Masahisa Fukase - Kill The Pig

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The photobook “Kill the Pig” features two early series by the Japanese photographer Masahisa Fukase. Both series belong to Fukase’s earliest works that together constituted Fukase’s first solo exhibition titled “Kill the Pig” in 1961.

Fukase photographed the series “Kill the Pig” in a slaughterhouse in the Shibaura area of Tokyo using both black-and-white and color film. The color photographs were reserved mainly for the scenes that feature blood and gore but the series as a whole is shocking and graphic, with Fukase not “simply directing his gaze at the horses, cattle and pigs awaiting their fate, but at something else lying alongside them loke a shadow.”

“Naked,” the series that accompanied “Kill the Pig” both at the 1961 exhibition and in this photobook, features photographs Fukase and his then-partner Yukiyo Kawakami. While seemingly unrelated in their subjects and styles, the series together form a complex statement “about the cruelty of the two poles of life,” as the “Naked” series includes a harrowing image of a stillborn baby—Fukase’s and Kawakami’s first child.

In addition to the two series “Kill the Pig” and “Naked,” the photobook also includes a thoughtful essay by Masahisa Fukase Archives founder Tomo Kosuga which contextualizes the exhibition with regards to Fukase’s life and Japanese photography and offers invaluable insight into the series’ meaning (all texts included in Japanese & English translation).

“[T]he fact that [Masahisa Fukase] continued to confront the tragedies that were dealth him, without running from them, and indeed devoted his life to exploring their deeper meaning, is what makes him the master photographer we recognize today.
In a way, the exhibition that forms the basis of the present book was a requiem offered for the repose of the soul of Fukase’s dead child. For Fukase, it was the first of many such tributes to loss and death.”
― from Tomo Kosuga’s afterword