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Japan 1883 – 1948

Shinzo Fukuhara was the most prominent and influential amateur art photographer in Japan between the world wars and the driving force behind various camera societies, exhibitions and publications. He was very western in business having completed his education in America as well as having spent time in Paris in 1913 where he mixed with avant-garde artists and pursued his own art photography. Recalled to Japan at the advent of the First World War, Fukuhara took over direction of the old family pharmacy business, and during the 1920s created the international cosmetics corporation Shiseido. His personal art, however, was very romantic and his first photobook -- published in Japan in 1922 -- was of soft-focus impressionistic studies from his pre-war sojourn in Paris.

In 1930 Fukuhara travelled to China and photographed the long-established tourist destination of the West Lake at Hangzhou. The sub-title came from his influential 1923 essay 'The Light with its harmony' in which Fukuhara promoted a manifesto for photographic art reflecting national character (Japaneseness) based on the abstract qualities of light merged with the aesthetics of traditional arts and culture. Fukuhara's various photobooks were very other-worldly, usually about places by water with literary associations. His last published book The Sunny Hawaii (1935) embraced a more modernist clarity of light and form.

Fukuhara's advocacy of an international style of Pictorialist art photography while seeking to define a national character parallels the activities of Harold Cazneaux and his Australian contemporaries in founding the Sydney Camera Circle in 1916 to promote an Australian school of sunshine photography expressing the national character.


Gael Newton
Former Senior Curator, Australian and International Photography
National Gallery of Australia

this 2008 text originally published on the NGA site


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