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Yale University Press
Except for the rare international superstar like Araki Nobuyoshi, known for his gamy shots of nude young women, Japanese photography is a closed book to Westerners. Yet it has a distinguished and vital tradition that has enriched every genre, from portraits to landscapes, with a unique blend of lyricism and candor. In The History of Japanese Photography, a wealth of captivating images and essays by seven scholars trace 140 years of stylistic and cultural evolution. In 1857 a local ruler had his portrait taken with a daguerreotype set brought to Nagasaki by a foreign ship. Eleven years later, official photographs of the emperor--never glimpsed in person by his subjects-became widely available. Photographers were increasingly called upon to document new Japanese territories, natural disasters, and wars. Visitors hankered after studio shots of geishas and other exotica. Beginning in the 1890s, upper-class amateur photographers contributed a new emphasis on aesthetics. In the 1930s exquisite Pictorialist images of natural beauty gave way to modernist influences from Berlin and Moscow, and then-in wartime-to a conservative emphasis on traditional rural life. Individual expression dominated postwar photography, as seen in such images as Tomatsu Shomei's haunting "Beer bottle after the atomic bomb explosion." Recent work reflects the dislocations of urban consumer society. Beautifully produced, with 356 color illustrations, this groundbreaking volume accompanies an exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (March 2-April 27, 2003) that travels to the Cleveland Museum of Art (May 18-July 27, 2003). -Cathy Curtis
(Vicki Goldberg, New York Times)
. . . . [A]n eye-opening introduction to photographic and Japanese history in more than 200 pictures. . . .
: Over the past 150 years, Japanese photographers have created an impressive body of work that ranges from dignified imperial photographs to sweeping urban panoramas, from early ethereal landscapes to modern urban mysteries. Despite the richness, significance, and variety of this work, however, it has largely been neglected in Western histories of photography. This gorgeous and groundbreaking book-the first comprehensive account of Japanese photography from its inception in the mid-nineteenth century to the present day-reveals to English-speaking audiences the importance and beauty of this art form. Written by a team of distinguished Japanese and Western scholars, this book establishes that photography began to play a vital role in Japanese culture soon after its introduction to Japan in the 1850s. Illustrated essays discuss the medium's evolution and aesthetic shifts in relation to the nation's historical and cultural developments; the interaction of Japanese photographers with Western photographers; the link between photography and other Japanese art forms; and photography as a record and catalyst of change. Handsomely designed and generously illustrated with beautiful duotone and color images, the book emphasizes not only the unique features of Japanese photography but also the ways it has influenced and been influenced by the country's culture and society.