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Grolier Club Exhibitions

Jeffrey Gutterman

My foray into collecting books on photography began in the 1980s and was a direct result of my own photographic and darkroom work dating back to my middle and high school days. My initial purchases were mainly inexpensive books on contemporary American and European photographers. Later on, as I immersed myself in historical work by visiting galleries and museums, I was then able to afford books on the Bauhaus and between-the-wars European and Russian photographers. The books and the photography from this period are still important to me, but when I first encountered the work of Japanese photographers and bookmakers of the 1960s at a New York gallery in the early 2000s, wow, that hit me like a lightning bolt!

The Japanese work was pretty radical in technique and subject matter, and for someone mainly exposed to Western art, it became especially alluring. The books produced in Japan during the 1960s/70s were fantastic objects with inventive design and in many cases, superlative printing. Everything about these books make them objects of desire, which is why I continue to seek out important publications that are still being discovered by obsessive collectors and scholars. I hope to someday be able to share numerous examples in my collection with fellow Grolier members.

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Nippon Gekijo Shashincho (Japan: A Photo Theater).

Daido Moriyama. Tokyo: Muromachi Shobo, 1968.

8 1/4 x 8 5/8 in., softcover in cardboard slipcase, green textured cover, tan endpapers, unpaginated, signed in ink by Moriyama on front free endpaper. With text by poet and playwright Shuji Terayama.

Moriyama’s first published book showcasing his signature are-bure-boke (grainy, blurry, out-of-focus) style of subjects including Tokyo street scenes, portraits, and avant-garde and Kabuki theater performers.

I first saw a copy of this book, as well as other Japanese photobooks and photographs at a gallery exhibition in 2002 that began my exploration and obsession with this ground-breaking genre. The subject matter, photographic techniques, and book designs continue to surprise and keeps me seeking out work from Japan.