Fusao Hori

Untitled (Pipes)


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Fusao Hori 1897–1982
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
Support & image: 240 × 300 mm
Purchased with funds provided by the Asia-Pacific Acquisitions Committee 2010


This black and white photograph captures a frontal view of two stacks of round metal pipes taken from a low vantage point. Pale sheets of corrugated iron occupy the background, casting thin straight lines of shadow behind the darker metal pipes. The composition of lines and circles creates a geometric abstract effect, testifying to the influence of European modernist photography on Fusao Hori’s work. In his essay entitled ‘Return to Photography’, the Japanese photography critic Ina Nobuo commented on the use of industrial materials by avant-garde photographers Laszlo Moholy-Nagy and Man Ray:

They discovered and created beauty in the strangest and most unimaginable places. They even find beauty in a detail of a modern industrial object. We must admit that they are the creators of a new form of beauty using ‘the eye of the camera’.
(Ina Nobuo, ‘Return to Photography’, Koga, vol.1, 1932.)

Born in 1897 in the small town of Ina (Nagano Prefecture), Hori worked in Tokyo as a technical assistant at Yamazaki Photo Studio and later at Nonomiya Photo Studio under the direction of renowned Japanese photographer Yasuzo Nojima. In the late 1920s Nojima sent Hori to Europe where he studied under German photographer Nicola Perscheid before returning to Japan to become chief technician at Nonomiya Studio. In 1932 Nojima co-founded the photography magazine Koga (meaning ‘Light Picture’) with fellow photographers Iwata Nakayama and Ihei Kimura with the aim of promoting avant-garde photographic practices, in particular principles advanced by the Bauhaus such as attention to form and shadow and the creation of formal compositions from everyday objects and materials. The magazine played a key role in the development of Japanese photography in the 1930s, in particular for the Shinko Shashin or ‘New Photography’ movement. Hori’s work was featured regularly in Koga, alongside photographs by Nakayama, Nojima and key European modernists.

In addition to the many camera clubs and photography magazines that sprung up in Japan during the 1930s, the German exhibition Film und Foto (originally staged in Stuttgart in 1929 and accompanied by a key publication by the German photography critic Franz Roh) travelled to Japan in 1931 and provided a showcase for many of the most famous American and European modernist photographers including Man Ray, Moholy-Nagy, Albert Renger-Patzsch and Alexander Rodchenko.

Further reading
Ryuichi Kaneko, Norihiko Matsumoto and Deborah Klochko, Modern Photography in Japan 1915–1940, Carmel 2001.
Anne Tucker (ed.), The History of Japanese Photography, New Haven and London 2003.
Sashin Ni Kaere, Return to Photography: Japanese Photography of the 1930s, exhibition catalogue, Zen Foto Gallery, Tokyo 2010.

Inès de Bordas
March 2012

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