Yutaka Takanashi’s Toshi-e (Towards the City) is a landmark two-volume set of books from one one of the founders of the avant-garde Japanese magazine Provoke. Published in 1974 and considered the most luxurious of all of the Provoke era publications, its brooding, pessimistic tone describes the state of contemporary life in an unnamed city in Japan undergoing economic and industrial change. Books on Books 6 reproduces all one hundred sixteen black and white photographs that make up the two volumes. Photographer, writer and book historian Gerry Badger, contributes an essay called Image of the City - Yutaka Takanashi's Toshi-e.
Takanashi's book was published in 1974, the "year of the oil crisis", and the images are about economics, consumption, urban society, and the tensions between free flung consumerism and the resulting price to be paid down the road. Many of the images were in fact taken by Takanashi through the open sunroof of his car while speeding down the road. In his essay for the book,Gerry Badger describes the images as "Robert Frank or William Klein on speed." These are not the careful, quiet studies of Lewis Baltz, Frank Gohlke, Robert Adams, or the other New Topographers who were photographing the man-altered landscapes of America during the same period that Takanashi was recording urban Japan. I like the subtle similarities versus differences that involve the Japanese and American responses to urban landscapes during a time period when both countries were still deeply enmeshed in a post-war economic and political relationship, what Badger describes as schizophrenic (from Japan's point of view).
Here Takanashi is talking about the dichotomy that many photographers feel.John Szarkowsky characterized it as 'mirrors' and 'windows', whether one uses the camera as a transparent window on the world, or as a mirror to reflect back oneself.It's the old pull between the objective and to the subjective, the documentary as opposed to the expressive, the prosaic versus the poetic.
Takanashi's Toshi-e (Towards the City) by Errata Editions.
Photographs by Yutaka Takanashi
Takanashi's Toshi-e (Towards the City) book