Masahisa Fukase: Making Masterpieces Out Of A Tragic Life

Melancholic, bold and provoking, with just a slight hint of playfulness. These are how one can describe the images taken by Japanese photographer Masahisa Fukase. 

Born in 1934, Masahisa Fukase became world-renowned for his photographic series and subsequent publication Ravens, which is celebrated as a photographic masterpiece. Born in Hokkaido, Japan and son to a successful local studio photographer, Fukase is considered the most radical and experimental photographers of the post-war generation in Japan. 


Fukase worked almost exclusively in series. Fukase incorporated his own life experiences of loss, love, loneliness, and depression into his work, making them a remarkable visual biography. Some of his most notable works include The Solitude of Ravens, created over a period of ten years after the breakdown of his second marriage. In another series named Family, Fukase subverted the customary format of traditional family portraits, drawing attention to uncomfortable truths and ambiguities which such formal illustrations often suppress.


After Ravens, there were still a larger part of his work that remained inaccessible for more than two decades. In 1992, a tragic fall had left Fukase with permanent brain damage, and it was only after his death in 2012 that the archives were gradually disclosed, a great wealth of material that had never been shown before since then surfaced.

His work has been exhibited widely in MoMA, New York, the Foundation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain,and the Victoria & Albert Museum and the likes. Today, the works of Masahisa Fukase is held in major collections including the Victoria & Albert Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and The Getty Museum.

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