KITAJIMA, Keizo. Shishin tokkyubin Okinawa [Photo mail from Okinawa 1-4. (Tokyo): (Parole-sha), (January – July 1980) (COMPLETE SET).

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Shishin tokkyubin Okinawa [Photo mail from Okinawa 1-4 [complete set].
(Tokyo): (Parole-sha), (January – July 1980).

4 vols, 4to (296 × 209 mm), each pp.[20], totalling 131 black-and-white photographs. Black-and-white photo-illustrated saddle-stapled wrappers printed in either light pink, blue, dark pink or green. An overall fine set.

First editions. In 1979 Keizo Kitajima, a graduate of Daido Moriyama’s class at Workshop, the influential photography school founded by Shomei Tomatsu, held a series of monthly exhibitions at Image Shop Camp, a gallery and forum he established with other members of the Workshop group after it closed. Each of the twelve exhibitions were accompanied by a publication called Photo Express Tokyo.

Encouraged by the reception to the Tokyo work, In 1980 he began photographing in and around the red light district of Koza, a city in Okinawa situated close to the Kadena U.S. Air Force base which had been situated on the island since the end of the World War II. The military presence had resulted in a pleasure and entertainment industry evolving to cater to the Americans  stationed there which offered a marked contrast to the local traditional Japanese culture. Kitajima immersed himself in this work, and subsidized his trips by selling prints of his photographs to his subjects, much as Katsumi Watanabe did in Shinjuku.

Kitajima intended to publish these photographs in a series of bi-monthly magazines called Photo Express Okinawa, though only the present four issues were realised before financial restrictions forced him to stop, and also  give up plans for subsequent series in Taiwan, South Korea, Hawaii, and China. Each issue focuses on a specific period of time: Issue 1, 15 - 31 January; Issue 2, 1 - 31 March; Issue 3, 1 - 15 May; Issue 4, 1 - 15 July. Unlike the Tokyo series, Kitajima’s photographs from Okinawa were never collected in book form. There are no surviving prints or negatives, and therefore subsequent publications have had to scan the photographs from the pages of these four issues of Photo Express Okinawa.

Kitajima later said of the work: ‘Affection, hatred, rejection, acceptance: everything was there in Okinawa and nothing was a given. I wanted to make photographs that transcended all that… My generation was profoundly impacted by America. It is impossible to objectify my feelings about it.’


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