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The show’s title, which translates as ‘photograph: rough, blurred, out of focus’, encapsulates the style of these images, which were often grainy and disorderly, and encompasses the works that were born out of this style.

When Hoppen first went to Japan just 12 years ago, it still felt like a “pioneering” experience, he said. Although some curators had brought examples of these works back to the west before, Hoppen was struck by the breadth, quality and comparative affordability on offer there.

Storytelling

What particularly distinguished these works from the western counterparts, says Hoppen, was their emphasis on storytelling. Single works were often long narrative series of 70 or 80 images presented in photobooks rather than as individual prints. These photobooks remain integral to the history of Japanese photography and desirable collectors’ items in their own right.

For Hoppen, who deals only in photographic prints, the popularity of photobooks in the 1960s and ’70s means that original versions are sometimes still available from publishers and photographers.

Since Hoppen’s first visit, he has worked to establish relationships with the photographers and their families, many of whom have kept original prints for decades. Such items are available at the current show which runs until November 12.

“The market for this work has broadened hugely since our first show 10 years ago,” Hoppen tells ATG. “Back then, Japanese photography seemed like a very distant, exotic medium to focus on. It was all American and European.

“You would bump into the same buyers at sales all over the world, even when you tried to get to more remote places, but few people seemed to have fully investigated the opportunities in Japan.”

The show aims to introduce a growing London audience to Japanese photographs: from the earliest post-war productions to later artists who were influenced by the work of this generation. Spread across two floors of the gallery, works are offered for prices ranging from £1500-27,000.

Acclaimed photobook

Among the photographers included in the show is Shomei Tomatsu (1930- 2012), whose grainy, impressionistic style signalled a break with earlier formalism. His acclaimed photobook Hiroshima-Nagasaki Document 1961 was influential in the development of the Provoke photographic movement later in the decade and he is considered a stylistic mentor for many photographers in that movement.

Other artists featured include Ishiuchi Miyako (b. 1947), subject of the gallery’s stand at the recent Frieze Masters fair, who documented her hometown of Yokosuka. The place had been used as a US naval base in the mid-1970s and her works focus on the foreign presence.

For those considering starting a collection in the field the advice from Hoppen is familiar: “Figure out what excites you and work with artists who produce small editions. If you can, go for a great vintage print.

“These days, older works are getting a little more expensive and harder to find.”

michaelhoppengallery.com