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Books about Early Japanese Photography

Monday, January 15, 2007 Posted: 02:18 PM JST

Buying vintage photographs of Japan is an expensive and time-consuming enterprise. Luckily there are several excellent books available with collections of these beautiful images. Hereby a list of the very best books about early Japanese photography:

Art And Artifice: Japanese Photographs Of The Meiji Era
Provides a brief, elegant introduction to Meiji-era photographs and to the world in which it flourished. In three essays and over 70 illustrations, it explores the social function of these photos and their remarkable artistry, the practicalities of transpacific travel at the turn of the century, and the personal stories of those who collected and preserved these images--leaving us with a privileged glimpse into this pivotal moment in Japanese cultural history and the history of photography. Essays by Anne Nishimura Morse, Frederic A. Scharf, and Sebastian Dobson.

Reflecting Truth: Japanese Photography in the Nineteenth Century
Collaboratively compiled and expertly co-edited by the team of Nicole Coolidge Rousmaniere and "Reflecting Truth" reveals how scholarly investigation and research of Japanese photography is currently moving beyond a focus on the introduction of new discoveries and descriptions of Japanese photography collections, to an investigation and understanding of Japanese photography in both historical and cultural contexts. From the introduction of commercial studios in the 1880s, to the tradition of war portraiture, to photography in the modern period, Reflecting Truth is a seminal, unique, and ground-breaking work that will be of immense interest to students of Japanese culture and the history of photography.

Photography in Japan 1853-1912
Authoritative and unique visual record of Japan�s metamorphosis from a feudal society to a modern, industrial nation. The 350 old and rare images in this book, most of them published here for the first time, not only chronicle the introduction of photography in Japan, but also demonstrate how early photographic images are vital in helping to understand the dramatic changes that occurred in Japan during the mid-nineteenth century.

The Adventure of Japanese Photography 1860 - 1890
The 90 photographs of the March Collection published in this volume, many of which are being made available to the public for the first time ever, depict the vanished feudal Japan in a way unique both in its historical meaning and in its aesthetic appearance. They include rare works by Felice Beato and Adolpho Farsari and numerous pictures by their Japanese followers Ueno Hikoma, Kusabe Kinbei, Tamamura Kihei, and Ogawa Kazume. Through intensive research, it was for the first time possible to attribute several works to the artists.

Shashin 19th Century Japanese Studio Photograhy
Studio photographs made in Japan during 1860s to the 1900s by enterprising foreign and Japanese photographers were often collected these images into ornate albums sold to tourists. This book shows a small collections of these album photographs.

Geisha: A Photographic History, 1872-1912
Documents the intimate life and culture of the nineteenth-century geisha. It portrays these artists in a cultural reality created by staged studio photography, private scenes, and rare outdoor images. The geisha is pictured performing her daily rituals and various arts�bathing, dressing, hair styling, dining, dancing, and playing instruments. Images of courtesans and other working women are presented alongside the geisha to show all sides of this enchanting aspect of Japanese culture. Completing the story are insightful essays on the history of nineteenth-century Japanese photography, the social history of the geisha, and the history of the opening of Japan.

Early Japanese Images
English author Bennett, who owns a business devoted to early Japanese printed matter, describes the history of early photography in Japan. The book features a representative selection of photographs in the sepia tones and hand-coloring of the period, showing shrines and Buddhas, harbor views, artisans at work, fire-fighters, tattooed men, warriors in armor, along with the Emperor Meiji and his empress, a Samurai council, bathing scenes both public and private and "teahouse" women in sensual embrace.

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.

Old Japanese Photographs Collectors' Data Guide
If you are interested in the field of old Japanese photographs as a collector, researcher, dealer, curator or auction house then this book is, quite simply, indispensable. The author has written on and researched the subject for many years and has brought together in one volume the results of exciting new research and also data which has been gathered from long-forgotten and largely inaccessible nineteenth-century sources. Souvenir photographs of Japan, mostly hand-coloured, are extremely collectible today. However, it is usually very difficult to identify the photographer or studio from where they originated. Provided here is a list of more than 4000 such photographs which greatly assists the identification process. Finally, a unique index of over 350 photographers and publishers of Japan-related stereoviews is also included.

Bakumatsu Ishin Saishiki Kyoto ("Colored Kyoto of the Bakumatsu and Meiji Restoration")
Japanese language book with some 130 hand tinted photographs of Kyoto dating back to the late 19th century. Each photograph is accompanied with a long description and a map of where the photograph was taken. Even if you can't read any Japanese, this little gem is worth it for the beautiful photographs.

Hyakunen Mae no Yokohama Kanagawa Ehagaki Fuukei ("Picture Postcards of Yokohama & Kanagawa 100 Years Ago")
Publisher Yurindo celebrated its 90th anniversary in 1999 with a wonderful book containing 1,200 vintage postcards of landscape and street scenes of Yokohama and surrounding areas, mostly hand-colored. Most of Japan's early photographers lived and worked in Yokohama as this was, with Nagasaki, the city where photography first arrived. As one of the few ports opened to foreign trade, which was additionally close to Tokyo, it attracted hordes of foreign tourists who bought countless hand-painted picture postcards. The famed Yokohama Archives of History compiled and edited the book. Many of the postcards were taken from the Archives' own collection. Others were borrowed from institutions and private collectors. Although all captions are in Japanese, most postcards have English place names printed on it. Many of the postcards are also hand-colored. The book is esepcially interesting to collectors because of its extended list of postcard publishers.

Hozonhan Koshahanshin de Miru Bakumatsu Meiji no Bijin Zukan ("Illustrated Book of Bakumatsu-Meiji Beauties")
An incredible collection of 19th-century and early 20th-century photographs of Japanese women from different layers of society, all the way from the Imperial family and prominent families through photographs of unknown semi-nude women. What makes this book especially appealing is its sections on hairstyles and fashions and historical background. A large number of photographers are represented. The collection even contains photographs by pathfinders like Beato, Stillfried, Ueno and Shimooka.

Bakumatsu Ishin Meiji Taisho Bijin Chou Aizoban ("Collector's Edition of Beauties of the Bakumatsu, Meiji and Taisho Eras")
Another beautiful collection of 19th-century and early 20th-century photographs of Japanese women. Similar to "Illustrated Book of Bakumatsu-Meiji Beauties" (see above). This book reaches from the Bakumatsu Period (until 1868) through the Taisho Period (1912-1926).

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The now legendary Sir Ernest Mason Satow (1843-1929) was a member of the British legation in Tokyo for twenty-one years. This classic book is based on the author's detailed diary, personal encounters, and keen memory. In it, Satow records the history of the critical years of social and political upheaval that accompanied Japan's first encounters with the West around the time of the Meiji Restoration. Fascinating.
Stone Bridge Press

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