Shinzo Fukuhara (1883 -1948):

Often called 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 1922).

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 book “Hikari 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 activities.

In 1930, Shinzo traveled to China and made a series of photographs which he published in his 1931 book “Beautiful West Lake”. 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.

Image: Yoshino River, Nara Prefecture, 1920s.
Item #: SD-086
Artist: Shinzo Fukuhara
Date: 1920s
Price: inquire
Description: vintage gelatin silver print.
Image:Osaka Castle.
Item #: SD-085
Artist: Shinzo Fukuhara
Date: 1920s
Price: inquire
Description: vintage gelatin silver print.
Image: photograph of Shinzo and Roso Fukuhara at Yoshino River, Nara Prefecture.
Item #: SD-091
Artist: Akira Ibuka
Date: 1920s
Price: inquire
Description: vintage gelatin silver print printed on Opal paper.
Image: Musashino Fubutsu Shashinshu (Views of Musashino), First Edition.
Item #: SD-096
Artist: Shinzo Fukuhara editor
Date: 1943
Price: 75,000 JY
Description: published by Seibunsha, includes photos by Fukuhara and members of the Nihon Shashin Kai.
Image: Fukuhara Shinzo, Fukuhara Roso: Hikari to Sono Kaicho (Light and Its Harmony)
Item #: SD-098
Artist: Shinzo and Roso Fukuhara.
Date: 1977
Price: 17,000 JY
Description: published by Nikon Salon Books, Nikkor Club.
For further reading on Shinzo Fukuhara and the Shiseido Photography Collection, click here.