Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Japanese Photography

Japanese photography has a long and complex history, yet is often little known in the West.

There is a fairly good introduction and overview in the book The History of Japanese Photography by Anne Wilkes Tucker. Everything from early portraits and landscapes in the 1860's through early photogrpahy magazines in the 1870's, the first dry plates arriving in the 1880's along with the start of Japanese camera manufacturing.

Japan had it's own Pictorialists phase, and later photographic Modernism and Surrealism through "straight documentary photogrpahy to the Japanese photographers of today - Yamamoto, Moriyama, Risaku Suzuki, Sugimoto and many others. There were also a very small number of European photographers who set up shop in Japan during the early years as well.

Each of these movements or periods took on their own particular form in Japan and are often noticeably distinct from the parallel forms and movements in photography in the West. One thing that particularly intrigued me was the combination of photogrpahy with the Japanese tradition of scroll-making.

Recently I came across (via wood_s_lot) a database of Japanese Photogrpahy from the Bakumatsu to the Meiji Periods (about 1860 to 1920). It's fascinating hunting around in this and find different photographs from over that period (unfortunately only a number of them have hi-res images available to view and I don't think you can download them?).

In fact spending a bit of time learning something about Japanese photography and its history is both interesting and frequently enlightening. It's something I wish I had more time to learn about and study.

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