HAMBURG.- This retrospective is comprised of vintage prints and his original book dummies, many of which have never been exhibited before. Kiyoshi Suzuki began photographing in the late 1960s in Iwaki City, Fukishima Prefecture, where he had been born. He then worked for thirty years in relative isolation, playing constantly with life, continually in movement, ferreting out stories and the connections between literature, music, theater, religion, poverty and family. Sometimes he searched in the stillness, sometimes in the midst of human activity, but always driven by a deep fascination with the fragility and integrity of the insignificant and the humane.
Suzukis work is mysterious; a quality which already emerges in his first book, Soul and Soul (1972). One sees there the small beginnings of the great game. The photography is dark in its meaning, sometimes absolutely obscure, but there is also something meditative about it. The explosive smile of a mine worker, his teeth glinting like Dracula's, confronts the same face on the opposite page, now at peace, gazing tenderly, warmly at the photographer. As a viewer, it makes you realize that the maker of the book is sympathetic and involved, but also that he directs rather than merely documents.
Soul and Soul appeared during a crucial period in Japanese photography. This becomes clear from the publication of a number of other books: The Map, by Kikuji Kawada (1965), For a Language to Come, by Takuma Nakahira (1970), and Goodbye Photography, by Daido Moriyama (1972). As in America and Europe, some Japanese photographers were breaking with the objective journalistic or the romantic image. It was a movement that began with Robert Frank and William Klein, with in their wake, for instance, Christer Strömholm and Ed van der Elsken. Suzuki is also part of this tradition, someone who breaks photography open, at the same time subtly uncovering the contradictions in society. (Michael Botman, guest curator for the survey exhibition in Groningen)
It is the first time that the works of Suzuki are presented in Germany.