In 1992, just before his 60th birthday, Hokkaido-born photographer Masahisa Fukase was leaving his favourite bar when he tumbled down the stairs, causing a traumatic and irreversible brain injury that left him incapacitated. He remained that way until his death 20 years later. Even before his life-changing accident, however, Fukase was an insular character. During his professional career, his work was characterised by marked introspection to the point of narcissism; statements such as “I kept dragging loved ones into my work in the name of photography, but I never could make anybody happy that way — not even myself. I wonder whether I’m truly enjoying myself when I take photographs?” point to a deep unhappiness as well as a realisation that his state of mind and his photographic practice were intrinsically linked. He spoke of a wish to be dead, and of photography as being a form of “revenge against still being alive”.
Fukasa’s ex-wife Yoko, who appeared in many of his works, penned an essay in 1973 entitled The Incurable Egoist. In it, she opined that no matter what the apparent subject of his pictures, the focus was always the artist himself and that he used the figures in his works as a way to represent his own existence. Diesel Art Gallery, Tokyo, is presenting a selection of Fukase’s works which use his ex-wife’s words as their cornerstone. The exhibition, entitled The Incurable Egoist, runs until 14 August.