Nakahira co-founded a quarterly coterie magazine, PROVOKE, subtitled “Provocative Materials for Thought” with TakiI Koji, Takanashi Yutaka, and Okata Takahiko, with Moriyama Daido contributing to the second and third issues. PROVOKE’s grainy, blurry and unfocused photographs moved away from established aesthetics and conventions, making a strong impact on Japan’s art world. A few years after the publication of the photo book For a Language to Come in 1970, Nakahira critically re-examined his previous photographs in the 1973 collection of writings Why an Illustrated Botanical Dictionary?. In November 1977, immediately after the publication of the seminal book Duel on Photography, which coupled Nakahira’s essays with photographs by Shiniyama Kishin, Nakahira was struck with an illness that brought him near death. Though tormented with memory loss and aphasia, Nakahira gradually recovered and started taking photographs once more.
In the 1980s, he published two books of photography, A New Gaze and Adieu à X, and in 2002, Hysteric Six: Nakahira Takuma. In 2003, the large-scale retrospective “Nakahira Takuma: Degree Zero –Yokohama” was held at the Yokohama Museum of Art with more than 800 photograph from his formative period of the 1960s to 2003; the work received significant attention as did his 2013 solo exhibition, “Circulation: Date, Place, Events” in New York City at Yossi Milo Gallery. Nakahira Takuma passed away on 1 September, 2015.
In 2017, the Art Institute of Chicago exhibited his previous works from the 7th Paris Biennial in a show titled “Circulation” which aura gallery (now renamed Each Modern) also exhibited in the same year. Nakahira’s essays have been translated and published internationally.
NAKAHIRA Takuma (1938-2015) is perhaps the most important yet most underrated figure in Japanese photography. A pioneering thinker and writer, he engaged himself in relentless interrogation about the theory and practice of image-making throughout his entire life. As co-founder of PROVOKE, the experimental magazine synonymous with his trademark “are, bure, boke” (grainy, blurry, out of focus) style, Nakahira helped revolutionise post-war Japanese photography and influenced countless artists.
Regardless, it was not long before Nakahira, a sensitive and deeply introspective person, gradually renounced his iconic style. Seeing that photography had pushed reality further away, he destroyed all his photographs in 1973 and set out to propose new theories and methodologies. Yet disillusionment set in, and ultimately he fell to the nadir of his artistic practice, suffering acute alcohol poisoning in 1977, with traumatic memory loss and aphasia. This series of events has contributed to his relative anonymity.
“Nakahira Takuma”, the first solo exhibition in Hong Kong of work by the late artist, is curated by Taipei-based curator HUANG Yaji. The landmark exhibition is displayed across two levels of the venue as a way to examine the various phases of Nakahira’s creative practice from the 1960s to 2015: from PROVOKE to For a Language to Come (1968-1970); from ‘Circulation’ to ‘Overflow’ (1971-1974), and ultimately to his colour series (2003-2015). The exhibition illuminates Nakahira’s explorations in photographic thinking and practice, which eventually culminated in his shift to colour photography, described as a “view point devoid of subjectivity”, which stands in stark contrast to the directions taken by most photographers or theories of photography—particularly the mainstream perspectives on photography in the West.