A History of Japanese Photography.

Essay by chaneyjcCollege, UndergraduateA+, April 2003

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Since Japan opened the island nation to the West, the camera has witnessed that country's technological and emotional transformation. The Houston Museum of Fine arts has done an outstanding job showing this fine collection of photographs. There are all types of photographic presentation shown at the exhibition. Types include portraiture, landscape, and documentary photographs. More than 200 images by 110 artists are on loan from about 60 private, institutional and public collections. A book accompanies the exhibition and is on display there at the exhibition.

From the formal 1870 portrait of a samurai warrior in traditional dress to the ultra-modern series Elevator Girls by Yanagi Miwa, we can see the evolution of their photography. Throughout the entire exhibition we see an era of pictures that are straightforward and show the visual struggles the island country has come to know. From early history to the world wars are shown at the photo exhibition.

The photographers look at their culture, architecture, and the devastation of war. It is amazing to see that the Japanese people have come so far in technology and innovation. The most obvious differences concern format, including lacquer-framed portraits and the practice of mounting prints on silk scrolls. Less evident are qualities of the subjects themselves.

Three wars created an entirely different arena for photographers. These are the photographs that attract me the most. The shots that show the history of a people are wonderful to view. Pioneer Ueno Hikoma shot the aftermath of the Satsuma Rebellion in 1878, transforming a bullet-riddled building in an overgrown landscape. This picture shows the ability of the people to overcome hard times but yet reminded of what happened so long ago. The depth of field in this picture was outstanding. The detail of this shot is exceptional for the era it was...