Provoke was a rough, blurred and out-of-focus style that originated in post-war Japan in the late 60s and into the 70s. Prior to this, Japanese photography was traditionally documentary and not particularly inspiring. This new style set out as per its name to Provoke the viewer.
The early founders of the movement include Daido Moriyama, Yutaka Takanashi and Takuma Nakahira . The style remains influential today with photographers such as Daisuke Yokota and Hajime Kimura.
There are two aspects of Diasuke Yokata’s work I find of great interest. The musician Aphex Twin is influential to Yokotas work, where he finds inspiration in how his music is crafted to play with our perception of time. His translation of this into the photographic medium and how he photographs, then rephotographs and chemically alters an image to create a new image with an alternate sense of time, is an intriguing interpretation.
This lends his images a strange dreamlike quality, you cannot quite put your finger on what you are looking at. It’s this reworking of the image and the medium to create another representation of time that I find fascinating. Like Marey’s Chronograms in J. G. Ballard’s, ‘Atrocity Exhibition’, it attempts to cut free from the linear representation of time and how we sense and measure it’s passing. To quote from the chapter:
Marey’s Chronograms are multiple exposure photographs in which the element of time is visible – the walking human figure, for example, is represented as a series of dune like lumps. Your husbands brilliant feat was to reverse the process. Using a series of photographs of the most commonplace objects – this office let us say, a panorama of New York skyscrapers – he treated them as if they were already chronograms and extracted the element of time. The results were extraordinary. A very different world was revealed. The familiar surroundings of our lives, even our smallest gestures, were seen to have totally altered meanings.
Images from his Matter/Burnout photobook range from the colorful fractal, reminiscent of Mishka Henners ‘Feedlot’ satellite views of factory farms to what appears double exposures with a grainy scratched development process. The Vertigo project is another example that has a dreamlike quality, strange images and impressions, reminds me of Eraserhead by David Lynch.
Reminiscent of this is the work of Shindo Mariko who shows the city of Tokyo in a state of decay using a set of negatives damaged by the 2011 Tsunami in Japan. These images create a similar tension with time, place and presence. Everything seems slightly out of sync, displaced in time.
The other aspect of Yokotas work that is of interest is how he chemically manipulates color negatives to create strange and abstract images. The ‘Color Photographs’ photobook is spectacular, by layering old color negatives and using his own processing magic he creates vivid imagery, strong in pastels, fractal, color explosions. I would not have the patience or interest in chemicals to do this, but it’s how he uses the medium to create something unique that is so interesting about the work. It’s like tinkering around inside Flussers black-box apparatus “in search of possibilities”. (Flusser, 2013, p. 27 )
‘Color Photographs By Daisuke Yokota’. 2015. Another Something [online]. Available at: https://www.anothersomething.org/2015/11/03/color-photographs/ [accessed 19 Jan 2021].
FLUSSER, Vilém. 2013. Towards a Philosophy of Photography. Reaktion Books.
SHINDO, Mariko. 2014. ‘Bibo’. [online]. Available at: https://www.sfmoma.org/artwork/2014.1311/ [accessed 19 Jan 2021].
YOKATA, Diasuke. 2016. ‘MATTER / BURN OUT – Daisuke YOKOTA’. AKIO NAGASAWA [online]. Available at: https://www.akionagasawa.com/en/shop/books/others/matter-burn-out/ [accessed 19 Jan 2021].
YOKOTA, Daisuke. 2014. ‘Vertigo – Photographs By Daisuke Yokota | LensCulture’. LensCulture [online]. Available at: https://www.lensculture.com/articles/daisuke-yokota-vertigo [accessed 19 Jan 2021].