By Claire Guillot

Posted today at 07h00

The 1960s, in Japan, made the country tremble on its foundations. During this “Japanese spring”, strikes and violent demonstrations follow one another without stopping – against the American bases, against urban changes, against industrial pollution… As in echo, the artists also rebel against the established order and tradition, in an unprecedented provocative and creative bubbling. Shomei Tomatsu (1930-2012), tutelary figure of Japanese photography, accompanied by his images the most radical inventions of the avant-garde of the time.

Little is known about this major artist in France, except for his images of the aftermath of the Hiroshima bomb. His work is however more varied, and of a rare expressive power – it will be on display at the European House of Photography (MEP), in Paris, alongside that of his compatriot Daido Moriyama, when the museums can reopen.

“In most of his images, we have very little information, we don’t really know what’s going on. “ Simon Baker, Director of the MEP

Faced with the political and social changes of a country won by Americanization and industrialization and which he no longer recognizes, Tomatsu does not content himself with using his device to record what he sees, but uses it. rather to translate reality into a new language and to experience things in a new way. “He saw no future in documentary photography, explains the director of the CRM, Simon Baker. In most of his images, we have very little information, we don’t really know what’s going on. ”

Without ever belonging to one of the many groups and collectives formed in the 1960s and 1970s, Shomei Tomatsu was close to many of the great figures of the Japanese avant-garde, who met to discuss, debate and drink shots in the neighborhood. hot from Shinjuku. “All these artists, who did not necessarily share the same ideas, formed a kind of community, like the surrealists in the Paris of the years 1920 “, explains Simon Baker.

Prostrate, naked as worms

The performance is then a privileged means of expression: Tomatsu thus accompanies seven actors who do not know each other and locks himself with them in a hotel room, Room 541, for forty-eight hours for an extreme experience – his images. where they end up prostrate, naked as worms, will be published in a magazine at the same time as the report of their exchanges.

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