Friday, 20 January 2012

Japan's beauty pioneer

Felice Beato (1833-1908) was one of the first photographers
to take and sell pictures in East Asia as well one of the
first war visual reporters whose work indisputably 
represents the prototype of photojournalism.
The British-Italian pioneer photographer was born in
Venice, began to work around the Mediterranean and as war
reporter documenting several wars before landing in Japan
in 1863 to open his own commercial studio in Yokohama.

Established as a treaty port, the town rapidly grew bustling
with activity during a period of increasing modernization 
for the whole country, the Meiji period.
Beato brought to Japan a considerable inventory of negatives
and captured memorable portraits, landscapes and genre
scenes (unfortunately his first images in Japan were 
lost in the fire that came to destroy much of the 
city three years later his arrival).

He frantically worked to rebuild his archives producing
hundreds of images that catered to the taste of foreign
merchants and the growing tourist market, Beato
introduced the hand-colored technique and his work
had great impact on other photographers and artists,
originating the so-called 'school of Yokohama'.
His ”Photographic Views of Japan with Historical 
and Descriptive Notes” album is hailed as a 
milestone in photography.

He developed an extraordinary visual record of Japan
but I obviously picked out only some women studio portraits:
pictures of sublime beauty, delicately colored with watercolors,
often oval-framed, with amazing and quite up-to-date hues
revisiting the traditional Ukiyo-e woodblock prints
showing beautiful women in wide sleeved kimonos and
traditional costumes. Images whose appeal and elegance
are undoubtedly unique, awe-inspiring and timeless,
just like 'the land where the sun rises'!

Felice Beato's images of bygone Japan are on display together
with the ones by Kusakabe Kimbei in the current exhibition
Fotografia del Giappone (1860-1910). I capolavori”
at the Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti of Venice
with more than 150 breathtaking original albumine prints. 

1 comment: