Japanese Photo Magazines after 1945:
‘In a radio address to the Japanese people on August 15, 1945, emperor Hirohito accepted defeat, finally bringing to an end a war that had continued for almost 15 years.
For Japanese photographers, this also represented the end of a long “winter” during which they had been largely unable to obtain film stock and photographic paper, and, moreover, their freedom to take and publish photographs by a variety of restrictions.
Japanese cities had been devastated by air raids, and it would be a long time before distribution of food returned to normal, but the situation regarding photography recovered quickly. It was as if people first wanted to satisfy their hunger for expression and creation that had been suppressed for so long.’
(Iizawa Kōtarō: The evolution of postwar Photography.*)
A booming Japanese camera industry, as part of the economic recovery in the 1950s, resulted in a average production of more then 10.000 cameras per month and with a very affordable price, these cameras found their way to a large number of amateur photographers.
Magazines like Asahi Camera (1949 - 2020), Camera Mainichi (1954 -1985), Nippon Camera (1950 - 2021) and Sankei Camera (1954 - 1964) were born from the need to provide information to these new photo enthusiasts.
Although much of the content consisted of articles about technique or equipment, the new generation of Japanese photographers, in addition to the amateur 'snapshot taker' , was given plenty of space for their visual stories.
Lots of equipment, techtalk, phototechnique and know how.
But also space for a new generation of photographers.
Most magazines had monthly photo contests which were actively participated in by photo enthusiasts.
These contests have been an integral part of Japanese photo magazines and they contributed to their immense popularity. For instance; the Camera Mainichi 1958 November issue had 1051 entries for only the color contest that month. Quite a few pages are dedicated to these contests and they exist in various categories. A magazine usually had 4 main catagories ( black and white large prints, b&w small prints, transparencies, color prints ) But many magazines had variations on these themes, like ‘three-piece essays’, or a contest for photoclubs. Some magazines even had special pages for the young amateurs.
Introduction to the contest in Camera Mainichi 1978:
“The Camera Mainichi Contest is a place for amateur photographers to present their work. At the same time it is also a place for beginners to improve their skills and test their skills. Please feel free to participate without being bound to previous contests.”
The selections and review discussions or comment ( mostly up to third prize ) is done by photographers and/or editorial staff members.
Quality of the contributions is often surprisingly high.
Also the writings of photographers, such as discussions, interviews and essays about photography, played a prominent role in the magazines and created an important awareness about the content of the images for the readers.
Most magazines (re)started publishing in the late 1940s. Asahi Camera as being one of the oldest magazines ( 1926 - 1942 ) revived in 1949. Nippon Camera ( 1950 ), Photo Art (1949 ), Shūkan Sun News (1947 ) and Shashin no Kyōshitsu ( 1951 ).
Sankei Camera and Camera Mainichi both appear relatively late, in 1954. Sankei Camera was launched with a more dynamic editorial policy than Camera Mainichi, who published photographs from the American magazine Popular Photography under a co-publishing arrangement. This all changed in 1963 when Yamagishi Shōji became chief-editor and made Camera Mainichi the leading magazine..
Yamagishi, a legendary jack-of-all-trades in Japanese photography, became the driving force behind Camera Mainichi in the years 1963 - 1978 as editor-in-chief, and is generally regarded as the man who gave photographers such as Tomatsu Shomei, Araki Nobuyoshi, Fukase Masahisa, Shinoyama Kishin, Moriyama Daido and many others a platform and by doing so launching their careers.
Komori Takayuki played the same role as editor for Asahi Camera. Komori and Yamagishi can be seen as the founders of the golden 60s and 70s of postwar Japanese photography.
The Japanese photo magazine, like the Japanese photo book, requires a more active and involved audience, due to its layout and design: Photography as a medium to read and not just to look at as in an exhibition.
Normally, new work of photographers first appeared in the magazines.
Many photographers were given the opportunity to make series (‘rensai’), some even had a monthly contribution of 2 - 26 pages with photos over a single year.
After that often a book appeared. Magazines and books were the main platform for photographers as there were few or no exhibitions and no market for photos as collectors prints until the 1990s.
“Contemporary Japanese photographers have values which seems distinct from those of the photographers of the West. They are, for example, not particularly interested in the quality of the finished print. […] Japanese photographers have only a limited opportunity to present their original prints to the public. (Nor do they have the opportunity to sell their pictures to public or private collections.) […] Japanese photographers usually complete a project in book form, joining in series a number of photographs related by a common subject, theme, or idea. The full value or impact of such work cannot be understood if individual pictures are isolated from the series for exhibitions on the walls of a museum. To do this deprives the photographs of their intended relationship to those which preceded or followed them in the series. In addition, the photographs were originally made to be reproduced in print form, in books and magazines, and not to be displayed a part of an exhibition. It is therefore almost impossible to present a precise and objective picture of the complexities of Japanese photography in an exhibition format.”
