Arts and Culture
Japanese art photography of the early twentieth century represents a particularly noteworthy example of an artistic genre fully participating in a dialogue of transnational modernism. The first developments in Japanese art photography were inspired by an 1893 Tokyo exhibition of the London Camera Club, whose members had, in turn, been influenced themselves by Japanese aesthetic concepts such as notan. As Japanese photographers fully embraced the idea of photography as an expressive artistic form in its own right, interactions with the West facilitated via print media were particularly key in shaping these emerging ideas. Photography periodicals played a significant role in furthering artistic experimentation and in formulating new ideas of photographic modernism. Major photography publications such as Shashin shimpō (Photographic News, est. 1882), Shashin geppō (The Monthly Photo-Journal, est. 1894), and Shashin geijutsu (Photographic Art, 1921-23) featured a variety of visual and written content highlighting Western photographers and classic photography texts as part of this dialogue. In addition, Japanese photographers travelled abroad to cosmopolitan European cities such as Paris, Hamburg, and London. The Japanese photographic press published these travelers’ observations on photography exhibitions and their impressions of their personal encounters with well-known European photographers. Focusing in particular on the critical commentary presented in these dispatches from abroad, this paper aims to further expand our understanding of the nature of these transnational encounters while also raising questions about ideas of “influence” and “originality” in the formation of photographic modernism.