Thoughtfactory: large format

a minor blog about the trials, tribulations and explorations of large format, analogue photography in Australia

Japanese photographic art history + culture

 Histories of photography written in English have focused almost exclusively on work by European and US photographers, rendering work by most non-Western photographers invisible. Their  emphasis on photography as a particular kind of “art,” went hand in hand with the exclusion of most world photography from histories of the medium. 

My embrace of the Japanese aesthetic of wabi sabi as mentioned in the 'A significant moment' post  has lead me to want to deepen my knowledge  of  Japanese photographic  history, asethetics and culture. In doing so I want to avoid  the contemporary western attempts to  re-establish clichés of Japan, often by praising the “typical Japanese” combination of West and East. The projection of Western fantasies onto the “Orient” has been san essential aspect of the centuries’ old discourse on Orientalism. The West traditionally  projected images onto the Orient, particularly fantasies and topics considered taboo or unfulfilled in the West. 

I also wanted to try and avoid  the limitations and problems of framing a history of photography within a set of always already differentiated nationalistic essentialism or assuming the existence of a static field called “Japanese photography” that  highlights the issues of defining such a field through “visual and nationalistic characteristics.” It is more appropriate to think in terms of  contemporary photography  as networked rather than in terms of its traditional national characteristics (eg. the quality of light in Australia).  


Over the past 150 years, Japanese photographers have created an impressive body of work that ranges from dignified imperial photographs to sweeping urban panoramas, from early ethereal landscapes to modern urban mysteries. Despite the richness, significance and variety of this work, the rich and fascinating history of photography in Japan has been, in large part, inaccessible to non-readers of Japanese and has largely been neglected in Western histories of photography.


Ferdinand Brueggemann on Issei Suda


Jude Aden Thomas, Power Made Visible: Photography and Postwar Japan's Elusive Reality, The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 67, No 2, 2008.

Emily Elizabeth Cole, Towards a New Way of Seeing: Finding Reality in Postwar Japanese Photography, 1945-70, Master of Arts Thesis, University of Oregon,  2015

John. Clark, Hamaya Hiroshi (1915-1999) and Photographic Modernism in Japan,   Trans Asia Photography, Vol 7 Issue 1, 2016

Yosiaki Kai, Distinctiveness  versus Universality: Reconsidering New Japanese Photography, Trans Asia Photography, Vol. 3, !ssue 2, 2013. This is a review of New Japanese Photography at MOMA in 1974.This became a book by  John  Szarkowski and Shoji Yamagishi, New Japanese Photography, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1974. 

Russet Lederman, A Western Bibliomania for Japanese Photobooks, Trans Asia Photography, Vol.10, Issue 2, 2020 


Anne Wilkes Tucker, Dana Friis-Hansen, Kaneko Ryuichi, and Takeba Joe, The History of Japanese Photography, Yale University Press, 2003. This  book is the  first nuanced, thorough history of Japanese photography in a Western language.This collection is the most comprehensive reference book on the subject that is currently available in English. 

Karen M. Fraser, Photography and Japan, Reaktion Books, London, 2011

Lena Fritsch, Body as Screen: Japanese Art Photography of the 1990s,  Georg Olms Verlag AG. UK edition,  2011

Lena Fritsch, Ravens & Red Lipstick: Japanese Photography since 1945, Thames and Hudson,  London 2018

Individual photographers 

Issei Suda website 

Getty Museum, Contemporary Japanese Women Photographers,  2015. These are Kawauchi Rinko,  Onodera Yuki,   Otsuka Chino,

Sawada Tomoko, and Shiga Lieko.

Filppo Maggia, New Trends in Japanese Photography, Skira, 2017. The photographers mentioned are Maiko Haruki, Naoki Ishikawa, Tomoko Kikuchi, Toshiya Murakoshi, Yurie Nagashima, Sohei Nishino, Koji Onaka, Yuki Onodera, Chino Otsuka, Tomoko Sawada, Lieko Shiga, Risaku Suzuki, Ryoko Suzuki, and Chikako Yamashiro 


Ryuichi Kaneko + Ivan Vartanian, Japanese Photobooks of the 1960s +'70s. 

Aperture 7 Essential Japanese Photobooks 

Eikoh Hosoe Man and Woman, Camera Art, 1961. 

Masahisa Ukase, Ravens, Mack, London, 2017. The original book was published in 1986. 


Daphne Kay-Ye Ho, Deciphering Aspects of Japanese Zen Aesthetics in Relation to Photography, PhD Thesis, University of Ontario, 2018.