Lizawa Kotaro, a renowned historian of Japanese photography, put his finger directly on the turning point in “new photography” in Japan, identifying it as the essence of the modern photography presented in “street snaps” made by photography enthusiasts using the latest compact cameras. “Many people strolled along the streets of Tokyo with Leicas, completed with their leather cases, attracting considerable attention.”My 40 Years with Leica, by Deng Nan-guang.
His words got me to thinking, while editing this volume, The Japan Years, 1929-1935, that everything began with the streets of Tokyo; modernity met tradition, old met new, Western dress met kimonos, foreigners met locals… Moving among them, as the light was cast about, coming down diagonally from above, observing from a lower angle – each youthful perspective brought out uncontainable photographic fervor, observing and capturing from moment to moment.
Moving on from street snaps, Deng Nan-guang tried his hand at the New Objectivity current in emerging photographic techniques. The construction of new forms and spaces, and scientific and optical knowledge, powered his optical depiction and expression of different objects and scenes. Three-dimensional techniques, photojournalistic selection of subjects, nightscapes, theater photography, and spatial construction found excellent expression under Deng’s rich creative powers. Tokyo became Deng Nan-guang’s experimental realm, and the images captured with his lens continue to retain their power.
Upon returning to Taiwan in 1935, Deng Nan-guang set out establishing his business. Amidst his practice of new photography, street photography continued to bear a great influence on his vision, and capturing the real-life images of ordinary people achieved full expression in the amateur photography Deng promoted. Turning to this page of photographic history, the youthful journey commenced in The Japan Years, 1929-1935 displays Deng Nan-guang’s unique creativity.
By Chien Yun-Ping