Monday, 1 December 2008

Sceneries of Japan in Old Photographs

Seeing vintage photographs of Japan from Meiji-Taisho era is such a strange and wonderful experience, it does not make me feel like slipping back in time but it's like seeing a life in mysterious exotic place that never existed. It's the romanticized and exaggerated view of Japan created by/for foreigners. I love it that these photographs are so free from all the traditional Japanese values or ideas, they make me notice and appreciate the beauty of my country in a different way. Not that I don't appreciate the history and traditional culture of Japan, it's about seeing things in different perspectives and discovering new ideas.


618 Temple at Shiba, Tokyo by Kimbei Kusakabe

M2 Papenberg Rock by Adolfo Farsari

Moat Round The Tycoon's Place, Edo by Felice Beato

I'm particularly fascinated by this last photograph by Felice Beato.
It looks, to me, as though the traditional values and authority associated with the architecture (Edo Castle) are ignored, and what's important here is the beauty of the structure, the composition and the shapes.

Some more photos by Felice Beato

All the photographs except for the "unknown" are from this Japanese site

Meiji Taisho 1868-1926 Showcase


[Tara] said...

These are fascinating! Have they been colored?

michiko said...

Yes they have been coloured. Wonderful aren't they?
Thanks Tara!

Gabbi said...

Lovely photograhs...thanks for sharing not only the photos but also your thoughts on them. The past is almost always romantisized isn't it... :)

michiko said...

Thank you Gabbi :)
I agree, the past is almost always so romantic and unreal. Especially with these photos, because they are taken and coloured in a very unusual, rather dramatic way, to attract and intrigue foreigners.

Savvy Mode SG said...

beautiful... i love visiting japan..

Mary-Laure said...

Thanks for sharing these. They have a kind of bare, human-free quality that's very intriguing.
I have long been fascinated with Japan and its many faceted culture - a summer in Japan in 1997 pretty much changed my life.

I see on your profile that you're a dancer...
As a dance addict and an amateur ballerina, I'd love to hear more about this.

michiko said...

Thank you Savvy Mode and Mary-Laure!

In 1997, I was in England :)
I'm a ballroom dancer, I teach and sometimes perform at parties and shows etc. I specialize in Standard ballroom(Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango etc.) and not Latin-American(Rumba, Cha-cha, Samba etc.).
You are a amateur ballerina, wow!
Wish I had taken ballet lessons when I was younger. Although ballroom dancing is very different from ballet, I always get inspired by looking at ballet.....well, almost all kinds of dances are inspiring really...

mothersvea said...

I'm completley hooked on the romantizied view of Japan! they surely sold it well to me..hehe. My dream is to see Japan because it seems like a very interesting and beautiful place. And these photos ARE very beautiful..

the asherette said...

these photos are beautiful. i wonder if the first one is on glass... your commentary is wonderful as well. I love that you included a photo by Felice Beato.. I think he set up one of the first photographic studios in Yokohama- beatiful beautiful handcolored landscapes....
and thank you for telling us more about your dancing:)

michiko said...

Thank you mothersvea!
I'm sure you'll find Japan very different and interesting.
As for me, I know too much to romanticize about my country, and when you know too much you are more or less dissapointed by the truth lol
I love Japanese art though, especially old/traditional arts, because that's where I can recognize the beauty of my country.
There's never "knowing too much" or "dissapointment" in art, that's the good thing about it lol

Dear Asherette: I think the first one is on glass...though not 100% sure.
Yes I think Felice Beato set up one of the first photographic studios in Yokohama(where I live).
I never never get tired of looking at these "Yokohama photos"(that's how this type of photography was called in Japan), they are out of this world...
Thank you very much Asherette!

Sam said...

These photos are very lovely. They seem so still and serene. I feel instantly relaxed just looking at them. Thank you for the post!