I aim to create a personal document, a process of laying bare the inner form by thoroughly depicting the exterior.
– Ikkō Narahara
Ikkō Narahara was born in Fukuoka Prefecture in 1931 and passed away in 2020. His father, a prosecutor, frequently relocated for work; this meant that Narahara spent his adolescence living in various places throughout Japan. At the time that Narahara began photographing, in 1946, he was also interested in art and literature. He graduated from Chuo University with a degree in Law in 1954, and he later entered the master’s program in Art (specializing in Art History) at Waseda University. In 1955, he joined the innovative artist group Jitsuzaisha (Real Existence). At the same time, he also came to know Shomei Tomatsu and Eikoh Hosoe. In 1959, together with other photographers, these three formed the independent photo agency VIVO, which dissolved in 1961. Narahara went on to photograph various places around the world while basing himself in Paris (1962-65) and New York (1970-74). Aside from his numerous exhibitions, Narahara has also published many photography books, finding a favorable reception abroad. Major exhibitions include “Human Land,” Matsushima Gallery, Tokyo (1956), “Ikko Narahara,” Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris (2002-2003), and “Mirror of Space and Time: Synchronicity,” Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography (2004). Major awards include the Japan Photo Critics Association Newcomer’s Award (1958), The Ministry of Education, Science and Culture’s Art Encouragement Prize (1968), the Mainichi Arts Award (1968), the Photographic Society of Japan Annual Award (1986), and The Medal with Purple Ribbon (1996).
In his early works, Narahara focused on people who were living in isolation from the everyday world, such as monks in a Trappist monastery or the inmates of a women’s prison. Returning from his visits to the USA, France, Spain, and Italy, he focused more on depicting his culture. Walking a tightrope between description and abstraction, objectivity and a personal narrative, Narahara transcended the journalistic documentary photography then prevalent in Japan.