Master Photographer MASAHISA FUKASE’s Final Bursts of COLOR

Masahisa Fukase’s career is often listed as two monomaniacally consistent phases, as black and white as the images he made: before his wife Yoko left him, when he photographed nothing but her, and after, when, apparently tormented by heartbreak, he photographed nothing but ravens.

The Japanese photographer – whose 1987 book The Solitude of Ravens was once declared the greatest photobook of all time, beating Nan Goldin’s Ballad of Sexual Dependency into second place – has a further phase, however, only now coming to light. Between 1990 and early 1992, he turned his camera on the pavements around his house, making an extraordinary (and very literal) work of street photography by overlaying the painstaking, fractured roads with splashes of Day-Glo paint, applied onto the bromide prints in the darkroom. The series, Hibi, went on show for just one evening in 1992.

What do they mean? “It’s very hard for us to determine what Hibi is about,” his gallery told T Magazine. “We’ve spoken to lots of people who knew him, who didn’t know about this set of pictures. He never talked about it.”

But for a man whose work is thought of as one long act of obsessive love, broken up by selfies, these photos, splashed with red and green, streaked with purple and yellow, feel like a revelation: a liberatory moment close to what psychoanalysts like to call a breakthrough. Splashed with rave-era neon, they feel like orgasms, or purges – a loss of control so enlivening it’s violent. Sure, his so-called trademark melancholy is still there. It’s just drenched in cyan.

Tragically, this was to be one of the last of Fukase’s works: later in 1992, he slipped into a coma following a fall down barroom steps, and he died two decades later. These images have just been released by Mack in a new book, Hibi. It’s title is Japanese for crack: a break in the pavement, perhaps, or how the light gets in.

Text: CHARLIE ROBIN JONES.

Related Content

  • WILLIAM T. VOLLMANN: Conflict, Compassion and the Process of Understanding

    When William T. Vollmann was 22 years old, he decided that he would write a book about the plight of the Afghan people, who were then engaged in battle against the Soviets. He planned to travel to Pakistan and document the misery of Afghan refugees, then sneak across the border and photograph the courageous deeds of the mujahideen struggling to repel the invaders. In addition to the written account of his journey, he would produce a slide show and present it at fundraising events back home in California; Vollmann’s neighbors would be so affected by the wretchedness of his subjects and the righteousness of their cause that they would open up their checkbooks right then and there (and later place calls to their local representatives). Before leaving, Vollmann wrote former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, who had been one of the primary architects of the Vietnam War, for advice.More
  • Deeper

  • Thus Spoke Bischofberger: Artforum’s Eternally Swiss Back Cover

    An advertisement for the art gallery belonging to dealer and collector Bruno Bischofberger has occupied the back cover of every issue of Artforum since April 1987. Seen out of context and en masse, the eternally Swiss contents of these promotions at first appear idiosyncratic; upon further scrutiny, however, they seem insane.More
  • Apparel

    032c “Dark Times” Brecht T-Shirt Black

    €50
    Buy Now
  • Société de 032c: GLOBAL PREDICTIONS from Cyber Oracle SITA ABELLAN

    “The major debate everyone is avoiding is how technology will modify our society and economy,” says the model, DJ, and self-proclaimed “techno princess” in a series of dystopian prophecies. “Technology is forging our behavior and will deeply affect who we become as human beings. Avoiding discussions about the use of technology without limitations and restraints will cause major injustices.”More
  • 032c WWB Collection

    032c WWB Turtleneck Camouflage

    €80
    Buy Now
  • Apparel

    032c Classics Logo Beanie

    €40
    Buy Now
  • Salty, Litigious, Iconoclastic: DAVID SIMON on TV as discourse

    With “The Wire,” DAVID SIMON accomplished the unlikely feat of captivating both West ­Baltimore bruisers and The New Yorker subscribers for an hour a week, over the course of six years. Twenty years into television’s latest “Golden Age,” as the creative blueprint pioneered by Simon and shows like The Sopranos unfurls into an endless stream of content from Amazon and Netflix, we revisit our 2011 interview with Simon from 032c Issue 20.More
  • OG? OK! Onitsuka Tiger Unveils 70th Anniversary OK Basketball Shoes in Berlin

    At their store on Alte Schönhauserstrasse in Berlin, Japanese footwear mainstays Onitsuka Tiger held a Japan-themed mini festival to herald the arrival of the OK Basketball MT and the OK Basketball Lo: two new shoes inspired by the groundbreaking design that ignited the Onitsuka Tiger brand almost 70 years ago.More
  • CROSS-DRESSING IN THE WEHRMACHT: Unseen Practices at the German Front

    While collecting amateur photography from periods during and after the war, Berlin-based visual artist Martin Dammann would, “from time to time,” stumble upon photographs of cross-dressing soldiers. Provoked, he began to seek out more, drawn to the “kaleidoscope of emotional states” that they revealed: “Desire for women. Desire for men. To be a woman. To be elsewhere. To be someone else.” More
  • THE BIG FLAT NOW: Power, Flatness, and Nowness in the Third Millennium

    As a contemporary metaphor, flatness describes how the invention of the Internet has restructured global society. At its origin, its promise was a social revolution founded on intersectional equality and universal democracy. It is our contention that that promise may yet be fully realized.More