Seiichi Furuya Why Dresden

The photographs that populate Japanese photographer Seiichi Furuya’s new book Why Dresden (published by Spector Books) are quietly radiant. Photographed from 1983 to 1984, the book lays bare a personal and intimate narrative as it unfolds with photographs of Furuya’s small family (his young wife and child) anchoring the series. Shot chiefly in public spaces – onboard boats, in parks and zoos – these images are juxtaposed with observational snapshot-style photographs of Dresden in the GDR years.



The somewhat idyllic family photographs are seemingly complicated by the political climate, but not overshadowed by it, revealing evidence of rubble and architecture that is definitively old and new. Contrasting these black and white photographs are scenes of colour, altering not just the overall mood of the book, but also the sense of time and history. The photographs are also foreshadowed by the fact that Furuya’s young wife would soon die by her own hand, jumping out a window in 1985. With this latent knowledge the photographs are made wistful, lonely and tragic.

The book’s compact, diary-like scale speaks to the content of the photographs, while not impinging on them. The placement of the images on the page – aligned to the edges – brings to mind a roll of 35mm film and facilitates in the seamlessness of the sequence. Given its size and unassuming front cover, this is a surprisingly intelligent and compelling book.

Born in Japan, Seiichi Furuya relocated to Europe in 1973, and along with Manfred Willmann and Christine Frisinghelli would become one of the original founders and editors of Camera Austria. His previous books include Staatsgrenze 1981-1983 (Spector Books/Izu Photo Museum), Mémoires 1984-1987 (Camera Austria/Izu Photo Museum), Alive (Scalo) among many others. Why Dresden includes a text by Manfred Wiemer. Highly recommended.



This book review was published by The Heavy Collective in October 2017.