Beautiful Hand-Colored Japanese Flowers Created by the Pioneering Photographer Ogawa Kazumasa (1896)

Ogawa Kazu­masa lived from the 1860s to almost the 1930s, sure­ly one of the most fas­ci­nat­ing 70-year stretch­es in Japan­ese his­to­ry. Ogawa’s home­land “opened” to the world when he was a boy, and for the rest of his life he bore wit­ness to the some­times beau­ti­ful, some­times strange, some­times exhil­a­rat­ing results of a once-iso­lat­ed cul­ture assim­i­lat­ing seem­ing­ly every­thing for­eign — art, tech­nol­o­gy, cus­toms — all at once. Nat­u­ral­ly he picked up a cam­era to doc­u­ment it all, and his­to­ry now remem­bers him as a pio­neer of his art.

At the Get­ty’s web site you can see a few exam­ples of the sort of pic­tures Ogawa took of Japan­ese life in the mid-1890s. Dur­ing that same peri­od he pub­lished Some Japan­ese Flow­ers, a book con­tain­ing his pic­tures of just that.

The fol­low­ing year, Ogawa’s hand-col­ored pho­tographs of Japan­ese flow­ers also appeared in the Amer­i­can books Japan, Described and Illus­trat­ed by the Japan­ese, edit­ed by the renowned Anglo-Irish expa­tri­ate Japan­ese cul­ture schol­ar Fran­cis Brink­ley and pub­lished in Boston, the city where Ogawa had spent a cou­ple of years study­ing por­trait pho­tog­ra­phy and pro­cess­ing.

Ogawa’s var­ied life in Japan includ­ed work­ing as an edi­tor at Shashin Shin­pō (写真新報), the only pho­tog­ra­phy jour­nal in the coun­try at the time, as well as at the flower mag­a­zine Kok­ka (国華), which would cer­tain­ly have giv­en him the expe­ri­ence he need­ed to pro­duce pho­to­graph­ic spec­i­mens such as these. Though Ogawa invest­ed a great deal in learn­ing and employ­ing the high­est pho­to­graph­ic tech­nolo­gies, they were the high­est pho­to­graph­ic tech­nolo­gies of the 1890s, when col­or pho­tog­ra­phy neces­si­tat­ed adding col­ors — of par­tic­u­lar impor­tance in the case of flow­ers — after the fact.

Some Japan­ese Flow­ers was re-issued a few years ago, but you can still see 20 strik­ing exam­ples of Ogawa’s flower pho­tog­ra­phy at the Pub­lic Domain Review. They’ve also made sev­er­al of his works avail­able as prints of sev­er­al dif­fer­ent sizes in their online shop, a selec­tion that includes not just his flow­ers but the Bronze Bud­dha at Kamaku­ra and a man locked in bat­tle with an octo­pus as well. Even as every­thing changed so rapid­ly all around him, as he mas­tered the just-as-rapid­ly devel­op­ing tools of his craft, Ogawa nev­er­the­less kept his eye for the nat­ur­al and cul­tur­al aspects of his home­land that seemed nev­er to have changed at all.

via Pub­lic Domain Review

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hand-Col­ored 1860s Pho­tographs Reveal the Last Days of Samu­rai Japan

Hand-Col­ored Pho­tographs from 19th Cen­tu­ry Japan: 110 Images Cap­ture the Wan­ing Days of Tra­di­tion­al Japan­ese Soci­ety

1850s Japan Comes to Life in 3D, Col­or Pho­tos: See the Stereo­scop­ic Pho­tog­ra­phy of T. Ena­mi

Hun­dreds of Won­der­ful Japan­ese Fire­work Designs from the Ear­ly-1900s: Dig­i­tized and Free to Down­load

His­toric Man­u­script Filled with Beau­ti­ful Illus­tra­tions of Cuban Flow­ers & Plants Is Now Online (1826)

How Obses­sive Artists Col­orize Old Pho­tographs & Restore the True Col­ors of the Past

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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