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Chelsea Manning - The New Review 07/10

The big picture

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Dancers enjoy a moment of escapism in postwar Tokyo in Takeyoshi Tanuma’s 1949 photograph

This picture, of dancers on top of the Asakusa theatre, was taken in 1949, after the collapse of the military dictatorship in Japan, when the population was still coming to terms with the reality of brutal defeat in the war. Tokyo was being reimagined and photography played a crucial role in the rebirth. Years of censorship had ended and new magazines and newspapers promoted more objective reporting. A young generation of documentary photographers was emerging, borrowing the imported style of Life magazine, and reflecting the realities of Japan back to its population.

Takeyoshi Tanuma quickly became prominent among these photographers. He was only in his 20s when he took this picture. The two women are part of an all-female dance troupe that had been resident at the theatre since it was built in 1937 . Tanuma’s composition shows them turning their backs on the dustier cast of the city – the ...

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