Little is known of Takada's early years, but he was clearly an artist who enjoyed experimentation in his printmaking. Here we see an image which has involved the use of several negatives and an interesting range of chemical adjustments. As someone who has spent many years behind a camera and also in the darkroom myself, one of the things I enjoy doing is taking apart the process that a photographer employed when creating complex images. Photography is often cited as the perfect marriage between art and science and this unique vintage photograph is an exemplary product of that union.
Firstly, Takada would have photographed the nude torso of his model before making another negative of the water splash. He then either printed the first exposure on a curved piece of photographic paper, to create the curved distortion, or more probably, he could have photographed the torso into a curved or cylindrical mirror and added the double meshing of the hands at the top of the frame. You can clearly see the way the lower section of the torso fades into the curve. Once the torso was printed onto the paper, I suspect Takada half-processed the image. By changing the negative or moving to another enlarger, he would have printed the second image of the water splash onto the part of the paper which had already been half-exposed. Finally, Takada would have tackled the difficult part; he has solarised the whole piece of paper by flashing the paper under a short burst of light. This produces an effect known as solarisation, which was 'invented' by Lee Miller in Man Ray's darkroom.
At least that is how I think he made this piece of work! Takada clearly liked to experiment. Each unique print has been thought through very carefully and no second copies exist, for the simple reason that each work would have involved much trial and error, and Takada kept only the final and most successful result for posterity.
Minayoshi Takada (1899 – 1982) was one of Japanese photography’s most prominent and experimental pioneers. Trained in the dominant Pictorialist style during the 1920s, Takada’s work demonstrates an awareness of contemporary international currents, most obviously in his references to Surrealism and Constructivism. The dreamlike juxtapositions and abstracted forms which dominate his pictures are animated by a bold graphic sensibility, which does not shy away from close cropping and dramatically inverted contrasts. The sophistication of his imaginative compositions is equalled by Takada’s accomplished command of printing’s technical aspects, often using double negatives and transparencies to register several prints within densely suggestive composite images.