Fundacion MAPFRE, Madrid

Fundación MAPFRE, Bárbara de Braganza, 13
28004 Madrid

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press release

Fundación MAPFRE is delighted to be presenting the exhibition Shomei Tomatsu, the first to be produced in Spain to the unique work of this great Japanese photographer whose oeuvre encompasses the key events in the history of Japan after World War II.

The work of Shomei Tomatsu (Nagoya, Aichi, 1930-Naha, Okinawa, 2012) arose “in the shadow of the war” in a context of devastation and poverty, as he himself noted in his writings. Japan at that date was a defeated country under American occupation: a country where the echo of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki still resounded in the collective memory.

Shomei Tomatsu was twenty when he started to take photographs. He was already familiar with the technique as his two brothers enjoyed photography and even had an improved dark room in a cupboard. His first image, in a Surrealist style, was criticised by his teacher, who encouraged him to follow a realist approach. Tomatsu thus redirected his gaze towards reality, but without any concession to photo-journalism. The 1960s were crucial for defining his distinctive aesthetic.

The exhibition surveys the artist’s career through 180 images divided into 11 thematic sections which reflect the subjects and issues that attracted Tomatsu’s attention. His commitment is evident in his choice of themes and their visual treatment, which is never literal or direct. Shomei Tomatsu’s work is that of an observer attentive to both the everyday and to the past and present of his country.

Produced by Fundación MAPFRE and curated by Juan Vicente Aliaga, professor at the Universitat Politècnica de València, the exhibition includes exceptional loan from the Estate of Shomei Tomatsu - INTERFACE and others from the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum, Tokyo; The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo; the Colección Per Amor a l’Art, Valencia; and Taka Ishii Gallery Photography / Film, Tokyo.

The catalogue that accompanies the exhibition includes texts by its curator Juan Vicente Aliaga and by the photo historian Ryuichi Kaneko and Hiromi Kojima, the curator of the Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, making it a reference work for a detailed knowledge of Shomei Tomatsu’s work from the 1950s until his death in 2012.

Exhibition produced by Fundación MAPFRE in collaboration with the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum