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Focus on Japan

Asphalt is not a traditional photomagazine. Dedicated to the japanese and asian photography,the magazine exists only by the will of his founders, without sponsors or advertising. Thought as a collector's item from its conception, Asphalt launches this winter, the issue 8. During all the week, the world of photography has meeting in Paris and on the occasion of Paris Photo, it seemed to us evident to meet his founders to speak about this UFO...

Hold Up Photo: Atsushi Fujiwara, you're a photographer, owner of a large photo studio in Tokyo, but you're especially a founder of Alsphalt. Could you Tell us more about Alsphalt?

Atsushi Fujiwara: 
I can told you that Alspalt is born in Golden Gai in Shinjuku. This aerea is famous in Tokyo because it is a stretch of small bars and restaurants that started life as a black market area in the period immediately following World War II, and the remnants of 60-year-old barracks can still be found among the bars on the street.

One night, I went to Golden Gai in the bar "Kodoji"."Kodoji" is a legendary bohemian hangout in the 1960s for photographers like Daido Moriyama and Nobuyoshi Araki. There I met by chance Shin-ichiro Tojimbara. Tojimbara graduated from Tokyo Visual Art College and was a student of Moriyama. Tojimbara was keen to establish a forum or platform for upcoming photographers in Japan, but due to several factors, not least a mental illness with occasional fits, was looking for collaborators. Maybe because of the magic of the place but especially thanks to our desire to build something strong, Tojimbara and I connected instantly and decided to found a photography magazine. This was the birth of Asphalt. We approached two other photographers as contributors and started working on issue #1.
 Few time later, another acquaintance of us entered the scene: photo editor Akira Hasegawa had just retired. We asked him spontaneously whether he would be interested in editing the magazine. To our great surprise, he agreed.
Hasegawa is the editor for the well-known and now very collectible Asahi Sonorama Shashinshu series of 27 books published in the late 1970s. In addition to that series, Hasegawa edited some of the most famous milestones of Japanese photobooks: A Journey to Nakaji and Tono Story by Daido Moriyama, Heisei Gannen  by Nobuyoshi Araki, and Solitude of Ravens by Masahisa Fukase, just to name a few. His editorial influence can still be felt by a wide crop of current editors and publishers.
Mr.Hasegawa was interested in finding quality "no-names" instead, as well as provide a stronger direction on the selection and presentation of new photography.
Asphalt's early concept was simply to bring together our own material. From the begining, our idea was to produce more a photo book than a magazine to the best of our editorial and commercial ability. Upon Hasegawa's joining from issue #2, the concept of two regulars, one guest was introduced.

Hasegawa was also eager to expand the cultural horizon, which meant looking at emerging photography outside of Japan such as from China and Korea. His main motivation is to provide an improved view onto the Japanese and Asian photographic landscape and give guidance to the next generation of photographers. Asphalt will be his vehicle of choice to pursue his objective.
For almost 30 years, Hasegawa has been working to reach an international audience for Japanese and Asian photography. During its heyday, he was working with Sheiji Yamagishi at Camera Mainichi. Camera Mainichi was the most influential monthly photography magazine in post-war Japan. Even though much of the editorial content of Camera Mainichi was devoted to the usual news and reviews of cameras, lenses, and other equipment, from the start, he included a space for first-rate and unconventional photography and this editorial work was perfected under Yamagishi.

 

Yamagishi was a friend of John Szarkowski, the director of the photography division at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, at a time when not a single person outside of Japan seemed to know anything about Japanese photography. In close collaboration they worked to mount two milestone exhibitions in New York, "New Japanese Photography" (Museum of Modern Art, 1974) and "Japan, a Self-Portrait" (International Center of Photography, 1979). As ground-breaking as Szarkowski's pioneer work has been, Hasegawa believes that it still has not led to a full understanding of Japanese photography in the West.

 

Reguarding the question about business side of this magazine, I take all financial risk. In Alspalt, you will not find advertising. We don't want to have a budget from it. I and Hasegawa want to be completely free for this magazine. It is the price to paid for it but i'm really proud of it.
From our first meeting, I and Hasegawa agreed to complete ASPHALT when 10th issue is published. it is the key of the concept. Everything has a ending time and this limit will create new stage we believed. I leave every editing judgment and selecting guest photographers to Mr.Hasegawa. So far, each issue has been published every 6 months. And two more issues to go.