Takuma Nakahira was born on the 6th of July, 1938 in Tokyo. He attended the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, from which he graduated in 1963 with a degree in Spanish. After graduation, he began working as an editor at the art magazine Contemporary view (Gendai no me), during which time he published his work under the pseudonym of Akira Yuzuki. Two years later, he left the magazine in order to pursue his own career as a photographer, and he became close friends with Shōmei Tōmatsu, Shūji Terayama, and Daidō Moriyama.
In 1968, together with Yutaka Takanashi, Takahiko Okada, and Kōji Taki, Nakahira published the magazine Provoke. In their joint manifesto they called for a liberation from photography that merely illustrated preconceived meanings. They started asking very fundamental questions such as “What is photography?”, “Who becomes a photographer?” or “What is seeing?”.
Their characteristic grainy, blurry, shaky images are the expression of the doubt about a photography that amounts to a self-enclosed aesthetics or language. They are attempts not to shoot pictures actively, but rather to allow the images to develop on the basis of a deliberately passive stance, with frequent use of wide-angle lenses or no-viewfinder techniques. This way they would rehabilitate the unruly nature (the independent action) of the camera that lies hidden within the concept of ‘expression’ and providing a reflection upon the difference between the two eyes (the lens and the photographer’s) that provided vision on the scene before it. Later, this photography style became known as Bure, Boke (Blurred and out of Focus).
After only a year and a half, Provoke ceased publication.
Nakahira’s published his first photobook – ‘For a Language to Come’ (Kitarubeki kotoba no tame ni) – in 1970. It was described as “a masterpiece of reductionism” whilst his essay from 1973 -‘Why an Illustrated Botanical Dictionary’ (Naze, shokubutsu zukan ka) – blocked his creative vision of photography and caused him to slide into a severe crisis. He had intended with his images to reject all meaning and images stored prior in his mind and to return to the starting point of the photographic vision where the only thing captured is light emanating from things. He burned most of his negatives and pictures in order to wipe the slate clean. But, in the end, he failed to destroy the sphere of self-awareness present in his images and whilst he was becoming more and more frustrated with photography’s lack of power to change the world directly, he continued to ask himself what photography is through the aid of appropriate writings.
In 1977 Nakahira suffered acute alcohol poisoning , thereby losing much of his memory and commend of language, his most important tool. He continued to photograph in diary-style, in color, finally achieving the emptiness to the images he had been striving for all those years.
In 1990, along with Seiichi Furuya and Nobuyoshi Araki, Nakahira was presented with the Society of Photography Award.
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