the father of Japanese modern photography, Shinzo
Fukuhara was born
in Tokyo in 1883. His father, Arinobu Fukuhara owned a pharmacy called
Shiseido in Tokyo's Ginza district and from an early age Fukuhara
had aspirations of becoming a painter. In 1906 he graduated from
the Chiba Medical College with a degree in pharmacology. In 1908
he traveled to the United States to attend Columbia University and
earned a second pharmacology degree. During his stay in New York
he worked for a pharmacy and a cosmetics factory. In 1912 he traveled
to Europe visiting England, Italy, Germany and France, where he settled
in Paris. There he joined a group of young Japanese artists and while
there took over 2000 photographs of the city (later published as “Paris et la Seine” in
In late 1913 Fukuhara returned to Tokyo to enter
the family business and assumed management of Shiseido in 1915.
This was the start of Shiseido being transformed into one of Japan’s
leading cosmetic companies with Fukuhara as its first president.
As a successful businessman Fukuhara’s passion for art and
photography only grew. In 1921 he and his brother Roso
Fukuhara established the Shashin
Geijutsu-sha, a group of art photographers dedicated to pictorialism.
This group mounted exhibitions at the prestigious Shiseido
Gallery and published
the journal Shashin Geijutsu.
In 1923 Fukuhara published his groundbreaking
to Sono Kaicho” (Light with its Harmony) which proposed applying
the Japanese aesthetic of haiku poetry to photography. This was
also the year the Great Kanto Earthquake struck Japan on September
1, 1923 destroying Shiseido's headquarters and gallery, as well
as all of Fukuhara’s prints and negatives. As devastating
as this was, Shinzo and Roso founded the Nihon Shashin-kai (Japan
Photographic Society) in 1924 with Shinzo elected the group’s
first chairman in 1925. The Shiseido Gallery was also rebuilt and
by the late 1920s the Nihon Shashin-kai was back to its regular
In 1930, Shinzo traveled to China and made a series
of photographs which he published in his 1931 book “Beautiful
This was published by the Nihon Shashin-kai which also published
his books “Old Town Matsue" in 1935, and “The
Sunny Hawaii” in 1937. In 1940 he made a trip to Taiwan with
his protégé Tadashi Murabayashi and made a series
of photographs there. But by then his eyesight was declining which
forced him to rely more upon his assistants when photographing.
In 1943 he published “Musashino Fubutsu” (see below)
which was published during World War II when art photography books
were a rarity.
In 1944 Fukuhara moved from Tokyo to Gora in the
Hakone district near Mount Fuji, where he lived for one year, then
to Nagano Prefecture in 1945. In 1946 his brother Roso died, then
Shinzo himself passed away on November 4, 1948, at the age of 65.
When he died, his passing signaled an end to a classic era of Japanese
art photography. Fukuhara is now considered a pioneer of Japanese
art photography, publishing seven books and over 100 articles.
He was also a patron of the arts and supported young and aspiring
artists. According to Shiseido, his concepts on art formed the
basis of "Shiseido
Style", one of the companies’ most
enduring legacy. All but a small portion of Fukuhara's prints and
negatives survived World War II. The following prints are examples
of Fukuhara images thought to be lost forever.