[Yamagishi Shôji, extract from the introduction in New Japanese Photography, 1974]
The large number of photo magazines and their monthly appearance guided photographers to a large production, with little time between the shooting and the publication of the images.
This undoubtedly was an encouragement to a great deal of experimentation or searching for new ways, which (with some other factors) led to the groundbreaking and radical photography of the 1960’s.
An exponent of this was the magazine Provoke (1968 - 1969, 3 issues, each volume only 1000 printed copies )
With its avant-garde mix of photography, experimental poetry as well as philosophical, political and critical essays, gives Provoke’s three issues nowadays a cult status, but it got marginal attention at the time. Provoke was published in Tokyo by the photographer and writer Nakahira Takuma, the art critic Taki Koji, the poet Okada Takahiko and the photographers Takanashi Yukata and Moriyama Daido ( who joined the group from the second issue).
Investigating the relationship between photography and text and suggesting new ways for photography to depict Japanese society, the magazine was an artistic and philosophical manifesto, responding to the upheavals of the late sixties. The participating photographers searched for a radically new photographic language, as is reflected in their booktitles like Moriyama’s “Bye, Bye Photography“ ( Sashin yo Sayonara ) , and Nakahira’s “For a Language to Come” (Kitarubeki Kotoba no Tame ni); publications that were turning points in postwar Japanese photography. The group disbanded in 1970 with the publication of a book called: “First Discard the World of Pseudo-certainty”, ( “Mazu Tashikarashisa no Sekai wo Sutero: also named Provoke 4 & 5 ) in which they reviewed their activities.
In the same period more short lived, but important and radical magazines appeared, like KEN, 3 volumes 1970-1971. Ken was published by Shaken, founded by Tomatsu Shomei.
And ‘The Photo Image’ ( Kikan Shashin Eizo ) , 10 volumes, 1969-1971. Edited by Kuwahara Kineo, works by Hosoe Eikoh, Shinoyama Kishin, Takanashi Yutaka, Fukase Masahisa, Tomatsu Shomei, Nakahira Takuma, Naito Masatoshi, Kawada Kikuji, Araki Nobuyoshi, Ishioka Eikoh, Yokoo Tadanori, Sato Akira etc.
Aggressive layout with a mix of styles, papers and printing techniques.
The content of the popular JPN magazines can be roughly divided into three categories:
-The work of photographers; professionals and amateurs ( with their contributions in the monthly contests )
-Learning and instructional topics.
-Advertisements for cameras and other photographic equipment, like films, darkroom equipment etc.
The advertisement section was a major source of income for the magazines.
The Asahi Camera April 1958 issue counts 77 pages of ads, on a total of 250 pages. The Asahi Camera December 1966 issue counts 100 pages of ads on a total of 300 pages. The Asahi Camera December 1975 issue had 179 pages of ads on a total of 384 pages.
Looking back they give a nice view on how camera advertisement evolved through the years, but above all they give a good insight in the development of the Japanese camera industry. They advertised beautifully designed and technically advanced cameras, that, with a very competitive price tag soon outstripped the European camera manufacturers. At the end of 1960s the Japanese 35 mm camera was, and still is, the standard tool for the professional as well as the amateur photographer.
During the 1980s the focus of the ads shifted to only the amateur consumers.
The magazines of ‘the radical movement’ had hardly any advertisements. Provoke and KEN had none, Kikan Shashin Eizo just a few.
The back covers seemed exclusively for the film manufacters, like Fuji and Sakura. In the 1950s the back covers were the only ads in color.
In the 1980s and 1990s things were changing.
‘Internationalization and growing individual independence changed the climate for making art, and it also altered the context for photography. Since the 1980s, photography has become widely accepted as an art medium by the public around the world; as with other countries, as in Japan this has lead to a strengthening and professionalization of the infrastructure for the production , distribution and exhibition of photographs. Beyond this, with the arrival of national affluence and increasing globalization in Japan, the photography network of local circles and their casual, personal contacts through clubs, galleries and magazines could no longer serve the larger needs of the field and its practitioners, historians, and collectors, not to mention a public that was eager to see and know more.’
( Dana Friis-Hasen; Internationalization, Individualism, and the Institutionalization of Photography * )
The golden years of the Japanese photo magazine slowly came to an end.
