Masahisa Fukase (1934-2012) is renowned for his deeply introspective photography, through which he illustrated his intense and occasionally violent life. His body of work is remarkable for the extraordinary breadth of visual perspectives that it encompasses; he altered the conceptual language of his work to suit the different narratives he innovated throughout his career. Fukase’s photographs appear as instinctively assured and graphically iconic when shot in regional slaughterhouses or Shinjuku street orgies as in his own home, capturing the antithetical excesses and seeming contradictions of his life.
His most critically lauded series, The Solitude of Ravens (1986), was created over a period of ten years, following the breakdown of his second marriage to Yōko Wanibe. Stark and monochrome, the ravens become a symbol of lost love and unendurable heartbreak, evolving into a personal iconography of bleakly universal emotional resonance. Fukase’s abstracted grief for Yōko appears in particularly cold relief contrasted against his insouciant, intimate pictures of his young bride during their domestic happiness in the 1970s.
In his series Family (1991), Fukase subverted the customary format of traditional family portraits, drawing attention to uncomfortable truths and ambiguities which such formal illustrations often suppress. This mode of photography, which had been a popular stock in trade for the studio run by Fukase’s father and grandfather, is turned on its head by the integration of non-family members in various atypical guises. The series oscillates between ironic humour, absurd self-awareness, and a meditative reflection of the role of photography in commemorating and binding together families. As part of the series, Fukase photographed his father in anticipation of his imminent death, and this funeral portrait is included alongside living family members in portraits staged after his passing.
The spontaneous and prolific creativity of this work, during which Fukase experimented artistically and sexually with concepts of intimacy, performance and social convention, contrasts with later work which reflects a more insular, psychologically absorbed vision. His prescient extended self-portraits in Berobero, Private Scenes and Hibi (1990-1992)were the result of protracted ongoing self-examinations, only completed shortly before Fukase’s debilitating fall in 1992. These series have been described by critic Phillip Charrier as ‘whimsical if somewhat morbid games of solitaire which chart new territory for the photographic self-portrait.’
Fukase was born Hokkaido, the northern-most major island of Japan, in 1934. He graduated from Nihon University College of Art's Photography Department in 1956, and became a freelance photographer in 1968. Fukase’s work has been exhibited widely at institutions such as MoMA, New York, the Oxford Museum of Modern Art, the Foundation Cartier pour l'Art Contemporain, and the Victoria & Albert Museum. His work is held in major collections including the Victoria & Albert Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and The Getty Museum, Los Angeles.
All the Masahisa Fukase works shown at our gallery and on our website are all authenticated vintage works that come directly from the Masahisa Fukase Archives. Each print was printed by Masahisa Fukase himself, and are all accompanied by a signed certificate of authenticity.