All of these Meiji era commercial photographers are represented in the Early Photography of Japan project, including the 10-volume Imperial edition of Japan: Described and Illustrated by the Japanese published by J. B. Millet Company of Boston.
Felice Beato (1834 or 1835-1909)
Proclaimed in his day “the father of Yokohama photography” and now regarded as the most famous Western photographer in Japan, Felice (or Felix) Beato arrived in Yokohama in 1863. Because of his military and diplomatic connections, he was able to travel and take photographs of places that were otherwise closed to foreigners. In 1866, a fire destroyed his studio and he reportedly spent several months early the next year taking new photographs that he published in the 1868 landmark two-volume Photographic Views of Japan with Historical and Descriptive Notes. In 1877, Beato sold his studio, stock, and negatives to Baron Raimund von Stillfried. He left Japan penniless in 1884 and traveled to the Sudan before opening another studio in Burma. He spent his final years in Florence, Italy. Among the first to offer hand-colored photographs, Beato’s landscape views, genre works, and studio portraits established a precedent that influenced later Meiji era photographers.
Enami Nobukuni (1859-1929)
The most widely published photographer of the Meiji period, Enami Nobukuni adopted the trade name T. Enami. A student of and then assistant to Ogawa Kazumasa, he opened a studio in Yokohama in 1892 near Tamamura Kozaburo. Enami worked in all popular formats, including large format prints in souvenir albums, lantern slides, and stereographs. To date, he has been identified as the photographer of the largest number of original hand-colored albumen prints used in the 1897-1898 multi-volume Japan: Described and Illustrated by the Japanese. After his death, his son Tamotsu operated the studio until it was destroyed in World War II.
Adolfo Farsari (1841-1898)
Italian adventurer Adolfo Farsari owned the last important Western photography studio in Japan. Born in Italy, he immigrated to the United States in 1863 where he married, served in the Union army, and became an American citizen. Following the death of his second son, he left home and spent the next five years traveling before moving to Japan in 1873. In Yokohama, he established a business, A. Farsari & Co., selling maps, guidebooks, and photographs supplied by various studios. Farsari taught himself photography and opened his own studio in 1885 when he acquired the stock and negatives of Stillfried & Anderson. In 1886, a fire destroyed all of his negatives, and for five months afterward, he toured Japan taking new photographs to replace them. He reopened his studio in 1887 with a portfolio of around 1,000 images. Over the next three years, in an increasingly competitive market, he achieved commercial success by offering quality work at a higher price and using an innovative approach to hand coloring his photographs. In 1890, he left Japan and returned to Italy.
Kajima Seibei (1866-1924)
Known as the “millionaire photographer,” Kajima Seibei came from a wealthy family, owners of a saké wholesale distribution business. He used his wealth to pursue his interest in photography. Kajima toured Japan in the late 1880s and early 1890s and produced a large volume of work that he distributed through various studios. He was especially interested in experimenting with various photographic techniques. A founding member of the Photographic Society of Japan, he also helped finance Ogawa Kazumasa. In 1895, he opened a studio and photography shop in Tokyo billed as “the most complete photographic establishment in the Orient.” It proved unsuccessful and caused a breakdown of relations with his family. Subsequently disinherited and forced to leave his wife, it effectively ended his photographic career.
Kusakabe Kimbei (1841-1932)
Kusakabe Kimbei achieved more recognition for his photography in the West than in Japan because of his popularity with foreign collectors. When he turned 18, he left home and moved to Yokohama to become an artist. He went on to work as a photographic colorist and assistant with both Felice Beato and Baron Raimund von Stillfried before opening his own studio in 1880. Professionally known by his given name Kimbei, he combined his studio portraits and scenic views of Japan with reprints of photographs by Beato, Stillfried, Uchida Kuichi, and other photographers to create souvenir albums for tourists. He also produced hand-colored collotypes and lantern slides. By 1901, he operated the largest studio in Japan with a portfolio in excess of 2,000 images. He stopped working as a photographer in 1914 and spent his remaining years painting.
