Flash Up – Seija Kurata

Flash Up

Seiji Kurata

Zen Foto Gallery

£139 / 184pp

November 2013


Seiji Kurata’s mid-1970s photographs of Tokyo show us the seedy underbelly of a nation that was, at the time, rising to become one of the world’s economic superpowers. Having been schooled by Daido Moriyama and Araki Nobuyoshi, Flash Up was originally released by Kurata in 1980. This re-print of a seminal work in the history of Japanese photography shows us a world of full-body tattoos, gleaming samurai swords, right-wing protesters and bloodied, post-fight ambulance journeys. We see the outfall of hedonism in the flash-lit, monochrome brothels of the city’s entertainment district. The images are captioned throughout, and whilst these occasionally feel slightly trite or overly literal, they otherwise help to add useful context. As an oversized hardback in a protective gold slipcase, it is destined to remain something of a collector’s item, especially given the price and a print run of just 750 copies. As an audience of 21st century dwellers looking back, Kurata addresses us directly in the afterword, where he describes his endless night-time walks as “a compellingly thrilling ordeal” and muses upon the rapidity of change, nostalgia and the gradual ironing out of the erotic creases from the fabric of his scenes.

Reviewed by James D. Clark
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