591 Exhibition - Goro Bertz
A couple of months ago Goro Bertz sent some of his pictures to me. I was bewildered and forgive me about my ignorance but I had never heard of Goro. Some of the pictures were of a kind that made me think of great maestros like Christer Strömholm or Anders Petersén.
Judging from what I have seen of the work of Goro I regard him as one of the most interesting young photographers of today. If this was ten or twenty years ago I probably would have added "in Sweden".
Today there is no point in categorizing photographers by nationality, at least not for me. The language of photography is more universal than ever.
I am very glad to see this exhibition with a material selected exclusively for 591 Photography by Goro Bertz. Soon you will be able to enjoy and explore his work in major galleries, museums and books. It is my prediction, in any case. - Mr Urbano
Note - This exhibition is a bit different from what you are used to. Goro wanted to display his photos and text here on the blog and not in the gallery view. The 591 Exhibitions is very much a cooperation between the photographer and us, so there are always options if you want to present your work in a certain manner.
Shinjuku - Coronary Thief
At night, camera in hand, when I walk from Kabukicho to Kuyakusho Street, and then walk along Okubo Street to Shin-Okubo Station, every once in a while I get a chill up my spine. Without anything in particular happening, I sense myself flinching somewhere ... The cells of my body slightly buzzing with tension, and I sense the air around me like a sudden storm.”
The words are from the Japanese photographer Daido Moriyama and I could not have said it better myself. Because it was Daido Moriyama who made me want to go to Tokyo some years ago. It was through his images, especially from the book Shinjuku, in which I decided to make the serious move to Japan. Not only just to live here, but most importantly to get to shoot in Shinjuku at night. Another important thing that should not be forgotten is that my mom is from Japan and I have some relatives here. But I was born and raised in Sweden.
From Japanese photography and photographers such as Watanabe Katsumi, Shomei Tomatsu, Hoshi Haruto and Seiji Kurata to name a few, I have found the doors I previously did not know existed. Doors that are not always nice to open. But they became necessary to open up for me.
Never before had I seen such a direct, aggressive, ruthless, black, sexy, violent and above all, a mental strength of photographers' ideas about their painful past. No pretentious shit was written between the lines. Photography without having to take a few routes through the brain. I did not see as much of an external war, but a separate admission of internal war and chaos. A lovelorn anger and an uncompromising way to be who you are.
Daido Moriyama knocked me in the stomach and Nobuyoshi Araki's photos penetrated like a shot in the heart. For me, vulnerability, sadness and longing goes hand in hand with lust for life. The strength that comes from most Japanese photography is that you may be invited on an adventure. The images becomes your adventure. And that you don't need to understand or have any kind of experience of photography to take it to your heart. It was liberating and redeeming for me because I only had the Swedish photography to relate to before. Japanese photography was a big long finger to everything I had learned and everything I believed in and everything other people had said was the right thing.
I think the Japanese photography has such a strong expression because the society in general is too rational and strict. On the outside and especially on the inside, it is a kind of a prison. A prison that I do not think is comparable with any other country. The feelings must have an outlet. So I think there are a majority of people here who need to freak-out now and then more than in the rest of the world. Of course, history and culture are two other important things in terms of art.
In the Western world, sometimes Japanese people are often seen as a pair of strange creatures with slanted eyes and teeth, which fly in all directions. Often with a big smile, bowing and bending endlessly. Japanese people are seen as a pair of robots. But you only need to see one picture of Eiko Hosoe to understand that Japanese people are like you and me. Throughout the world there are cultural and historical differences, but we wear the same color of blood.
Anyway, to return to the topic. There is something that really attracts in Shinjuku. It is as if this district invites you to a challenge. Nothing is new under the sun today. Shoot it in Shinjuku at night and it gets as it gets. I can really only do it in two ways: good or bad. It all depends on how much you live into the city. It is important to have fun and find it fun to shoot in Shinjuku. If it becomes a routine it will not be as good. You have to live first and shoot later. But to shoot in Shinjuku requires mental and physical strength. You have to set up a drive that no one should be able to stop. The goal for me when I shoot is to become a runaway train on amphetamine, wide as a motorway.
My photographs from Shinjuku and places like Kabukicho and Golden Gai are nothing more than quickly captured snapshots taken in passing. I have no pretensions with these images to say something deep. I see them as graffiti inside of a dirty toilet. Or like a territorial pissing in a back street. It is like I want them to be cocky and I want them to be loud. On the verge of painful volume. We're talking about, after all, Shinjuku in Tokyo. But just as it is with graffiti tags, there's one thing that it really depends on: Style. I´m always looking for a nice surface, that the pictures are moving and framed in a toxic, elegant and brutal way. I´m looking for a kind of sexiness, and for me, that is the same as danger. A kind of a situation where you are in your most dangerous position.
I do not know how long I will shoot in Shinjuku. But I think I will continue as long as I remain here in Tokyo. If you once begun, it is difficult to stop and if you´re not prepared to accept the consequences of this whole thing from scratch, you should not embark on this from the beginning. There will be a price you will have to pay for this.
I've photographed in Shinjuku for over 4 years and it has only been one time I actually thought of giving up. It was just when I started photographing in Shinjuku. That night, I really doubted if there was any sense in what I did. To wander aimlessly in the back streets of Shinjuku like a homeless dog to early mornings and maybe get one or two good shots. It can sometimes feel rather pointless. Especially when you feel a bit depressed and weak.
That night, on a back street, I ended up suddenly in front of a large poster of Daido Moriyama's "Stray Dog" picture. I thought it was a huge coincidence that that particular picture was there and at that moment. But it confirmed me in some strange way. I felt that I was right and that I must continue to shoot. I continued to walk on some streets, but then turned back towards the poster again. Unclear why. Next to the poster there was a narrow staircase up to a door. So I got up and tried the door. It opened. A guy stood over me and said something in Japanese. I could not speak or understand any Japanese at that time so I did not really know what to do so I turned around, pointed down the street and the poster and said: Daido Moriyama. In order to somehow explain why I had opened that door. When I later turned around again, Daido Moriyama was in front of me. He smiled, we greeted each other automatically, then he looked down at my hand and saw that I had a camera in my hand. He pointed at it and said:...Good luck!
A few minutes later, I sat next to one of the world's greatest photographers. And not only that, he invited me for beer and we talked through a girl who also was there and who knew English. When I later sat on the train home and thought about what had happened that night, I thought that it was a night like any other night. Then it hit me...yes, of course I also met Daido Moriyama today, I thought silently to myself. The man who actually made me start all this. Is everything really about by chance or not, who knows. I would like to believe otherwise though.
Text and photos © Goro Bertz