Simply titled Masahisa Fukase: Sasuke, the charming images are organized into four chapters, organized around the chronology of the Japanese photographer’s life with his cats. The foreword to the book reveals how much Fukase enjoyed raising several: Tama was the tortoiseshell he grew up with; Kuro, a black cat from his student years; Hebo was a black Persian cat while Kabo, a Siamese, and Gure, a Russian blue style alley cat. But his favorite cat was Sasuke, because it was the one he had photographed first and most.
Interestingly, just 10 days after arriving, Sasuke fled. In the book’s preface, Tomo Kosuga writes: âFukase immediately covered the neighborhood with little ‘Lost Cat’ posters. Two weeks later, a woman called her to tell her that she had found a kitten in a parking lot in Harajuku that matched the one on her little poster. She kindly offered to take it to Fukase.
But according to Fukase, it wasn’t actually Sasuke. âWhen I first saw this cat that wasn’t mine, I was disappointed,â said Fukase, âbut since I’m a real cat lover and can’t resist them, I quickly thought, “Come on, let’s pretend it’s him,” and that’s how I adopted Sasuke Two. “
Fukase apparently took the kitten everywhere with him, to “get him used to the outside world”, as Tomo Kosuga explains. “When summer arrived, he left Tokyo for the depths of the countryside, accompanied by this new Sasuke. He never seemed to tire of photographing him running outside, frolicking with bugs and frogs.”
As Fukase recalls: âThat year I spent a lot of my time crawling on my stomach to take pictures at the cat’s eye level, and that made me a cat. It was the happiest task: taking pictures, while playing with something I liked, in tune with the changing seasons. “
A year later, he acquired a second cat, named Momoe. âI didn’t want to photograph the most beautiful cats in the world but rather capture their charm in my lens while reflecting me in their pupils,â he wrote of these images. “You could rightly say that this collection is actually a ‘self-portrait’ for which I took the form of Sasuke and Momoe.”
Born in 1934 on the island of Hokkaido, northern Japan, to a family of studio photographers, Masahisa Fukase was supposed to take over the family business, but instead embarked on a career as a freelance reporter in the end. 1960s. In 1971, he published his first book of photographs, dedicated to his family. In 1974, he co-founded the Workshop Photography School with Shomei Tomatsu, Eikoh Hosoe, Noriaki Yokosuka, Nobuyoshi Araki and Daido Moriyama. In the same year, MoMA dedicated a landmark exhibition to their work, New Japanese Photography; but it was the 1986 book The Loneliness of the Ravens that would make Fukase a revered photographer around the world. After falling in 1992, Fukase fell into a coma at the age of 58 and was kept on life support until his death in 2012.
Edited by Atelier EXB, Masahisa Fukase: Sasuke is a love letter to the photographer’s feline companions. Available for purchase here.