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Book of the Week: A Pick by Russet Lederman

Book of the Week Book of the Week: A Pick by Russet Lederman Russet Lederman selects Student Radicals, Japan 1968 – 1969 by Takashi Hamaguchi as Book of the Week.
Shashasha, 2014.
This week's Book of the Week pick comes from Russet Lederman who has selected Takashi Hamaguchi's Student Radicals, Japan 1968 – 1969 from Shashasha.

"I can’t quite figure out why I am attracted to books with black covers imprinted with barely visible type. Perhaps, it is the mystery of the unknown that lies within?

Takashi Hamaguchi’s Student Radicals, Japan 1968  1969 is just such a book. It is not the first book that most people would pick up at a bookshop or click on while browsing an online shop. Its cover is very quiet. So quiet that it initially goes unnoticed. But, that is its strength. The quiet of the cover serves as a foil for the impact of the stark black and white images of 1968-69 Japanese student riots found within. The high contrast, inky depth of Hamaguchi’s images scream postwar Japanese photography, but there is something quite unique here. There isn’t the straightforward documentary quality of Domon, or the blur of Moriyama, nor the theatrics of Hosoe. Rather, Hamaguchi’s images deftly present brutality mixed with poetry. The sequencing in this book (which also serves as the catalogue for a December 2014/January 2015 exhibition at Taka Ishii Gallery in Paris) builds a potent narrative that climaxes in images of violent student clashes with police. Yet, interwoven within are details that transform the violence into a space for contemplation. Emerging from a deep blackness that spreads across two pages is the lower portion of a cropped face offset by improvised white nose plugs; filling the other side is a close up of handcuffed wrists wrapped in delicately textured cotton gloves. In the next spread, Hamaguchi’s camera moves back to reveal two police officers dragging a protestor on a page opposite a crowd of demonstrators. In all the photographs, a strong balance of compositional details and textures reinforce Hamaguchi’s keen eye for subtle human emotions within the social and political struggles of late 60s Japan."—Russet Lederman

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Student Radicals, Japan 1968 - 1969 by Takashi Hamaguchi. Shashasha, 2014.
Student Radicals, Japan 1968 - 1969 by Takashi Hamaguchi. Shashasha, 2014.

Russet Lederman is a media artist, writer and photobook collector who lives in New York City. She is a co-organizer of the 10×10 Photobooks project and regularly writes on photobooks for print and online journals, including FOAM, The Eyes, and the International Center of Photography’s library blog.

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