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Japan caught in colour back in 1865 by Felice Beato

Kimonos, parasols, baby’s toys, basket sellers, courtesans at rest and a samurai gang ready for action … Felice Beato was one of the first people to photograph the far east – and he made life bloom with colour. Here are his rare hand-coloured shots of Edo-era Japan:

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Japan caught in colour back in 1865 by Felice Beato – Woman with vase –

In a peripatetic career that spanned five decades, the photographer Felice Beato (1832–1909) covered a wide swath of East Asia.

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Japan caught in colour back in 1865 by Felice Beato – Women playing checkers –

Early Work, about 1855–57

Beato‘s involvement with photography likely began in Constantinople (present-day Istanbul) through his collaboration with James Robertson (1813–88), who became his brother-in-law in 1855.

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Japan caught in colour back in 1865 by Felice Beato – Mother and child –

Japan, 1863–84

Beato spent more than 20 years in Japan (1863–84), his longest residency in one country and the most prolific period of his career. There he witnessed one of the most turbulent eras in Japan’s history, known as the Bakumatsu period (1853–68), when the Tokuga shogunate gave way to the Meiji reign.

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Japan caught in colour back in 1865 by Felice Beato – House of the courtesans –

During his time in Japan, Beato employed the wet-collodion method, which reduced the length of exposure to seconds rather than minutes. The use of photography began to spread in Japan in the mid-1850s, and Beato’s work rapidly achieved success as he offered the first hand-colored photographs and photographic albums in the country.

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Japan caught in colour back in 1865 by Felice Beato – Woman with tea –

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Japan caught in colour back in 1865 by Felice Beato – Two women with an umbrella –

Despite restrictions on foreigners’ travel, Beato developed a remarkable and rare visual record of Japan. This photograph depicts the monumental sculpture of the Dai Bouts (Great Buddha), which had been the centerpiece of a temple that was destroyed by a typhoon. It was an important attraction at Kamakura, and Beato was the first Westerner to photograph it. He posed himself in the scene, sitting on the stairs, while local men climbed the statue.

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Japan caught in colour back in 1865 by Felice Beato – Woman with fan –

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Japan caught in colour back in 1865 by Felice Beato -Basket seller-


Beato
left Japan in 1884, but his photographs continued to circulate with the successive sales of his negatives to different studios.

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Japan caught in colour back in 1865 by Felice Beato -Two women on a bench-

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Japan caught in colour back in 1865 by Felice Beato – Woman washing –

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Japan caught in colour back in 1865 by Felice Beato – Samurai group –

See them at the London Photograph Fair, 23 & 24 May 2015

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This entry was posted on May 22, 2015 by in PHOTOGRAPHY and tagged , , , , , , .

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