From the leading magazines, Camera Mainichi ceased publication in April 1985. Asahi Camera published until July 2020, when it was discontinued due to declining circulation. Nippon Camera, as longest living of the popular photo magazines, suspended their publication after the May 2021 issue.
Finally, some small general notes on the JPN magazines;
Japanese names appear on this website in Japanese order, that is, with family name first.
Text in articles, interviews and gear talk are mostly from top to bottom ( tategaki ) The reader progresses from the upper right corner of a page to its bottom left corner.
Captions and advertisements are mainly written in horizontal ( yokogaki )
Like Japanese books and newspapers, magazines usually had left opening. So the the right-hand page precedes the left-hand page, which often means that the first image and title of an essay starts on the left page.
*( Essay from The History of Japanese Photography. 2003, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston)
The chapter ‘Major Photography Magazines’ in ‘The History of Japanese Photography’ by Anne Wilkes Tucker ( 2003 Museum of Fine Arts, Houston) was very helpful.
The ultimate book on this subject: 'Japanese Photography Magazines 1880s - 1980s' : Kaneko Ryūchi, Toda Masako and Ivan Vartanian. Goliga Books 2022.
Next to come
The following JPN magazines, with images of the covers, selected works of photographers, and a summary of the content of each issue.
They appear in chronological order, on date of first publication.
Shashin no Kyōshitsu
Starting with Camera, founding publishing year 1921.
Text and images of the other magazines will follow coming months.
April 1921 - August 1956
Founding Publisher: Ars (Tokyo)
Founding Editor: Takakuwa Katsuo
18,3 x 25,8 cm
Although many issues are marked ‘ars camera’ in roman letters, the Japanese title is simply Kamera.
Ars, in roman letteres or アルス (Arasu) in katakana, was the publisher.
Camera was launched to promote amateur ‘hobby photography’. It established the basic format of modern photography magazines: a section of photographs at the front, photography contests and technical articles.
Under the wartime reorganization of print media, it was consolidated with several other magazines in Januari 1941 and published as Shashin Bunka ( Photographic Culture). The name was later changed to Shashin Kagaku ( Photographic Science ).
Publication halted briefly with the May-June issue of 1945 but was resumed under the name Camera in Januari 1946. (Shirayama Mari; Major Photography Magazines. The History of Japanese Photography 2003)
Kuwabara Kineo became editor in September 1948 and the magazine became a vehicle for the realist photography movement of Domon Ken, who in October 1949 announcent that he and his fellow photographer Kimura Ihei would serve as a judges for amateur contests, beginning in January 1950.
With a circulation between 15,000 and 35,000, Camera had an avid readership of dedicated camera buffs who eagerly participated in monthly photography contests.
Every month, 1000 to 1500 entries ranging widely in style and subject matter overran Camera’s offices.
Domon also had a monthly column which generated much attention. It was in this context that one of the most important movements in postwar photography emerged: social realism. Domon was the torch-bearer for the movement and famously advocated the “direct linkage between camera and subject” and the “absolutely pure snapshot, absolutely unstaged.”
In 1956, with the demise of Camera, Domon Ken moved to Photo Art and served as judge in their monthly amateur photography contests.
Fukushima published in 1961 ‘Pika Don’ ( Big Sudden Flash ) documenting victims of the atomic bomb explosion in Hiroshima and the damage done to their bodies by the resulting radiation poisoning. The book’s central figure is Sugimatsu Nakamura, who had only barely survived the initial blast of the Hiroshima bomb, and his family.
When Kudo Shoichi ( born 1929 ) passed away in 2014, his daughter Kanako discovered a large box filed with undeveloped negatives. A small photographic treasure; life in post-war Aomori, the northernmost prefecture of Honshu, Japans main island, captured in hundreds of brilliant impromptu portraits, snapshots and documentary-style images. After his daughter began to publish his photographs on Instagram, Shoichi Kudo posthumously garnered the attention of the contemporary photography community in Japan and all over the world.The photobook “Aomori 1950-1962” presents Kudo’s work in full charm.
Monthly Amateur Photo Masterpieces selection.
Asahi Graph アサヒグラフ ( aka Asahi Picture News)
January 25, 1923 - October 13, 2000
Founding Publisher: Asahi Shimbunsha ( Tokyo)
Founding editor: Narusawa Reisen
26 x 33,5 cm aprox. 80 pages
The Asahi Graph was one of Japan’s best selling pictorial magazines. A general interest magazine with photos of celebrities, royalty, movie stars, current events and social trends.
