Ogawa Kazumasa: a photographer of style and panache
Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
Ogawa Kazumasa was born in 1860 and died in 1929 and he offers a glimpse into the changing nature of Japan but with the strong identity of the past. Therefore, his photography provides both sides of the same coin and this complexity would be played out in the political arena in the 1930s between nationalists and socialists.
His images remain vivid today and like Nobuyoshi Araki, but for very different reasons, both photographers provide images of a real Japan. Ogawa Kazumasa provides images of a Japan which is caught between tradition and the onset of Western influence.
However, Nobuyoshi Araki focuses on the sexual nature of Tokyo in modern times but he does this with a rare quality and unlike the blandness of Kishin Shinoyama who lacks individuality or genuine creativity; Nobuyoshi Araki provides images which enlighten people to the changing nature of aspects of Tokyo culture and he does this with a rare talent.
It is obvious that Ogawa Kazumasa and Nobuyoshi Araki are like chalk and cheese but in one way both are similar despite the huge differences of composition, style, time in history, techniques, different technology, art forms, and so forth; but both provide a style which opens up the subject matter that they enter and for Nobuyoshi Araki this applies to Tokyo and for Ogawa Kazumasa it applies to Japan.
Ogawa Kazumasa was a pioneer in photomechanical printing and photography. He was multi-talented in the field of photography, printing and publishing and clearly the Meiji era of his youth (Meiji Period began from 1868) was dynamic and a time of change. Therefore, Ogawa Kazumasa had ample opportunities once his talent was recognized because a new spirit was entering Japan alongside the traditions of the past.
Ogawa Kazumasa was born in Saitama prefecture which is near Tokyo and he moved to Tokyo in 1880 in order to further his English skills. After this, he moved to Boston in America for two years and after his arrival back to Japan in 1884 he opened a photographic studio in the Iidabashi area. This was followed by the creation of Tsukiji Kampan Seizo Kaisha four years later and the following year he began Japan’s first collotype business named the Ogawa Shashin Seihanjo and during the same year he became an editor for Shashin Shinpo.
Therefore, Ogawa Kazumasa was very energetic and he was in the forefront of change in photography and he was a founding member of the important organization called the Nihon Sashinkai (Japan Photographic Society).
If we read history books then we know that Commodore M.C. Perry influenced Japan to open up in 1854 by using gunboat diplomacy and this was not a promising way to start a relationship based on mutual understanding. However, I want to avoid the political overtures of this event because while this event is written in words the beauty of Ogawa Kazumasa is that he opens up the Meiji era because of his stunning photography and he utilized his printing skills in order to show the world.
Ogawa Kazumasa throughout his life opened up the Meiji era and the Taisho period (1912-1226) in image form. The style he composed is of major importance to photographers and historians alike. Also, his broad knowledge in many fields was maximized to the full and because of him, and others like Enami Nobukuni and Tamamura Kosaburo, we are able to glimpse into a changing Japan.
His legacy remains today and Ogawa Kazumasa will continue to impress and inspire future generations because he is a connection with the past and the images he produced were of a sublime nature.
http://oldphoto.lb.nagasaki-u.ac.jp/unive/ (Photo gallery and very high quality)
(Fantastic information about Ogawa Kazumasa)
Please note that Ogawa Kazumasa was born in Saitama prefecture which is near Tokyo but I have entered him under Tokyo because he was based on Tokyo and this is where his career began in the field of photography, printing, and publishing.