Carte Blanche is thrilled to now carry the photobook A Criminal Investigation by Yukichi Watabe
As its title suggests, Yukichi Watabe’s A Criminal Investigation focuses on a particularly gruesome and mysterious murder committed in Japan in the late 1950s. The book begins with a sparse note: On January 13, 1958, a nose, two fingertips and a penis were discovered in an oil vat near Sembako Lake northeast of Tokyo. A disfigured body, badly burned by acid, was found nearby the next day. The grisly circumstances led local police to form a special unit to investigate the crime, and Watabe, a freelance photojournalist at the time, managed to arrange special access to document the investigation in its entirety.
Half a century later, on the other side of the world, Watabe’s stunning series of black-and-white images have emerged as an almost impossibly perfect photo book, one that’s deservedly included on several of the year’s notable best-of lists.
In 2006, a rare book dealer in London acquired a group of around 120 prints by Watabe from which the images in A Criminal Investigation are taken. The central character of the series is an incredibly photogenic detective, a Japanese Humphrey Bogart or Inspector Columbo. He appears in almost every picture, taking notes, making phone calls, going undercover at a train station, canvassing different neighbourhoods looking for clues, and visiting the tannery where the victim had once worked. If this all sounds like a Raymond Chandler novel, that’s exactly how it looks, too.