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Masayoshi Sukita: Eternity


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Masayoshi Sukita
256 Pages
ISBN: 9781788841078
ACC Art Books

People may or may not recognize his name but they have certainly seen his photographs. For the past 50 years, photographer Masayoshi Sukita and his camera have captured an enormous number of genuinely emblematic images of pop culture luminaries, and these photographs can only be classified as iconic. Diving deep into one of the most significant photographic careers, his book Eternity showcases the works of one of the most esteemed photographers today whose photographs have reached into the soul of pop history.

Dipping into an archive comprising over 50 years of work and divided into several chapters that center on different stages of his career, various people and geographies, this beautifully printed book of both color and black and white photographs show us what a great portrait artist Sukita is. Divided into several chapters bearing titles such as "T-Rex," "Bowie," "Iggy Pop," "YMO," "East," "West," "Theatre and Cinema" and "Journeys," this book is especially poignant at this time. With so many social relations distanced and isolated, the book shows what we have lost or what we long for.

Eternity is a treasure trove with beautiful photographs. There are memorable photographs of Marc Bolan whom he shot upon his first arrival in London in 1972. Among the several photographs of Bolan, there is one of him holding his guitar with his face lit up with bliss and he lunges toward the camera which is probably one of the best know photographs of this rock star. Other photographs feature the members of Yellow Magic Orchestra, sharing a table with a pair of mannequins on the cover of the Solid State Survivors album as well as several promotional photographs. He has worked extensively with this band that was led by Ryuichi Sakamoto and he accompanied them on their first world tour. Other artists present in this book are punk and new wave stars like Johnny Rotten, Joe Strummer, Madness, David Byrne, David Sylvian or people like Brian Eno, Ray Charles, and Quincy Jones or photographs taken from film sets like Jim Jarmusch's Mystery Train of the lipstick-smeared Masatoshi Nagase and Youki Kudoh, slumped against a hotel bed. There are photographs taken during the production of the film Mishima or murky photographs of various unknown but intriguing locations.

"The desire to express something through photographs has been with me since I was in photography school and will remain with me until I die. Photographs are huge, universal; photographs are love," writes Sukita.

Judging from his illustrious portfolio, Sukita is an artist who is genuinely interested in the people he photographs and many of the photographs testify to the rapport that he has with them, and not just fleetingly. With many of the artists in this book, he was able to forge long and fruitful relationships. His relationship with Iggy Pop and especially with David Bowie, in particular, has led to more than 40 years of collaboration which has yielded a plethora of iconic images. In 1972, even before actually hearing his music, Sukita saw a promotional poster of a David Bowie concert and felt compelled to attend the concert. This was at the height of the Ziggy Stardust period and fame. Enamored by Bowie's unique performance style and alien enigmatic appeal, he quickly arranged a meeting with Bowie's then-manager and was granted a photo session. This session actually started a 40-year collaboration between these two artists that would capture Bowie's many characters, both on stage and off.

There is plenty of shapeshifting on these photographs starting from the Ziggy Stardust period including the ones taken with Kansai Yamamoto costumes against the red backdrop. These are considered to be some of the most popular images taken of Bowie, but the monochrome portrait on the cover of the Heroes album (EMI, 1977) is considered among the most iconic. And he would continue to take photographs of Bowie throughout the years, including his trip to Kyoto, the album cover of Tin Machine, (EMI, 1989) and various live shots until the final image that was taken in 2009.

"It's very hard for me to accept that Sukita-san has been snapping away at me since 1972, but that really is the case. I suspect that it's because whenever he's asked me to do a session, I conjure up in my mind's eye the sweet, creative, and big-hearted man who has always made these potentially tedious affairs so relaxed and painless. May he click into eternity" attested Bowie

Translating the power of Sukita's photographs to the confined pages of a book is no easy task, but this monograph does it right, as it allows each image to speak for itself with no extensive captions or explanations but several quotations by some of the people he has photographed or has worked with. The index of details is listed at the back of each chapter for reference, so that the reader is not distracted from directly engaging with the visuals before them, finding new and familiar details in each frame. The simplistic approach continues onto the pages and features two important essays. The first is an essay by Campbell Gunn who provides a detailed biography of Sukita, and the second is an essay by Yoshiro Fukukawa presented for readers to ponder on the monograph's final pages—a thoughtful conclusion to direct engagement with the images.

Sukita's book Eternity is a testament to his power as one of the great visual artists of the 20th Century and beyond. His photographs contain multitudes. Their beauty is in the details around the edges as much as it's in the charismatic quality of the subjects at its center.



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