I have also given single-use cameras to the children at the evacuation centers and asked them to take photos for a joint photo exhibition in the future. These are some of the ways that I am working with the people of Tohoku.

(interviewer: Keiko Kamijo)

Taishi Hirokawa

Taishi Hirokawa

Born in 1950, HIROKAWA Taishi started his career as a photographer in 1974.
In addition to his work in advertising photography, television commercials, etc., he works as a professor at the Tokyo Polytechnic University, and is well known in the international photographic art world. He has held numerous solo exhibitions and been invited to participate in exhibitions around the globe. Among the prestigious awards he has received are the Kodansha Publishing Culture Award; New York ADC Award; Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Award; Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Award; Photographic Society of Japan Award; Motion Pictures and Television Engineering Society of Japan: Technical Award; A.C.C. Gold Award and ACC Best Filming Award. His works are to be found in the collections of Princeton University Art Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, National Library of France, Munich Lenbachhaus Museum, Kobe Fashion Museum, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, etc.

"Families at Evacuation Centers: Soma, Fukushima. June 8, 2011"

List view of "Irving Penn and Me"

Article on fashiontrend

Exhibition "Irving Penn and Issey Miyake: Visual Dialogue" is covered by Italian magazine "fashiontrend."


"Irving Penn and Me" vol. 8 Naoto Fukasawa

In celebrating the "Irving Penn and Issey Miyake: Visual Dialogue" exhibition starting September 16, leading creators from all walks of art speak to us of their fascination with Irving Penn photos.

Irving Penn may actually be the man who brings ISSEY MIYAKE images to shape

──Please give us your thoughts on Irving Penn photos.

Naoto Fukasawa (from hereon, Fukasawa):
My personal interpretation of Irving Penn is that he is a man who remains steadfast on his vision once set. I think this firm attitude speaks for itself in his work. When you work in this profession, it's a continuous cycle of revising the unbalance and asking questions until you reach a certain point. I think Penn has the power to instantly crystallize undoubting strengths and concepts without fail.
This strength may be apparent all the more because we see it through photographs.

──What was your impression after seeing the exhibition?

Fukasawa: Penn's collaboration with Issey-san was introduced through animation and it was the first time that this process of the two artists was revealed, which made for a very refreshing experience. Everyone knows what great artists that Irving Penn and Issey Miyake are but the background to their collaboration as in the wealth and magnitude of what they made had never been revealed. It was very inspiring.

In contrast to Irving Penn, Issey-san tends to question the ideas that come to mind. He is always conscious of putting himself in midst of the doubt and completing the process while waiting for the moment of crystallization. This is his unique way of working as well as an indication of his strength and the sternness with which he works. This was quite an impact.

──What did you think about the collaboration between Issey Miyake and Penn?

Fukasawa: Irving Penn interprets Issey-san's creative process, his ideas and perspective and captures this on camera with clear focus. These photos embrace a certain power which adamantly states, "This is what Issey thought" no matter what anyone says. And I think when Issey-san saw Penn's photos; he was also persuaded like, "Aha! So that's what I must've been thinking!" And it was a repeated cycle of this process. Both artists are focused in their expression and when their two paths cross, they fit perfectly together.

It's like a jazz jam session. At first, you play without thinking ahead to what the other musician will play but they create beautiful music nonetheless. But then, there is a point where they go beyond this and Irving Penn knows more about Issey-san than Issey-san himself. That moment shows in these works. In other words, Irving Penn may actually be the person that brings ISSEY MIYAKE images to life. I say this because Penn's images are the ones imprinted in the minds of people all over the world. In that sense, I am amazed by Issey-san's intuition to collaborate with this artist, Irving Penn.

──Please tell us about your recent work.

Fukasawa: Recent works, though a bit unusual, was the renewal of the MUJI Aoyama shop. It was a project called, "Found MUJI." Rather than making something new, the concept of this project was to "search" for objects used over the years around the world and present them through the MUJI filter. Visitors will be able to seek out new value in ordinary objects. I went on a search for various objects in China and India too. Please come visit.