A magazine for a broad audience. It was more or less the Japanese equivalent of the American Life magazine.
Not specific a photo magazine for photographers. No contests, no photographic news or instructual articles.
From May till October 1974 Shinoyama had a weekly serial, including the cover, about what was in the news in a wide variety of subjects, chosen by Shinoyama.
Shinoyama: ‘A Fine Day was serialized in 1974 in the weekly magazine Asahi Graph. Each week, I took pictures of the most popular people and places and events and they’d be published right away. That went on for about six months. I just took pictures of the trendiest stuff I could find and put them out there.’
A photo book composed of a series serialized in “Asahi Graph” magazine for half a year from April 1974.
On the cover page, it says; “A groundbreaking photo book that opens up the horizon of a new documentary.”
Each event is pictured in about 6 pages, with a total of 23 different events.
In the preface of the book, these notes refer to the events.
Asahi Camera アサヒカメラ
April 1926 - April 1942
October 1949 - July 2020
Founding Publisher: Asahi Shinbun-sha ( Tokyo) Founding Editor: Narusawa Reisen.
18 x 26 cm, B5 size
Asahi Camera was suspended during the wartime, but rivived in October 1949 under the editorship of Tsumura Hideo.
The first postwar issue had a cover by Kimura Ihee. Since 1957 Kimura published his work exclusively in Asahi Camera and became in the same year Asahi’s first ‘camera doctor’ contributing a column devoted to analysis camera equipment.
After Kimura’s death in 1974, the Kimura Ihee Award was established to recognise promising young photographers.
Asahi Camera was Japan’s longest-running monthly photo magazine. It primarily featured contemporary Japanese photography, and today it is recognised as being one of the monthly circulations to influence modern Japanese photo history when it showcased the visual portfolios and photo theory of emerging as wel as established photographers.
Besides pictorials and the monthly contests (the Asahi Camera Monthly Contest), it had lots of information; equipment reviews, exhibition reviews and schedules, new books, etc.
For much of the period 1962–85, the job of photographing the cover was given to a single photographer for four or more consecutive months.
The late 1960s-into-mid-1970s is a particularly groundbreaking trail in Asahi Camera within the context of modern photo history. Year 1969, Daido Moriyama appear in every January to December issue with two now influential photo projects, «Accident» and «Premeditated or Not». In these stark monochrome Moriyama-signature works, we experience the artist transitioning towards his deconstructing iconography that is manifested in the testimonial photo books «Bye Bye Photography» (1972), «Japan, a photo theatre II» (1978) and «Light And Shadow» (1982). In addition to Mo- riyama, Asahi Camera anno 1969 presents Shomei Tomatsu’s social documentary series «Okinawa», a project that reflects on the Japanese island, its culture and the US troops deployed there. We also find numerous works by photographers Ihei Kimura, Kishin Shinoyama, Eikoh Hosoe - to recurring photo stories such as Takuma Nakahira’s «New Japanese Aestheticism» or «Eyes of Quintet» featuring noteworthy artists Yoshitaka Nakatani and Fumiaki Kuwabara.
Asahi Camera was manufactured using the gravure printing method, a photomechanical process developed for high-quality picture reproduction. The method was valued for its high-grade resolution and sharpness, qualities that in black and white or monochrome photography render exceptionally beautifully and subtle nuance gradations. The method has in our contemporary been abandoned for less expensive mass-production printing without the same technical or artistic capabilities.
On June 2020, the Asahi Shimbun Publishing announced:
‘The monthly magazine “Asahi Camera” (published on the 20th of every month) will be suspended after the July 2020 issue (released on June 19th). Due to the drastic reduction in advertising expenses due to the corona crisis, it is very unfortunate, but it has become difficult to maintain.’
The Kimura Ihei Photo Award will continue to be co-sponsored by Asahi Shimbun and Asahi Shimbun Publishing.’
Narahara Ikko ( 1931 - 2020 ) had his first solo exposition ‘Human Land’ in 1956 at the Matsushima Gallery, Ginza, at that time the only gallery devoted to photography in Tokyo.
In this he showed ‘Hajima’, a man-made island, famous for its coalmine. The island, surrounded by a thirty-foot concrete wall, is popularly called ‘Warship Island’. (Gunkanjima)
In his second exhibition, ‘Domains’ , in 1958 at the Fuji Photo Salon, Tokyo, he showed the series of a Trappist monastery at Tobetsu in Hokaido and at the Wakayama Prefectural Penitentiary for Females.
