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Images of Old Japan - Meiji Photographs (1867 - 1912)

Ming's Asian Gallery
Seattle and Bellevue WA Nov 28-Jan 6, 2005

Felice Beato - Brothel named Nectarine No. 9, Yokahama, Kanagawa
Felice Beato, Brothel named Nectarine No. 9, Yokahama, Kanagawa (1900), hand tinted watercolour collotype [Ming’s Asian Gallery, Seattle and Bellevue WA, Nov 28-Jan 6]

Ming’s Asian Galleries in Seattle and Bellevue offers a rare opportunity to view the first recorded images of old Japan. Dating from the Meiji era (1867-1912). Images of Old Japan includes photographic work by prominent European and Japanese photographers. The images portray Japan’s changing socio-economic climate with the introduction of Western expeditions and industrialization and serve as cultural bridges between Eastern and Western paradigms.

These historical photographs show tranquil countrysides, spirited city streets, the Imperial Court and temples, portraits and costumes. The exhibition features Western photographers Felice Beato, an Italian Military photographer, who extensively documented the last years of the old regime and went on to operate a studio in Yokohama, and Austrian nobleman Baron von Stillfried who later took over Beato’s firm. Beato did not take the Western viewpoint when composing an image and set a new aesthetic standard with his sensitive approach and appreciation of the culture. His influence can be found in the elegant austerity of von Stillfried’s simple portraiture.

Felice Beato - Officer’s daughter
Felice Beato, Officer’s daughter (1880), hand tinted watercolour collotype, [Ming’s Asian Gallery, Seattle and Bellevue, WA, Nov 28-Jan 6]

Beato and Stillfried trained a generation of Japanese assistants. Most notable are Kusakabe Kimbei and Ogawa Isshin. Kimbei went on to perfect the art of the psychologically-telling portrait, while Ogawa was the most highly regarded society photographer of his time. One of the highlights in this exhibit is an original polychromatic floral collotype by Ogawa. This first true colour photograph was created by Ogawa using a process that involved collodian, a highly flammable chemical. Nobody has been able to figure out how Ogawa worked with such explosive material and he was so secretative about the process that it died with him. Conventional collotypes, (used mostly for book and postcard reproductions) were monochromatic and hand tinted with watercolours.

Allyn Cantor

 Tue, Nov 2, 2004