Issei Suda: 78 unseen photographs

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In January 2019, Suda agreed to work on a new photobook, but his death two months later halted plans. Still, the publisher kept its promise, and now, a selection of unseen images are presented in his first posthumous publication

Cécile Poimboeuf-Koizumi, co-founder and director of publishing house Chose Commune, has admired Issei Suda’s work for as long as she can remember. In January 2019, the Franco-Japanese publisher wrote to Issei Suda for the first time. To her surprise, he replied within a day and offered to meet her on her next trip to Tokyo in the autumn, to discuss a new and personal publication of his work.

Sadly, their correspondence was cut short by Suda’s passing in March 2019 — less than two months after they first made contact. But, keen to keep her promise to Suda, Poimboeuf-Koizumi reached out to his wife, Yoshiko. That November, as planned, Yoshiko welcomed Poimboeuf-Koizumi and her husband, photographer and co-founder of Chose Commune, Vasantha Yogananthan, into her home.

© Issei Suda.

Yoshiko showed them approximately 500 prints, digging out Suda’s entire press archive, book collection and vintage prints. Among this was a box of photographs that Suda had set aside. Knowing that Poimboeuf-Koizumi was interested in unpublished works, he instructed Yoshiko to “show her when the time comes”.

The result of this single autumn afternoon spent leafing through Suda’s archive is the photographer’s first posthumous publication, 78 — a selection of 78 unseen photographs dated from 1971 to 1983. Taken mostly in Tokyo and surrounding prefectures, the images epitomise the image-maker’s unusual take on everyday life — one of the defining elements of his approach to photography.

Born in Tokyo, Japan, in 1940, Suda began his career photographing Japanese avant-garde theatre in the late-1960s, before becoming a freelance photographer. Suda’s work has received relatively little attention from Western audiences in comparison to other Provoke-era photographers such as Daidō Moriyama and Takuma Nakahira, but his work is regarded by experts as deeply important to Japanese photography.

© Issei Suda.

“[Suda’s] vision, quirky and with a touch of humour, focused primarily on urban settings inhabited by children whose rules of play seem to baffle the world of adults. The everyday becomes mysterious, the mundane feels exceptional,” writes Poimboeuf-Koizumi, in the text that accompanies 78. “It was only upon our return to France that I realised Suda had passed away at 78, the exact number of prints we had intuitively selected on this autumn afternoon. This book is a tribute to the great photographer he was.”

78 by Issei Suda is published by Chose Commune.

© Issei Suda / Chose Commune.
© Issei Suda.
© Issei Suda / Chose Commune.
Marigold Warner

Deputy Editor

Marigold Warner worked as an editor at BJP between 2018 and 2023. She studied English Literature and History of Art at the University of Leeds, followed by an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London. Her work has been published by titles including the Telegraph Magazine, Huck, Elephant, Gal-dem, The Face, Disegno, and the Architects Journal.