E. is visiting, and he's a professional photographer. For his first trip to Japan, high on his agenda were photography-related pursuits. So we trekked to Ebisu to take in the big Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography.
I had been previously with Patrick - also an accomplished photographer (who I interviewed here) - and checked out an Araki exhibition. This time, there were three exhibits, each on a separate floor. We decided to start at the top, with the 19th century travel photography exhibit, and work our way down. This turned out to be a good plan, as the photos got bigger, more colorful, and clearer on each level. The first exhibit had a lot of small, old, grainy photos, with examples of different types of early photography like albumen prints and daguerreotypes. The next exhibit had work from five Japanese professional press photographers. These pictures were larger and more modern, with more action. Especially stirring were those taken of an execution of a Vietnamese high schooler during the war.
The last exhibit was the most modern, the 2009 World Press Photo competition. This contest awards the best pictures in photojournalism over the last year, in a number of categories, including sports, daily life, nature, and hard news. These photos were all blown up very large and were in full color, measuring probably around at least two or three feet tall by four feet wide. They were also, I assume, taken mostly digitally.
It was easy to like the last exhibit best, because of the immediacy and the color and the size and the current subject matter. But I think that while the modern photographers are certainly bold and talented, they are working within very different parameters than their predecessors. I appreciated the opportunity to see how the craft has evolved.
The exhibits are all running for a few more weeks.