Masahisa Fukase: Sasuke

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A tender and joyful portrait of cat companionship from the author of The Solitude of Ravens

In 1977, photographer Masahisa Fukase turned his lens toward a new companion: his cat, Sasuke. “That year I took a lot of pictures crawling on my stomach to be at eye level with a cat and, in a way, that made me a cat. It was a job full of joy, taking these photos playing with what I liked, in accordance with the changes of nature.” A year later, he acquired a second cat, named Momoe. “I didn’t want to photograph the most beautiful cats in the world but rather capture their charm in my lens, while reflecting me in their pupils,” he wrote of these images. “You could rightly say that this collection is actually a ‘self-portrait’ for which I took the form of Sasuke and Momoe.”
Featuring tipped-on cover images, this gorgeously made book is arranged in four chapters, organized around the chronology of Fukase’s life with his cats. As so often in his work, these tender images also express the photographer’s subjectivity and his connection to his subject.
Born in 1934 on the island of Hokkaido, in the north of Japan, into a family of studio photographers, Masahisa Fukase was meant to take over the family business, but instead he launched a career as a freelance reporter in the late 1960s. In 1971 he published his first photography book, dedicated to his family. In 1974, he cofounded the Workshop Photography School with Shomei Tomatsu, Eikoh Hosoe, Noriaki Yokosuka, Nobuyoshi Araki and Daido Moriyama. That same year, MoMA dedicated a milestone exhibition New Japanese Photography to their work; but it was the 1986 book The Solitude of Ravens that was to make Fukase a revered photographer worldwide. After a fall in 1992, Fukase went into a coma at the age of 58 and was kept on life support until his death in 2012.