Photography of flowers in the early modern era of Japan

Photography of flowers in the early modern era of Japan

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Ogawa Kazumasa (1860-1929) was born during the final period of the Edo era in Japan. Hence, the modernizing dynamics that followed during the Meiji period that began in 1868 impacted greatly on Kazumasa. This includes learning photography techniques based on a broad approach, including developing his chosen path in America before returning to his native homeland. Therefore, Kazumasa denotes many aspects of old Japan, sometimes based on realism and other times focused on reaching out to a market based on the manipulation of reality.

However, in this article, the sole emphasis is on his photography of flowers in the late nineteenth century. Indeed, the images obviously denote a time in the distant past based on the style of the photos he produced. Yet, the approach he took his fascinating and you can imagine the stillness of time when viewing.

Kazumasa at a relatively young age opened up a photographic studio during the ever-changing landscape of Tokyo in 1884. His enterprising spirit is further witnessed by opening a dry plate business followed by a printing factory in the late 1880s. Therefore, it is abundantly clear that Kazumasa was making the most of the freethinking times associated with the Meiji period in this period of Japanese history.

In another article about this esteemed photographer, I comment, “Kazumasa was a pioneer in photomechanical printing and photography. In truth, Kazumasa was multi-talented in the field of photography, printing, and publishing.”


Kazumasa took the images of hand-colored flower collotypes depicted in this article in the late nineteenth century. They were then put together and sold in his book titled Some Japanese Flowers. Therefore, the subject matter and singular nature of the flowers in each photo are a glimpse into the techniques of this period with the end result being most pleasing! (Photo gallery and very high quality)


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