Tamiko Nishimura - ULTIMATE Evening & Photographs Day Sales London Thursday, May 17, 2018 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    From the artist

  • Literature

    Camera Mainichi, November 1971 (Aomori), variant crop
    D. Moriyama, Kagero [Mayfly], Tokyo: Haga Books, 1972, n.p. (Uchinada), variant crop
    T. Nishimura, しきしま Shikishima, Tokyo: Tokyo Photographic School, 1973, n.p., variant crops
    T. Nishimura, しきしま Shikishima, Tokyo: Zen Foto Gallery, 2014, n.p., variant crop
    M. Parr & G. Badger, The Photobook: A History, Volume III, London: Phaidon, 2014, p. 117 (photobook)
    R. Kaneko et al., The Japanese Photobook, 1912–1990, Göttingen: Steidl, 2017, pl. 258, p. 347 (photobook)

  • Catalogue Essay

    ‘I think I’ve been drawn to what lies beyond the union of seer and seen, wanting to give shape to things that fall apart soon after they’re photographed. Or perhaps it’s the ineffable attraction to the unseen. Only lately, very faintly, do these things occur to me.’

    Tamiko Nishimura, 2012

    This unique しきしまShikishima triptych by Tamiko Nishimura consists of three highly emotive photographs taken in 1970-71 during her travels in the Hokkaidō, Tōhoku and Hokuriku regions of Japan. Her longing to visit these faraway places began during her childhood in Tokyo and her fascination with pictures of snowy landscapes and matsuri [festivals] depicted on the postcards her father would send her from his frequent business trips. After graduating from Tokyo Photographic College (currently Tokyo Visual Arts College) in 1969, the 21-year-old Nishimura set off on her first of many journeys around Japan.

    The left image of empty railway tracks was taken in spring 1971 in Asahikawa, Hokkaidō, the northernmost of Japan’s four main islands. Of this photograph, Nishimura remembers, ‘I was fascinated by the open landscape. Looking at the empty tracks, I imagined that the end of the line was Cape Sōya, the northernmost point of the island of Hokkaidō.’ The young woman in the centre was taken in summer 1970 in Aomori prefecture in Tōhoku region of Northeast Japan. She recalls, ‘I was photographing while in a taxi using a telephoto lens. When the taxi stopped at a red light, a face of a woman standing on the pavement jumped into my frame and I pressed the shutter. It was a fleeting moment so this is the only shot.’ On the right is an almost abstract seascape taken in winter 1970 in Ishikawa prefecture in Hokuriku region of Northwest Japan. She visited the Uchinada sand dunes, where this image was shot, to see the relics of the ammunition storage facilities, which played a part in the 1952 ‘Uchinada Battle’ and the ensuing anti-US military base campaign.

    After her Hokkaidō trip in spring 1971, Nishimura returned to Tokyo where she printed the three large prints offered here. Using leftover photographic papers from her 1969 graduation exhibition, she printed her three most favourite images at the time, representing three separate journeys, and pinned them to her wall at home. The pinholes, which are visible in the corners of each print, reveal the history of these prints. In 1972 she received an unexpected call from her alma mater Tokyo Photographic College with an offer to publish her first photobook, which resulted in しきしまShikishima (1973), now a rare photobook. The title is an epithet used in classical Japanese Waka poetry for Yamato, the ancient name for Japan, and the book showcases her series of photographs taken in 1969-72 on her journeys around Japan’s Hokkaidō, Tōhoku, Hokuriku, Kantō, Kansai and Chūgoku regions. Working on image selection, sequencing and editorial design, Nishimura self-produced Shikishima. In the same year, her Uchinada seascape was published in Daidō Moriyama’s Kagerō [Mayfly] (1972), his photobook of nudes. She remembers that Moriyama came across her photographs while they were working on their respective book projects and requested two of her landscapes to include in Kagerō. Nishimura met Moriyama, Kōji Taki and Takuma Nakahira, three highly influential members of the Provoke movement, in 1969 and assisted them in the darkroom and on shoots in between her travels up until 1971-72.

    Looking back on her career, Nishimura describes it as a sequence of journeys. At the end of one journey, she would return to Tokyo to earn money by publishing her photographs in magazines and books. Once she had earned enough, she would set off again. Contrary to her male contemporaries, who were focused on releasing photobooks and exhibiting work, Nishimura continued with her nomadic lifestyle. In the preface to Shikishima, she writes:

    The weather changed often, with strong winds, sunshine, clouds and rain. I was strongly attracted by how the light shined, by the smell of flowers, and just by the atmosphere of the place, rather than what I actually saw. Even if I walk through the same place every day, each walk would be different, depending on whom I meet or how the light shines. It is not particularly about visiting somewhere new.

    Nishimura’s language of expression is poetic, spiritual and deeply personal, as discerned in this unique, early triptych. This is an unparalleled opportunity to acquire an important early work by Tamiko Nishimura, still relatively unknown outside of Japan, as the market for Japanese photography of the 1970s continues to unfold.



しきしま Shikishima

Unique gelatin silver triptych, printed 1971
Each: 36 x 42.8 cm (14 1/8 x 16 7/8 in.)
Each signed in rōmaji, titled and dated in Japanese/English, all in pencil on the verso. Accompanied by a signed copy of Shikishima (Tokyo Photographic School, 1973).

Aside from the present work, three small press prints - one per image - are known to exist and are held privately.

£10,000 - 15,000 

Sold for £23,750

Contact Specialist
Genevieve Janvrin
Co-Head of Photographs, Europe
+33 1 53 71 77 87

Yuka Yamaji
Co-Head of Photographs, Europe
+44 20 7318 4098

ULTIMATE Evening & Photographs Day Sales

London Auction 18 May 2018