Best of the Best: Yoshiyuki Iwase


“They carried the joys and sorrows of those living with the sea … I immersed myself in their world.” – Iwase Yoshiyuki

photograph by Yoshiyuki Iwase (1904 – 2001)

In 1904, Yoshiyuki Iwase was born in Onjuku, a fishing village in the Chiba prefecture. He studied law in Meiji University in Tokyo. He was the heir to his family’s sake distillery and he found his inspiration as he documented the traditional life of the people living on the pacific side of Chiba peninsula.

The young Iwase received a Kodak camera as a gift and he found his passion for primitive beauty of ama, girls and women who dove for and harvested abalone, seaweeds, and turban shells when the tides were favorable and the temperature was bearable. The ama became his muse and passion and Iwase’s amazing photographs remain as the final and most comprehensive visual proofs and records of the life of the ama divers.

Around the Fire, 1931 (Winner of the Grand Prize Photo Salon, 1933)
Off to Harvest, 1935
Palisades, 1935
A Successful Launch, 1950
Dozing in Warm Sand, 1950
Hauling up a Fishing Boat, 1950
Taken Aback, 1950
A Heavy Net, Apprentice Diver, 1951]
Smiling Divers, 1953
Shore Diving, 1955
Harvesting Seaweed, 1956 (Winner of the Prime Minister Prize Japan Photo Exposition, 1957)
Seaside Cave, 1962-63

As his love for photography escalated, his armaments and collection expanded, too. It included a bellows camera, a Rollei, a Sohoflex, and a Super Six. He photographed fishermen and native village people. He had a series of exceptional modernist nudes and he also documented traditional culture in post-war Japan.

A Load of Seaweed, 1947
A Good Catch, 1950
Bearing a Shrine, Shinto Festival, 1950
Dune Skiing, 1945
In the Dunes, 1945
Dancing Silver Scales, 1953

He had numerous solo exhibitions in Chiba and Tokyo. His achievements in the field of photography earned him honors and citations for his excellent work. Many of his photographs are held in collections in Tokyo and Onjuku historical museums. He passed away at the age of 97, leaving behind a legacy of his beloved village at the local folk museum.

All photographs in these article are from

Which of these Yoshiyuki Iwase photographs strike your liking the most? What other classic photographers would you like to be written about?

basterda is a member of the Lomography team in Manila. She has been dealing with your Customer Service concerns since August of 2010 and is now also contributing to the magazine. Influential Photographs is also one of her ongoing series for the Lifestyle section.

written by basterda on 2011-03-17 #japan #lifestyle #classic #photographers #black-and-white #japanese #best-of-the-best-series


  1. lakandula
    lakandula ·

    Great photography! My favorite is Taken Aback. Thanks for sharing.

  2. mikeman85
    mikeman85 ·

    Really amazing and Inspiring.

  3. dyluzo
    dyluzo ·

    Beautiful Photography !!! I like the Taken Aback and Harvesting Sea Weed ! But there all awesome !

  4. olen
    olen ·

    Around the Fire is a beautiful photo. There's a human element to it.

  5. grazie
    grazie ·

    Another great feature basterda!

  6. stouf
    stouf ·

    Spectacular ! 'Taken Aback' is quite special...

  7. dreamingj
    dreamingj ·

    wow all pic so alive~!GREAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!@_@!!

  8. basho
    basho ·

    For me, it's all about Taken Aback and A Heavy Net. They're lovely.
    Could we go on with more Japanese photographers? What about a piece on Tomatsu Shomei and another one on Moriyama Daido?

  9. pomps
    pomps ·

    Such beauty! incredible photos! love the shoot Taken Aback. I´ve recently read that nowadays there are almost no more ama working so is nice to see how this type of job was.

  10. emkei
    emkei ·

    great photos, around the fire is best for me :)

  11. jhtci
    jhtci ·

    amazing work!

  12. volker-jp
    volker-jp ·

    great article! very well written! Thanx!

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