Provoke (magazine)

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Provoke (Purovōku, プロヴォーク), with its subtitle of Provocative Materials for Thought[n 1] (Shisō no tame no chōhatsuteki shiryō 思想のための挑発的資料), was an experimental small press Japanese photography magazine founded in 1968 by critic/photographers Kōji Taki and Takuma Nakahira, photographer Yutaka Takanashi, and writer Takahiko Okada [Wikidata].[1][2][3][4][5] Daidō Moriyama joined with the second issue.[1] Provoke was "a platform for a new photographic expression",[6] "to free photography from subservience to the language of words",[1] "that stood in opposition to the photography establishment".[6] It was a quarterly magazine that also included poetry, criticism and photographic theory. Provoke has been described as having "lasted for only three issues" but with "profound effect upon Japanese photography in the 1970s and 80s,"[7] and is said to have "spread a completely new idea of photography in Japan."[5]


The three issues of Provoke magazine were published on 1 November 1968, and 10 March and 10 August 1969, each in an edition of 1,000 copies.

The Provoke manifesto declared that visual images cannot completely represent an idea as words can, yet photographs can provoke language and ideas, "resulting in a new language and in new meanings";[1] the photographer can capture what cannot be expressed in words, presenting photographs as "documents" for others to read, hence Provoke's "provocative materials for thought" subtitle.[1]

The visual style of the photographs in Provoke has been said to be, in Japanese, 'are-bure-boke', translated as 'grainy/rough, blurry, out-of-focus',[2][3] a style already found in mainstream magazines such as Asahi Camera and Camera Mainichi. Nakahira and Moriyama had been experimenting with 'are-bure-boke' prior to their involvement in Provoke, and Moriyama's 12-part conceptual project "Akushidento (Accident)" for Asahi Camera in 1969 took the approach in new directions.[8] There were other comparable radical magazines and groups at the time including Geribara 5, which published three books. Asahi Journal, Kikan shashin eizō (The Photo Image) and Design also served as platforms for avant garde photography in the 'are-bure-boke' style by Nakahira, Moriyama and others.[9]

On 31 March 1970 the collective published the book 4. Mazu tashikarashisa no sekai o suterō: Shashin to gengo no shisō (First Abandon the World of Pseudo-Certainty: Thoughts on Photography and Language),[n 2] through Tabata Shoten. A review of the group's activity,[6] it is regarded as the Provoke No. 4 that is mentioned in No. 3.[1] It contains photographs by Moriyama, Nakahira, Takanashi and Taki and text by Michie Amano [Wikidata], Nakahira, Okada and Taki.

All three issues of Provoke appeared in The Open Book, a traveling exhibition that tracked "the history of the photographic medium in the twentieth century through printed images in book form".[10]

Work from Provoke was shown in the 2016/2017 touring exhibition Provoke: Between Protest and Performance – Photography in Japan 1960/1975 at Albertina in Vienna, Fotomuseum Winterthur in Switzerland,[11][12] Le Bal in Paris[13] and the Art Institute of Chicago.[14]

Critic Gerry Badger has written that the "legendary Japanese magazine, Provoke, lasted for only three issues, but had a profound effect upon Japanese photography in the 1970s and 80s".[7]

Academic research[edit]

The first substantial academic investigation into Provoke is Chapter 3 of Fabienne Adler's 2009 Ph.D. thesis "First, Abandon the World of Seeming Certainty: Theory and Practice of the 'Camera-Generated Image' in Nineteen-Sixties Japan" (Stanford University). In 2010 a journal article on Daidō Moriyama contextualized that photographer's photographic experimentation of the late 1960s and early 1970s in relation to his contributions to Provoke.[15] Yuko Fujii's 2012 Ph.D. thesis on Provoke was entitled "Photography As Process: A Study of the Japanese Photography Journal Provoke" (City University of New York). Matthew Witkovsky's chapter "Provoke: Photography Up For Discussion" in the 2016 exhibition catalogue Provoke: Between Protest and Performance contains new research. An article from 2016 by Gyewon Kim proposes that Provoke used paper as a metaphor for the city, thereby critiquing the Japanese state's imposition of homogeneous urban planning and design.[16] A lengthy 2017 article in the journal History of Photography by Philip Charrier argues that Provoke was highly theoretical in orientation. It shows that under the leadership of Taki and Nakahira, and inspired by the early writings on photography by Roland Barthes, the collective set out to create photographic imagery that could escape language and code.[17]


  • Provoke 1: Shisō no tame no chōhatsuteki shiryō = Provoke 1: Provocative Resources for Thought. Tokyo: Purovōku-sha, 1968. With photographs by Nakahira, Takanashi and Taki and text by Takahiko and Taki. Edition of 1,000 copies.
  • Provoke 2: Shisō no tame no chōhatsuteki shiryō = Provoke 2: Provocative Resources for Thought. Tokyo: Purovōku-sha, 1969. The theme was Eros. With photographs by Moriyama, Nakahira, Takanashi and Taki and text by Okada. Edition of 1,000 copies.
  • Provoke 3: Shisō no tame no chōhatsuteki shiryō = Provoke 3: Provocative Resources for Thought. Tokyo: Purovōku-sha, 1969. With photographs by Moriyama, Nakahira, Takanashi, and Taki and text by Okada and Gōzō Yoshimasu. Edition of 1,000 copies.

