For a Language to Come


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Published in 1970, For a Language to Come is recorded in the history of photography as the first photobook by Takuma Nakahira, the photographer who brought about a turning point in contemporary Japanese photography from the late 1960s to the early 1970s by radically breaking away from the existing image aesthetics at that time. This book consists of one hundred black and white photographs including his work from the legendary photography magazine Provoke.
However, forty years after the publication of the original book, we have not as yet had the opportunity to examine (and enjoy) his works enough with the exception of a few photographs that has been repeatedly introduced on various occasions (this is particularly true in Europe and the U.S. where the history of contemporary Japanese photography remains less appreciated). Through radical self-critique, Nakahira would repudiate much of this early body of work in his 1973 essay, “Why an Illustrated Botanical Dictionary?” and considered it as something that must be overcome. Yet, for us to reconsider the meaning of the author’s rejection of his inaugural work, it is extremely valuable to know what the works themselves show.
Has our history of photography finally caught up with Nakahira?

Book Size
300 x 208.5 mm
160 pages
Publication Date



Born 1938 in Tokyo. At the time he was working as an editor for Gendai no me magazine, he was encouraged by photographer Shomei Tomatsu to start taking photographs. In the following year, several of his works as a freelance photographer were published in magazines etc., and at the same time, he started writing about film and photography. He launched the photo fanzine Provoke as “provocative food for thought” together with Koji Taki, Yutaka Takanashi and Takahiko Okada in 1968. His characteristic technique that came to be referred to as “bure, boke” (“blurry, out-of-focus ”) made a major impact on the realm of photography at the time. In the critical essay collection Why an Illustrated Botanical Dictionary in 1973, he dismissed his own poetic style up to that point, and burned most of the negative and prints of his previous works. From there he switched to a ”dictionary” like style of photographs presented in a physical manner while eliminating aspects of subjectivity and ego. After publishing Ketto shashinron, co-authored by Kishin Shinoyama in 1977, he suffered from a major loss of memory due to acute alcohol intoxication, but returned to photographing as energetically as ever one year later. Photo collections include Aratanaru gyoushi (A New Gaze) (’83), Adieu a X (‘89), Hysteric Six: Takuma Nakahira (‘02) and Documentary (‘11).

Publications of Takuma NAKAHIRA