Japanese Photography


The advent of photography, or shashin (“sha,” meaning “to reproduce,” and “shin,” which means “truth”), in Japan in the mid-19th century coincided with the invention of the daguerreotype in France and the end of Japan’s national isolation. Led by photographers Kansuke Yamamoto and Hiroshi Hamaya, Japanese photography of the 1920s and 1930s was largely shaped by the emergence of documentary photography in the United States and by established strains of Western Pictorialism and Surrealism. Post–World War II Japanese photography was dominated by street photographers Daido Moriyama, Osamu Kanemura, and Yakuma Nakahir, who used handheld cameras to capture the frenzied claustrophobia of daily life in urban Japan. Such photographers pursued a new photographic form, termed sunappu shotto (“snapshot, which was characterized by the aesthetics of rough, blurred, and out of focus images. As photography galleries arrived relatively late to Japan, photography magazines like Camera Mainichi, Asahi Camera, and most famously PROVOKE, as well the medium of the photobook, were integral to the medium’s development and popularity. Other significant figures in post-war and contemporary Japanese photography include Hiroshi Sugimoto, Nobuyoshi Araki, and Hiroshi Masaki.

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