Images of Old Japan: Meiji Photographs (1868-1911)

Ming's Gallery

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Images of Old Japan: Meiji Photographs (1868-1911)

Featuring over one hundred of the earliest recorded photographic images pf Japan, this collection offers a rare glimpse into the culture and spirit of the Meiji era. Work by prominent European  and Japanese photographers document Japan's rapid transformation from federal rule to a modern society after the opening of trade with the west.

These historical photographs include scenes of the Imperial Court, Buddhist Temples, land and seascapes, portraits, occupations and costumes, each reflecting the heritage of the Kingdom.

Today a vanished technology, the collotype was, at the turn of the century, an important method for reproducing photographs in books, and Ogawa was the unquestioned leader in the field. The quality of reproduction was nearly as good as a true photograph. Most collotypes were monochrome, although often they were enhanced by hand tinting with watercolors in the same way as albumen prints. Many of the Japanese postcards from this period, for example,were hand colored collotypes. Apparently, Ogawa perfected a means of making true polychrome collotypes, which allowed him to reproduce faithfully and consistently the beautiful flowers seen in this collection. No one understand exactly how this was done, although examination of the art indicates that there was a separate plate for each color, and pinholes in the corners give a hint as to how the registration was achieved.

Beginning in the early 1860's, Felice Beato, a naturalized English subject born in Venice, operated a studio in Yokohama. He established a standard approach that influenced the work of photographers who followed him. Rather than conveying a purely Westernized conception of Japanese culture, Beato's thoughtful compositions reflect his appreciation for the Japanese aesthetic. In 1877 Beato's studio was bought out by Baron Ramimund Stillfried Von Rathenitz, an Austrian nobleman, who expressed himself primarily through elegant and simply composed portraits. Early on, the Japanese learned the art of photography from Westerners. Beato and Stillfried trained a generation of Japanese assistants who became first-rate photographers. 

Original hand colored albumen and collotype works by Fealice Beato, Baron Von Stillfried, Adolfo Farsari, Ogawa Asshin and Kusakabe Kimbei are highlighted in this collection.

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