I have recently discovered the work of the Japanese photographer Shomei Tomatsu who died last December aged 82. An influential photographer of the post-war era, he is famous for documenting a changing Japan, faced with the devastation of World War II and the effects of growing exposure to the West. He was a founding member of a photographic collective in the 1950s who together tried to use photography to explore Japan's modernisation process. His distinctive surreal aesthetic, as well as his collaborative practices, mean he is regarded as one of Japan's most respected photographers.
His work has a grainy and raw quality appropriate for his often heartrending subjects. His most famous photograph Melted Bottle Nagasaki 1961 looks like a skinned animal but it is actually a beer bottle distorted by a nuclear burst in 1945. With this image Tomatsu confronted the horror of what had happened in a city that was desperately trying to forget. The twisted muscular form of the bottle is a horrifying reminder of the destruction of war.
My favourite photograph is of a prostitute in Nagoya in 1958. I love her strong eyebrows and very graphic yukata as well as her fixed stare at the camera. This photograph encapsulates the old world of Japan as it meets the demands of modernity.