After forays into New York, Roma and Moscow, the American photographer visited Japan in 1961. The resulting outstanding work affirmed his personal approach: the production of “photo-journals” that lie at the intersection of historical documentation and personal diaries. Guided through the Japanese capital by a group of official representatives, Klein defied prohibitions and taboos to create images bordering on insolence: he photographed a geisha in her private quarters, witnessed a cosmetic surgery meant to correct slanted eyes, captured the buoyancy of the Tokyo Stock Exchange and did a close-up portrait of the imperial couple. Eventually, he escaped his escorts to plunge deep into a city then in the midst of great mutation. The 1964 Olympics marked Tokyo’s entrance into the modern era. He then shot prostitutes applying their make-up, mingled with children in front of the imperial palace, followed passengers in the subway, snapped storefronts and the ever-intoxicating neon signs at night; he tracked Kazuo Ohno, cofounder of Butoh dance, through the Tokyo streets and attended a special performance of ‘boxing painting’ by the famous artist Ushio Shinohara.
As an American in postwar Japan, Klein shared, through photographs, his encounters with the inhabitants of the megalopolis, from the powerful to the artistic avant-garde. The large black and white prints and painted contacts on view at Polka Galerie confirm the uniqueness of his vision and, once again, testify to his genius. Nowadays, Klein is considered to be one of the most emblematic figures of the international art scene. His photographs were published in 1964 in Tokyo (Zokeisha Publ.), now one of the most important book in the history of photography. Partnering with Polka Galerie, the Japanese publisher Akio Nagasawa released in December 2014 a new edition, Tokyo 1961. Signed and numbered (1,000 copies), the book is available at the gallery.