Kiyoshi Suzuki – Soul and Soul 1969 – 1999

Copyright estate of Kiyoshi Suzuki courtesy Stichting Fotografie Noorderlicht, copyright 2008

In 1972 Kiyoshi Suzuki self-published his first photobook, Nagare no uta, which is known by the English translation Soul and Soul. Suzuki passed away in 2000 after self-publishing eight photobooks between 1972 and 1998. In 2008 Stichting Fotografie Noorderlicht (Groningen, The Nederlands) created a retrospective photobook of Suzuki’s photobooks, titled Kiyoshi Suzuki, Soul and Soul, 1969 – 1999. It was after Suzuki’s passing that while working on a retrospective exhibition by the Noorderlicht gallery that the curator, Machiel Botman, and Suzuki’s widow, Yoko Suzuki, stumbled upon the book dummy for Soul and Soul.

The first ten pages of this photobook are re-photographed pages from Suzuki’s own book dummy for Nagare no uta, resplendent with penciled cropping marks and notes for margins, photograph layouts, page sequencing, and subsequent corrections. This is not a clean look at a polished photobook, but a candid peek into the personal development process, as these pages are a raw work-in-progress. My specific issue in arriving at a more encompassing appreciation of these pages is my inability to read Japanese, nevertheless Suzuki’s energy and desire to produce a photobook as he envisions is readily apparent.

This photobook is not meant to emulate a complete re-photographic presentation of Suzuki’s book dummy of Nagare no uta similar to Jeffery Ladd’s Arrata photo book replications, but more about the development of a book dummy that will eventually lead to the photobook. Like wise, counter to the book’s title and implied intent, the book is not restricted to only the photographic work of Nagare no uta.

After the first 10 pages of book dummy re-photographs, we can investigate five pages of the finished Nagare no uta, and are provided the reason for why Suzuki’s style is described as chaos with layer upon layer upon layer, as was his penchant for tiling and overlapping photographs on top of photographs.

The book is interceded with contact sheets, dummy book pages and finished photobook pages, but in a relatively incoherent manner, a mashup of Suzuki’s various photobook projects colliding together. It is extremely difficult to determine where you are in Suzuki’s career and which book you are peering into, creating a jumble of incoherent thoughts. What concerns me is that Suzuki seemed to be almost at the point of obsession of designing each of his photobook, that it was critical to him that the viewer would experience each page in a specific sequence and yet that is exactly what is not provided in this book. Instead we are provided with disjointed glimpses into the potential of Suzuki’s photobooks and it remains for us to seek out his original photobooks if we are intrigued by his vision.

Similar to the original Soul and Soul, the photobook is published with stiff covers and the dust jacket illustration is a replica of the Suzuki’s 1972 book dummy. The photobook is accompanied by includes a separate smaller colophon, in my case I have the English version.

by Douglas Stockdale

5 thoughts on “Kiyoshi Suzuki – Soul and Soul 1969 – 1999

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  1. “it remains for us to seek out his original photobooks if we are intrigued by his vision”

    This would almost certainly cost us rather a lot.

    A scrupulously produced facsimile edition of Soul and Soul has come out: this. Not cheap, but very very roughly one tenth the price of a used copy of the original.

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