(interviewer: Keiko Kamijo)

Naoto Fukasawa

Naoto Fukasawa

Product designer
In 1989, Fukasawa left Japan for the United States where he worked for eight years at IDEO in San Francisco. He returned to Japan in 1997 to establish a Tokyo branch of the company. In 2003 he founded Naoto Fukasawa Design. Fukasawa's design widely ranges from portable digital assisting products such as watches and mobile phones to personal computing products, electronics, household goods, furniture and interior design. He has been collaborating with representative brands in Italy, Germany, France, Switzerland, Scandinavia and Asian countries for their product developments. Fukasawa's work is highly respected for the way it uses the senses to connect people and objects and enhance the pleasure of those using the product. Publications include "Dezain no Rinkaku (The contours of design)" (TOTO Shuppan), and co-author of "Dezain no Seitaigaku (The ecology of design)" (Tokyo Shoseki).

Found MUJI Aoyama shop

List view of "Irving Penn and Me"

"Irving Penn and Me" vol. 7 Katsuhiko Hibino

In celebrating the "Irving Penn and Issey Miyake: Visual Dialogue" exhibition starting September 16, leading creators from all walks of art speak to us of their fascination with Irving Penn photos.

The similarities between Denchu Hirakushi, Irving Penn, and Issey Miyake

──Please tell us your thoughts after seeing the exhibition.

Katsuhiko Hibino (from hereon, Hibino):
I have strong recollections of Irving Penn photos as posters but I never knew the stories behind them. So, it was good to have the opportunity to learn about the photographer's interaction with Issey-san and see his sketches. The production process conveyed well how they fit together like a puzzle. I assume that the moment Penn started drawing his sketches, the styling, hair, makeup, lighting, and every other detail of the pictures was set in place.

Right before coming to 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT, I saw works by Denchu Hirakushi at a sculpture exhibition at the University Art Museum, Tokyo University of the Arts and saw how the artist seemed to have carved one piece of wood from different angles and stopped suddenly at one point. It seemed as if a shape that had been burrowed inside the wood had risen to the surface rather than having been carved from the outside. This can also be said for Penn photographs in that he sculpts and captures the situation rather than simply cutting out what's in front of him. Photographs were probably his tool for completing this act.

Penn and Issey-san's works are similar to Denchu's sculptures with its sharp, well-rooted focus.

──Please tell us about your recent work.

Hibino: I have been building a ship lately and the launching ceremony is scheduled for October 30th at Maizuru Port in Kyoto. This is a project called "Ship of Seed" ( which sprang from an idea during the "Asatte Asagao Project" that the shape of the seed of the asagao (morning glory) is similar to that of a ship. The project started in Kanazawa in 2007 from turning the seed shape into a ship and floating that ship at sea. This year, we built a real ship in Maizuru which is scheduled to set sail next year.

I am also involved in a workshop called "Tokyo Future Sketch Book (" which is a part of the Tokyo Culture Creation Project. The concept of the workshop is to draw Tokyo's future on a large sketchbook.

(interviewer: Keiko Kamijo)

Katsuhiko Hibino

Katsuhiko Hibino

Artist/Professor, Department of Inter Media Art, Tokyo University of the Arts
Born 1958 in Gifu. Hibino rose to stardom with his work using cardboard material at the 1983 Japan Graphic Exhibition Grand Prix which he won while still a student at the Tokyo University of the Arts. He continued to expand his scope of artistic expression to physical and linguistic media including stage production, public art, and performance. Hibino exhibited at the 1996 Venice Biennale and has since held countless solo exhibitions in Japan and abroad. Since 2000, he has been producing art through workshops which exploit the perceptive capabilities of the onlooker rather than simply presenting the artist's perspective. Hibino is also a member of the executive committee of the Japan Football Association with a vision to fuse art and sports from a cultural perspective.


List view of "Irving Penn and Me"

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