- 美術研究 = The bijutsu kenkiu : the journal of art studies
- no.412, pp.71-82, 2014-03-25
On October 18, 1910, Kuroda Seiki (1866–1924) and Ogawa Kazumasa (1860–1929) were named teishitsu gigeiin, art experts in service to the Japanese imperial court.While from different fields, Western style painting and photography, a letter dated April 26, 1910 among Ogawa's letters addressed to Kuroda indicates that they were aware of each other prior to being named to their imperial household posts. The letters are about requests or thanks for gifts, and appear monthly, thus indicating that the two men were in regular contact, and this continued even after Ogawa closed his own photography studio and photoengraving company. Ogawa was six years older than Kuroda. Even though he was younger, Kuroda had spent almost a decade, from ages 18 to 27, studying in France, and taught at Tokyo Bijutsu Gakkô after his return to Japan. He was the rising star of the Western painting world in Japan, building a reputation for himself despite his youth. For Ogawa, it was an honor to become close to Kuroda, and Ogawa's respect for Kuroda can be seen in his letters. The points in common between the two men include their overseas study experience, their dauntless pursuit of new expressive methods never before seen in Japan, and their success in that endeavor. Ogawa's overseas study was not as lengthy as Kuroda's, but he set out for America in order to learn photographic techniques. After his return he used his acquired knowledge, taking photographs, and energetically developing his photographic printing and publishing work, breathing new life into the photography industry in Japan. After his return from France, Kuroda led the Japanese Western painting world into new forms of painterly expression, and thus undoubtedly felt a sense of shared closeness with Ogawa through their innovative endeavors. It is unclear when the two men met, but their critiques of photographs in the Hana-no-kage journal published by the Kakô-kai photography group started by members of the Japanese nobility provide historical materials showing their connection prior to the dates on extant letters. Their photography critiques were first published in Hana-nokage in March 1907, and thus it can be presumed that they had actually met by that time. Hana-no-kage itself was first published in 1903, and if like other photography groups of the period, the Kakô-kai held meetings, it is possible that Kuroda or Ogawa may have been invited to such meetings, and thus they may have met at an even earlier date. Ogawa Kazumasa was born in Gyoda, Musashi province (present-day Gyoda city, Saitama prefecture), and after learning the wet collodion process he left Japan for America in July 1882. In Boston he learned the collotype process and dry plate production, returning to Japan in January 1884. In 1885 he opened the Gyokujun-kan photography studio in Iida-machi 4-1, Kojimachi-ku, Tokyo. In 1888 he acted as a record photographer in the treasures survey of the Kinki region conducted by Kuki Ryûichi of the Imperial Household Agency and others, taking large numbers of photographs of ancient art works. Further utilizing the knowledge and techniques learned in America, he experimented with collotype printing, later opening the Ogawa Shashin Seihanjo (literally, Ogawa's photoengraving company) in Hiyoshi-chô, Tokyo. This led to his fullscale production of collotype printed works. This studio produced the collotype plates for the art journal Kokka, founded in October 1889. Ogawa acted as a consultant for the Bankoku-shashinkokai (international photography association) held in conjunction with the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, setting off for America once again. During this visit Ogawa learned about the halftone process, and after buying printing equipment, tools, and materials in America he returned to Japan. He began halftone-printing work in February 1894. Then during the First Sino-Japanese War (July 1894–March 1895), he produced the photographic plates for the Nisshin senso jikki (August 1894–January 1896) published by the Hakubunkan and the Tokyo Asahi Shimbun's supplement. During the Russo-Japanese War (February 1904–September 1905) he printed and published a large number of photographic albums, including the Nichirô sen'eki shashinchô (total 24 volumes, The Ordnance Survey Office, 1904–1905), Nichirô sen'eki shashinchô (Photographs by Imperial Headquarters Photographic Department, The Ordnance Survey Office, 1906), and the Nichirô sen'eki kaigun shashinchô (Ichioka Tajirô, author, 1905). In April 1905 the Great Colored Photographs Exhibition of the Russo-Japan War was held in the Number 5 building of the former exposition buildings in Ueno Park, and thus he played a major role in war journalism. For his Russo-Japanese War achievements overall, on April 1, 1906, Ogawa was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays. Thanks to this recognition, he received a variety of honors, and in 1910, he was the first photographer named an art specialist in service to the imperial household. Thus Ogawa brought technologies to Japan from overseas at an early date and put them to use in the development and success of his business endeavors. In the shadows of this success however, was the support of Viscount Okabe Nagamoto (1855–1925). Viscount Okabe understood photography and himself took pictures, serving as the vice-chairman of the Nihon Shashin-kai, Japan's first such group established in 1889 with Ogawa as the organizer. In 1893 Okabe was one of the organizers of the Dai Nihon Shashin Hinpyôkai. The Hinpyôkai welcomed numerous members of the aristocracy, Tokugawa Atsuyoshi was the chairman of the group and the members of the nobility were all named honorary members. Having members of the nobility as the chairman and vice chairman probably lent authority to the group, but it was a fact that many of the nobility of the day were photographic aficionados, and that tendency can be seen amongst many of them with diplomatic or overseas study experience. They are thought to have taken photographs of scenes they witnessed while overseas and as some sort of record of their journeys, and after their return to Japan they joined photography groups that had a salon-like atmosphere and represented gatherings of intellectuals from both Japan and overseas. The Kakô-kai was the highest ranking gathering of upper class members interested in photography, and their journal, Hana-no-kage, became printed photographic compendia that allowed them to publish their photographs as they liked. Unlike ordinary photographic groups, whose membership was too large to allow compendia of works by all members, the Kakô-kai had only a small number of members, and their publications were further realized because all the members were of the same status. Not only did Kuroda Seiki provide photographic critiques for Hana-no-kage, he also acted as a judge for photographic contests held by such organizations as the Tokyo Photographic Materials Association. Kuroda, a professor at Tokyo Bijutsu Gakkô and a leading Westernstyle painter, was probably asked to be a judge in order to add tone to the contest. In the same manner, for the noble members of the Kakô-kai, having Kuroda provide photographic critiques in Hana-no-kage may have made them feel that their works would be more highly valued. This would have also been the case for photographic critiques by Ogawa, a major force in the Japanese photographic world of the day. Inviting the two men to provide critiques, and the publication itself of the Hana-no-kage, can be considered the shining moments of Japanese photography during a time when photography was still new and available to and enjoyed by only a limited number of people.