Takuma Nakahira was a Japanese photographer, critic, and theorist. He was a member of the seminal photography collective Provoke
, played a central role in developing the theorization of landscape discourse, and was one of the most prominent voices in 1970s Japanese photography.
Born in Tokyo, Nakahira attended the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, from which he graduated in 1963 with a degree in Spanish. After graduation, he began working as an editor at the art magazine Contemporary View
(Gendai no me), during which time he published his work under the pseudonym of Akira Yuzuki
Two years later, he left the magazine in order to help organize the major 1968 exhibition One Hundred Years of Photography: The History of Japanese Photographic Expression
at the invitation of Shōmei Tōmatsu
, an effort to which photo critic Kōji Taki
also contributed. In 1968, he and Taki teamed up with photographer Yutaka Takanashi
, and critic Takahiko Okada
, to found the magazine Provoke
: Provocative documents for the sake of thought. By the second issue, Daidō Moriyama
had joined the group, but Provoke ceased publication with its third issue, First discard the world of pseudo certainty: the thinking behind photography and language, in March 1970. Nakahira and the other Provoke members were well known for what was termed their "are, bure, boke"
(rough, blurry, and out of focus) style, associated with spontaneity and thus supposedly a more direct confrontation with reality in that it would circumvent conscious control.
While working on Provoke, Nakahira published his first photobook, For a Language to Come
, which has been described as "a masterpiece of reductionism." Ryūichi Kaneko
and Ivan Vartanian
feature the book prominently in their book on seminal Japanese photobooks of the 1960s and 70s, and Martin Parr
and Gerry Badger
include it in the first volume of their international photobook history. Vartanian describes the volume as exemplary of Provoke's vision and concept of photography in Nakahira's use of the are, bure, boke style, but also for presenting full-bleed snapshots of anonymous corners of Tokyo that either cross over or abut each other at the book's gutter. Vartanian argues that "By erasing the conventional functionality of the photograph as document, memory, verification, emotion, and narrative, he revealed the illusory nature of photography as a conduit of information or portrayal of reality, while at the same time underscoring the only tangible reality available to the viewer—the printed image,"
eschewing documentation of social issues to instead present a personal, diaristic perspective.
In 1977, at the age of 39, Nakahira suffered alcohol poisoning and fell into a coma. As a result of this trauma, he suffered permanent memory loss and aphasia, effectively ending his prolific writings. This event has also conventionally been understood as marking a change in his photographic practice since, after a hiatus from his image-making activities, he returned to the medium in a style quite distinct from that for which he was known. Curator and photo critic Kuraishi Shino
, however, argue that in spite of any stylistic differences with his earlier work, Nakahira's post-1977 practice should be understood as a conceptual continuation of the project he embarked on in 1973 with Why an Illustrated Botanical Dictionary. Nakahira's post-1977 photographs were collected in three photobooks: A New Gaze
(1983), Adieu à X
(1989), and Hysteric Six Nakahira Takuma
While Nakahira was always an important figure within Japanese photographic circles, the upsurge in research and exhibitions on post-WWII Japanese photography since the 2000s has led to a reevaluation of Nakahira's contributions to Japanese photographic, media, and art discourses in recent years, especially outside of Japan. His work has been included in recent seminal exhibitions of Japanese post-WWII art including the Getty Research Institute
's Art, Anti-Art, Non-Art: Experimentation in the Public Sphere in Postwar Japan, 1950-1970 (2007), the Museum of Modern Art
's Tokyo: 1955-1970 (2012), the Museum of Fine Arts
Houston's For a New World to Come: Experiments in Japanese Art and Photography 1968–1979 (2015), National Museum of Modern Art
, Tokyo's Things: Rethinking Japanese Photography and Art in the 1970s (2015), and the Art Institute of Chicago
's Provoke: Photography in Japan between Protest and Performance, 1960-1975 (2017).