Publications reproducing Provoke material[edit]

The Japanese Box: Facsimile Reprint of Six Rare Photographic Publications of the Provoke Era, published in 2001 by Edition 7L (Paris) and Steidl (Göttingen),[n 3] contains facsimiles of the three issues of Provoke (as well as Nakahira's For a Language to Come, Moriyama's Farewell Photography and Nobuyoshi Araki's Sentimental Journey) and a newly edited booklet of explanatory material in English. The Box (an actual wooden box) was made in an edition of 1500.[18] Does not include texts by Takahiko Okada.

A catalog for the similarly named exhibition, Provoke: Between Protest and Performance, was published in 2016 by Steidl.[n 4] It contains photographs from Provoke and from other photographers including Shomei Tomatsu and Araki, as well as texts from that period and newly written.[19]

Provoke: Complete Reprint of 3 Volumes was published in 2018 by Nitesha.[20] It is a reprint of the three volumes of Provoke, including all images and all original texts (including those by Takahiko Okada) in Japanese. It also includes a supplemental volume with English and Chinese translations of the original Japanese texts.

Publications about Provoke[edit]

  • Provoke. Tokyo: Seikyusha, 1996. Mostly text, in Japanese, with some photographs.


  1. ^ Variously also translated as 'provocative resources for thought', 'provocative materials for thinkers', 'provocative documents for the sake of thought' and 'provocative documents for the pursuit of ideas'
  2. ^ Also translated as 'First Abandon the World of Certainty'.
  3. ^ ISBN 3-88243-301-9.
  4. ^ ISBN 978-3-95829-100-3. Edited by Diane Dufour, Matthew S. Witkovsky, and Duncan Forbes.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Martin Parr; Gerry Badger (2004). The Photobook: A History, Volume I. London: Phaidon Press. pp. 269–271. ISBN 978-0-7148-4285-1.
  2. ^ a b "For the sake of thought: Provoke, 1968–1970", Museum of Modern Art. Accessed 8 January 2015.
  3. ^ a b "Case 4: Provoke", Art Institute of Chicago. Accessed 8 January 2015.
  4. ^ Lederman, Russet (24 August 2012). "Provoke: Takuma Nakahira and Yutaka Takanashi". International Center of Photography. Retrieved 8 January 2015.
  5. ^ a b Daido, Moriyama; Maggia, Filippo; Lazzarini, Francesca (2010). The World through My Eyes. Milan: Skira. p. 437. ISBN 978-88-572-0061-3.
  6. ^ a b c Shirayama, Mari (2003). "Major Photography Magazines". In Tucker, Anne Wilkes (ed.). The History of Japanese Photography. Houston, TX: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. p. 384. ISBN 978-0890901120.
  7. ^ a b "Fire and Water – Takuma Nakahira’s For a Language to Come", Gerry Badger. Accessed 8 January 2015.
  8. ^ Philip Charrier, "The Making of a Hunter: Moriyama Daidō 1966-1972," History of Photography 34:3 (August 2010): 268-90.
  9. ^ Philip Charrier, "The Making of a Hunter: Moriyama Daidō 1966-1972," History of Photography 34:3 (August 2010): 268-90.
  10. ^ Roth, Andrew, ed. (2004). The Open Book: A History of the Photographic Book from 1878 to the Present. Göteborg: Hasselblad Center. pp. 9, 240–245.
  11. ^ Seymour, Tom (1 February 2016). "Between Protest and Performance – Unseen Photographs of Japan's 60s New Wave". British Journal of Photography. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
  12. ^ "Provoke: Between Protest and Performance – Photography in Japan 1960–1975". Fotomuseum Winterthur. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
  13. ^ "Provoke: Between Protest and Performance - Photography in Japan 1960-1975: September 14 - December 11 2016". Le Bal (arts centre). 2016-07-18. Retrieved 9 April 2017.
  14. ^ Provoke: Photography in Japan between Protest and Performance, 1960–1975'
  15. ^ Philip Charrier, "The Making of a Hunter: Moriyama Daidō 1966-1972," History of Photography 34:3 (August 2010): 268-90.
  16. ^ Gyewon Kim, "Paper, Photography, and a Reflection on Urban Landscape in 1960s Japan," Visual Resources 32: 3-4 (2016): 230-46.
  17. ^ Philip Charrier, "Taki Kōji, Provoke, and the Structuralist Turn in Japanese Image Theory, 1967-70," History of Photography 41:1 (February 2017): 25-43.
  18. ^ A. D. Amorosi, "Agitate and Cogitate: The momentary return of Japan’s Provoke magazine Archived 2015-10-01 at the Wayback Machine", Philadelphia City Paper, 3–10 January 2002. Accessed 14 January 2015.
  19. ^ Colberg, Jörg (30 May 2016). "Provoke". Conscientious. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
  20. ^ "50 years since Provoke: reprinting the radical Japanese photo magazine". British Journal of Photography. 16 November 2018. Retrieved 2018-12-20.