His 1971 book ‘Human Land’ consists of these three stories;
1. Garden of Silence ( the Trappist monastery)
2. Within the Walls ( the Female Penitentiary
3. Man and his Land. ( the Warship Island )
‘In Minamata Disease, Kuwabara has photographed the people of a small fishing village who fell victim to chemical poisoning. He was photographing these disease victims not as unrelated, objective third party, but rather telling a story from the victim’s perspective.
(..) Several years later, beginning in 1971, W.Eugene Smith also visited Minamata and created a powerful body of work, sever- al images of which have become representative of his body of work as a whole. ‘
(Kaneko Ryūchi and Ivan Vartanan; Japanese photobooks of the 1960s and 1970s. Aperture 2009)
Tōmatsu Shōmei ( 1930-2012 ) encounters with Okinawa began in 1969, at the very peak of popular protests against the Vietnam war and in support of the ‘reversion’ of Okinawa to Japanese sovereignty; he was sponsored by Asahi Camera. The purpose of his first visit was to capture the U.S. ‘occupation’ and popular protests against it, as Tōmatsu had long been doing in other parts of Japan (see: ‘Occupation’ - later chanced in ‘Chewing Gum and Chocolate,’ an open-ended series on U.S. military bases in Japan, mostly not on Okinawa, that Tōmatsu began around 1958 and expanded in a variety of magazines in the following years.) Tōmatsu’s photo reportage on Okinawa first appeared in the June and July 1969 issues of Asahi Camera, and was then published as a separate - and definitely his most political - book: ‘Okinawa, Okinawa, Okinawa.’
As the nation’s industrial expansion gained pace, over-urbanisation is becoming a serious problem. The farming population has dwindled to less than one third of the total. One farm village after another is deserted. Moriyama’s ‘All the folks gone’ was taken at such ghost village not far away from Hiroshima City which is rapidly converting itself from an administrative and consumer cen- ter to an industrial zone.
From the editor:
Versatile Parody. Those who remember Araki’s ‘Hot Landscape’ collages of two excessively grainy and irrelevant shots torn and pasted side by side, carried by last December issue of this magazine, may find it hard to belie-
ve that this issue’s ‘Girl Friends’ was authored by the same photographer. The nine girls were portrayed in nine different styles conforming to those of nine foremost Japanese photograhers. Thus Araki demonstrated what he learned while working nine years for Dentsu, Japan’s largest ad agency, before he decided to go independent on his own style. Incidentally this essay is Araki’s first color to be made public by magazine media.
He used varied cameras and three different Ektachrome in the production of this color parody.
Kitai’s photographs for ‘To the Village’ were serialized in twenty-four issues of the Asahi Camera monthly magazine from January 1974 to December 1975. The 1970s was a time when people in Japan were rapidly turning their attention to the cities. As if opposing this trend, Kitai chose the village as his subject, causing a stir with a fresh perspective that portrayed perfectly ordinary everyday life. Kitai was presented with the inaugural Kimura Ihei Award for this acclaimed series of photographs.
From the editor:
Vanishing Tribe. Kitai covered for his Villages Series another vanishing tribe of 10 bear hunters at Ani, Akita in northern Honshu.These hunters are governmental forest rangers by profession and hunt with riffles wild, ferocious bears in a brief season from late April to early Mai. Operating in a team, these superbe hunters bag every year four to five bears, each valued at well over $ 1000 dead or alive. Kitai lived with the vanishing tribe for one week, trekking snow-covered mountains from base to top.
From the editor:
Gregarious Farmers. For finale of his two-year-long elaborate Village Series, Kitai lived for three days and nights with farmers vacationing at a remote hot spring in highlands of northern Honshu. Farmers of the district, mostly elderly, take vacation for a week to a month at the hot spring, near Japan’s first geothermal power station built more than a decade ago. The gregarious life of the vacationing people may endorse a theory saying that a real privacy does not exist among the Japanese.
Shashin Salon 寫眞サロン ( Photography Salon )
Januari 1933 - December 1940
September 1951 - December 1961
Founding Publisher: Genkōsha ( Tokyo) Founding Editor: Kitahara Masao
Shashin Salon was an amateur photography-information magazine launched by Kitahara Masao through a publishing company he started after leaving Ars, the publisher of Camera.
In September 1951 it became a quarterly and after June 1952 a monthly with Suzuki Hachirō as editor. It was redesigned with a larger format in Januari 1959, with an eye to expansion, and Tamada Ken’ichirō became editor in April.
In September, it returned to its previous format and focused on technical information. (..) (Shirayama Mari; Major Photography Magazines. The History of Japanese Photography 2003)