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PHOTOBOOK: SHŌMEI TŌMATSU - CHEWING GUM AND CHOCOLATE

Shōmei Tōmatsu, one of Japan’s foremost twentieth-century photographers, created one of the defining portraits of postwar Japan. Beginning with his meditation on the devastation caused by the atomic bombs in 11:02 Nagasaki, Tomatsu continued to focus on the tensions between traditional Japanese culture and the growing westernization of the nation in his seminal book Nihon.

Beginning in the late 1950s, Tomatsu committed to photographing as many of the American military bases in Japan as possible. Tomatsu’s photographs focused on the seismic impact of the American victory and occupation: uniformed American soldiers carousing in red-light districts with Japanese women; foreign children at play in seedy landscapes, home to American forces; and the emerging protest formed in response to the ongoing American military presence. He originally named this series Occupation, but later retitled it Chewing Gum and Chocolate to reflect the handouts given to Japanese kids by the soldiers—sugary and addictive, but ultimately lacking in nutritional value.

And although many of his most iconic images are from this series, this work has never before been gathered together in a single volume. Leo Rubinfien contributes an essay that engages with Tomatsu’s ambivalence toward the American occupation and the shifting national identity of Japan. Also included in this volume are never-before-translated writings by Tomatsu from the 1960s and ’70s, providing context for both the artist’s original intentions and the sociopolitical thinking of the time. (+)

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