Alison Bradley Projects is pleased to debut From Student to Master: Tokuko Ushioda and Her Teachers, early vintage photographs by Tokuko Ushioda (b. Tokyo, 1940) and rare photographs by her teachers, Yasuhiro Ishimoto (b. San Francisco, 1921–2012) and Kiyoji Ōtsuji (b. Tokyo, 1923–2001).
Born in 1940 in Tokyo, Tokuko Ushioda enrolled in Kuwasawa Design School in 1960, where she began to study under the noted photographers Yasuhiro Ishimoto and Kiyoji Ōtsuji.
In the 1960s and 1970s, the academic teaching of photography, then in its infancy in Japan, owed much to Yōko Kuwasawa. Kuwasawa founded Kuwasawa Design School in 1954 and recruited practicing photographers Yasuhiro Ishimoto and Kiyoji Ōtsuji to serve as teachers. Twelve years later, in 1966, when Kuwasawa established Tokyo Zōkei University, Ishimoto recommended Ōtsuji as the founding teacher for the photography course.
After graduating in 1963, Ushioda remained in the school’s orbit. From 1966 to 1978 she assisted Ōtsuji and taught photography at Kuwasawa Design School and Tokyo Zōkei University. Around 1975 she began a career as a freelance photographer working mainly for magazines. Eventually, she crossed paths with Shinzō Shimao, a 1974 graduate of Zōkei and also a one-time student of Ōtsuji, and in 1978 the pair gave birth to a daughter and married. The family of three moved into a one-room unit with a shared kitchen and bathroom in a historic Western-style house in Setagaya, Tokyo.
This exhibition presents Early Works, 16 vintage prints by Ushioda from this period (1979–1985) when she was making photographs in her domestic space and balancing her new roles as a mother, artist, and wife. These photographs have lain dormant for 40 years, and Alison Bradley Projects is thrilled to share them for the first time with the public. Ushioda’s work raises questions about gender and domesticity and challenges notions of acceptable subject matter for the era.
On view in the gallery’s second room are photographs by Ishimoto and Ōtsuji, also noted as two of Japan’s leading modernist masters. These photographs include Ishimoto's depiction of the Katsura Imperial Villa in Kyoto and a scene of postwar life in Tokyo, (photographed circa 1950-60s, and early 1980s, printed in the 1980s by the artist), and 2 photographs by Ōtsuji: OBJET, (circa 1950 and printed circa 1987 by the artist), and Foam is Created (a vintage work circa 1953), made from the automatic slide projection presented by Hideko (b. Tokyo, 1927–1997) and Kazuo Fukushima (b. Tokyo, 1930), a sister-and-brother team, at the 5th Jikken Kōbō (Experimental Workshop) Presentation in 1953.
In this context, Ushioda’s photographs speak to the dialogue between student and teacher, the way artistic vision gains an afterlife through the act of mentorship, and the evolution of a student staking a claim to her own territory.
Accompanying the 16 vintage prints exhibited in the gallery is My Husband (1978–1983), a portfolio of 10 modern prints. The selection not only chronicles Ushioda’s family life but also outlines the development of Japanese photography. Many images depict Ushioda’s peers—among them photographer Shigeo Gochō (1946–1983), critic Osamu Hiraki (1949–2009), and photo-historian Ryūichi Kaneko (1948–2001)—seen through Ushioda’s eyes in their youth. As well, the gallery will feature diptychs from ICE BOX, a series dating from the same period, and rare first edition books by Ushioda and Ishimoto.
Alison Bradley Projects is honored to bring these rare works to a wider audience in New York. From Student to Master is accompanied by an online catalog authored by photo historian Miyuki Hinton.