A leading figure in the rise of Japanese photography in the 1970s and 1980s, Kitajima (b .1954, Suzaka, Nagano) first came to be known for his grainy black-and-white shots of people on the streets of Tokyo, at an American military base in Okinawa after the end of the Vietnam War, and in New York. Daido Moriyama, with whom Kitajima first studied photography, praised his talent as a gifted snapshooter by calling him ‘a street killer in broad daylight.’
Kitajima’s image Shop CAMP, set up in the bustling Shinjuku area in 1976 in collaboration with Moriyama, was a pioneering experimental space for photographers before the gallery system was established. In his legendary experimental series Photo Express (1979), Kitajima photographed people at bars and on the streets in Shinjuku at night right outside the CAMP, converted the gallery into a darkroom to make wallsized prints as a public performance event, and even published the images as an instant booklet. Through these processes of delivering images immediately, the artist explored the ways that time affects photography in terms of documentation, record and memory.
Kitajima spent six months in New York roaming its gritty streets and hanging out in its clubs, resulting in the book New York (1982) . He presents a vision of the 1980s New York, full of energy, decadence and moments of quiet desperation. Like the city the publication is full of stark juxtapositions, flamboyant displays of outrageous behaviour are shown next to pictures of desolation and dejection. For this photo book Kitajima received the important Kimura Ihei Award in 1983.
Kitajima’s work has been shown in many Japanese and international exhibitions, including in ‘In the Wake: Japanese Photographers Respond to 3/11’ at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston in 2017. His publications are popular among collectors of photo books and the importance of his work has been recognised by numerous Japanese photographic awards.
In 2022 he won the 41st Domon Ken Award with his publication UNTITLED RECORDS.