“Japanese Photography (1860-1910). The masterpieces” is an exhibition that shows us the beginnings of photography in Japan. Soft pastel colors adorn the images of a vanished floating world.
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Are you in love with the grace and sobriety of Japanese culture? Check out the photography exhibition Japanese Photography (1860-1910): The Masterpieces, hosted by the Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere e Arti in Venice, from December 17th to April 1st.
More than 150 original albumen prints are exposed, showing us a fascinating and peculiar period of Japanese history. During the 300 years of sakoku (鎖国 closed country), any contact out of the country had been strictly limited and regulated, and now the Land of the Rising Sun was finally opening up to the world.
At the same time photography was introduced in Japan, the country was experiencing deep changing in his political, social and economic assets, that were bringing Japanese society out of feudalism into modernity and industrialization.
European artists like Pierre Rossier, von Stillfried, Felice Beato and Guglielmo Farsari, and the first japanese photographers (Shimooka Renjo, Ueno Hikoma, Uchida Kuichi, Yokoyama Matsusaburo, Kusabe Kinbei) witnessed an historical reality that was rapidly disappearing, and rushed to capture the exotic charm of Japanese daily life, and breathtaking nature.
They used the albumen print, the first commercially exploitable method of producing a photographic print on a paper base from a negative, invented in France in 1848, but with an innovation: the hand coloring. Applying color by hand on a b&w print was exactly what the masters of ukiyo-e used to do: many of them simply went from one profession to the other one.
Soft pastel colors emphasize the details of the pictures: a flower, the precious fabric of the kimono, a sacred bridge, merchandise for sale, the slight blush of rouge. The exhibition illustrates with the grace and delicacy typical of Japanese art the first contacts between Japan and photography, designed to bind in an inextricable way.