Ken Domon, the master of Japanese realism is currently honored at the Maison de la Culture du Japon in Paris.

A pioneer of realistic photography

This exhibition is the first in France devoted to one of the most significant figures in the history of Japanese photography : Ken Domon (1909-1990). It brings together around a hundred images by this pioneer of realistic photography, produced between the 1930s and 1970s. The many facets of his work are revealed here: his approach to photojournalism at the start of his career, the inevitable turn towards photography of propaganda in the 1930s, his moving testimony on Hiroshima, his touching portraits of street children and celebrities, and finally his fascination with ancient temples and Buddhist sculpture.

Ken Domon

Nobel Prize winner Kenzaburô Ôe

Ken Domon’s work marked the history of photography in Japan by laying the foundations of contemporary photographic creation, and is still an essential reference today. Domon has sought all his life to obtain the most realistic images possible, without lapsing into any misery. This realism is the common thread of this exhibition which retraces the ambitious path taken by Domon to grasp Japanese culture as a whole. In particular, she reveals the two reports that most clearly reflect the social realism characteristic of her work: Hiroshima (1958), considered by the Nobel Prize winner Kenzaburô Ôe as the first contemporary work of art inspired by the atomic bomb that deals with the living and not the dead, and The Children of Chikuhô (1960), a series that bears witness to the poverty that plagues the mining villages in the south of the country, focusing on the lives of children.
The Portraits series, which Domon pursued relentlessly from 1936 to 1953, reveals to viewers the faces of personalities in different fields – artistic, literary, cultural or scientific -, such as the writers Mishima and Tanizaki, the artists Foujita, Tarô Okamoto and Yûsaku Kamekura, the director Yasujirô Ozu or the actor Toshirô Mifune.

Ken Domon

Copyright Ken Domon

Pilgrimage to Ancient Temples

The last part of the exhibition is dedicated to Domon’s longest photographic series, Pilgrimage to Ancient Temples, a collection of images of Buddhist statues and architecture, hidden treasures and discreet landscapes, immortalized in during travels across the country, from 1939 until his death, as he sought to capture the beauty of sacred places in ancient times. This precious testimony reflects both the progress made in photographic technique during those years, with the transition to color film in 1958 for example, and the constraints that the poor health of the photographer imposed on him in his work.

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