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Kimbei Kusakabe

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Kimbei Kusakabe
Meiji Photography
Japanese, (1841–1934)
(fl Yokohama, 1880-1912). Japanese photographer. He is considered among the foremost photographers in Japan during the late 19th century, although information about him is scarce. He was apprenticed to the Austrian photographer RAIMUND STILLFRIED-RATHENITZ, and his work is informed by the European colonial tradition of studio photography, in which Japanese 'types' were recorded primarily for touristic export. In 1885 he purchased von Stillfried-Rathenitz's studio. Kusakabe's enterprise produced thousands of genre photographs depicting local merchants, craftsmen, prostitutes, geishas, children and the Japanese working class. As one of the treaty ports during the Meiji period (1868-1912), Yokohama had a thriving photographic trade, and Kusakabe's studio portraits were in great demand by tourists in search of the exotic and romanticized Asian "Other." Posed before a studio backdrop and photographed frontally and in full length, his subjects were presented in a manner highly influenced by European conventions but with more pronounced individuality and psychological character. As he himself was Japanese, his work marks a subtle transition in the way Japanese "types" were portrayed, the photographs being imbued with a greater sense of emotion. After 1912 his name no longer appeared in Yokohama's commercial directories, and it remains uncertain what became of his studio.

From: Oxford Grove Art, Oxford University Press via

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