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KATSUMI WATANABE’s 1960s/70s Portraits From Tokyo’s Red Light District

Katsumi Watanabe

KATSUMI WATANABE (1941–2006) is one of Japan’s most well known photographers, who primarily took portraits of the women and men who worked and frequented Kabukicho, Tokyo’s Red Light District, in the 1960s and 1970s. He would charge 200 yen for three prints, worth around $5 today. Today, The Met houses some of his work. He made his money photographing people and then selling them the pictures, if they liked them. Many of his subjects worked at or hung around the Love Hotels in the district and Yakuza also frequented this area of Shinjuku. Watanabe took pictures of everyone, quietly immortalizing an era and going almost unnoticed by the art world until he was “discovered” in the 70s. His stark, confrontational portrait style is riveting, and the way he’s able to capture a sense of seeing both the inner and outer worlds of the people he photographs is genius. Here’s a collection of his Kabukicho portraits:

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Meghan MacRae grew up in Vancouver, Canada, but spent many years living in the remote woods. Living in the shadow of grizzly bears, cougars and the other predators of the wilderness taught her about the dark side of nature, and taught her to accept her place in nature's order as their prey. She is co-founder of CVLT Nation.

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