Ogawa Kazumasa (1860-1929)
Innovative photographer, printer, and publisher Ogawa Kazumasa, also known as K. Ogawa, pioneered the photomechanical printing process in Japan and transformed the market from souvenir albums to publications illustrated with hand-colored collotypes. His publications introduced Japanese art and culture to a broader international audience. Ogawa became interested in learning English and photography at an early age. He opened his first studio in Tomioka in 1877. From 1882-1884, he studied photographic and printing processes in Boston and Philadelphia. When he returned to Japan he opened a photography studio in Tokyo. In 1888, he accompanied American art historian and educator Ernest Fenollosa on a tour of Nikko to photograph the region’s art. The following year he established Japan's first collotype business, launched the art magazine Kokka, and became a founding member of the Photographic Society of Japan. He published more than 300 books and became the Meiji era’s leading exponent of photography as art.
Shimooka Renjo (1823-1914)
After serving as a samurai in the artillery battery at Shimoda from 1843-1844, Shimooka Renjo went to study art in Edo and discovered photography. He went on to become Japan’s most famous photographer and is still regarded in that country as the “Father of Japanese Photography.” Shimooka established the first Japanese commercial studio in Yokohama in 1862 after years of trying to learn photography from various people, including American missionary Samuel Brown and his daughter Julia, who is credited with being the first female photographer in Japan. In turn, Shimooka taught other Japanese photographers, including Suzuki Shinichi. By the mid-1870s, he retired from active photography and returned to painting.
Suzuki Shinichi (1855-1912)
Probably the first Japanese photographer to study abroad, Suzuki Shinichi became interested in photography while a student of the English artist Charles Wirgman. He went on to become an apprentice to Japanese photographer Shimooka Renjo, and in 1876, he opened his first studio in Nagoya. To advance his technical knowledge, Suzuki traveled to San Francisco in 1879 and served an apprenticeship with photographer Isaiah West Taber. He returned to Japan a year later and opened a new studio in Kudanzaka, Tokyo, where he achieved considerable recognition for his work and was later honored by receiving a request to photograph the Emperor and Empress. His success peaked around 1896 but he eventually lost everything speculating in the shipping business. He is often confused with his father-in-law Suzuki Shinichi (1835-1919), who also apprenticed under Shimooka, because they both adopted the same name.
Baron Raimund von Stillfried (1839-1911)
A major Western figure in Japan's history of photography, Austrian aristocrat, military officer, diplomat, artist, and photographer Baron Raimund von Stillfried arrived in Yokohama in 1868 where he studied photography under Felice Beato. He opened a studio, Stillfried & Co., in 1871, and in less than a year became involved in a potentially serious diplomatic incident when he managed, without authorization, to take the first photograph of a Japanese emperor. In 1876, he formed a partnership with Hermann Anderson and the studio was renamed Stillfried and Anderson. Also known as the Japan Photographic Association, the business acquired Beato's studio and stock in 1877. In June of the following year, the partnership was dissolved. Stillfried left Japan permanently in 1881 after helping his older brother Franz establish another Yokohama photography studio, Baron Stillfried. Records indicate that Franz Stillfried probably bought the Stillfried and Anderson studio and stock before selling everything to Adolfo Farsari in 1885.
Tamamura Kozaburo (b. 1856)
Regarded as an originator of "Yokohama shashin" for tourists, Tamamura Kozaburo opened his first studio in Asakusa, Tokyo, in 1874. He then moved to Yokohama in 1883 and for the next 30 years became one of the most successful and popular commercial photographers in Japan by selling souvenir photograph albums to foreigners and taking profitable commissions from various organizations, including an order for more than one million hand-colored photographs from the Boston publisher J. B. Millet Company. Tamamura received many awards for his photography before his son Tamamura Kihei (d. 1951) took over the business in 1916.
Uchida Kuichi (ca. 1844-1875)
During his short life, Uchida Kuichi acquired a reputation for being Japan’s best photographer. He started his career in 1865 when he opened a studio in Osaka. In 1868, he moved his studio to Yokohama and then established a branch in Tokyo a year later. Uchida achieved lasting importance as a photographer when, in 1872, the Imperial Household asked him to take the first authorized photographs of the Emperor and Empress Meiji. At the time, commoners were forbidden to look at the Emperor under penalty of death. That same year, he accompanied the Emperor as official photographer on a tour of Japan. At the age of only 32 he contracted tuberculosis and died.
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