Eikoh Hosoe

As storytellers, the Japanese have always had a special knack for taking life and transforming it into grotesque, uncomfortable, creepy, and fantastic tales. Japanese exports of horror films, realistic video games, fashion, manga and anime, are greedily hoarded by Western consumers who use these products as an escape from the dull realities of everyday life. Within a video game, you can become the savior (or destroyer) of worlds and civilizations; through a manga, you can live the life of ninjas, shinigami, and rubber-skinned pirates. This idea of living through media pertains to Japanese photography as well. Eikoh Hosoe is a Japanese photographer whose work encompasses such aspects of mythical role playing.


Though Hosoe explores many themes such as death, irrationality, and eroticism, my interest lies in the Kamaitachi series that he made of which portray dancer Tatsumi Hijikata as the kamaitachi–a supernatural creature of Japanese mythology that rides the winds and haunts the countryside.

The photograph above is one of the pictures within this collection. Confronting children and farmers, the kamaitachi comes alive within the frames of Hosoe’s shots. Not only is the image frivolous and amusing, but seems amazingly relatable. What child hasn’t at one point faced an imaginary ghost or creature, played hide-and-seek with monsters in the backyard or in the street? Or perhaps the humanized, adult kamaitachi represents a real spectre within children–the fear of growing up. As a child, I had the luxury (and maybe I still do) of believing in myths and monsters. Given the opportunity, I would much rather live in an imaginary fantasy than trudge through the realities of the static world. Perhaps in this series, Hosoe is reliving his own childhood and myths he grew up with.

Here are some more images from the collection.





Prints of the first three images are actually on display at the SFMOMA right now in the Post-War Asia exhibition. Although I personally did not feel a connection with many of the photographs in that exhibit, Hosoe’s work immediately jumped out at me. Plus, while you’re there you can see the Avedon photos, a worthwhile trip in and of itself.


~ by robinlam on October 27, 2009.

One Response to “Eikoh Hosoe”

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