These photographs by Felice Beato from ‘Japanese Dreams’ give us an incredible glimpse into the hermit kingdom of the 19th Century.
Japan had been isolated from the west for centuries and it wasn’t until Britian and America opened up trade with Japan after 1854 and the emergence of photography began to reveal Japan’s feudal societies and culture that people in the West began to get some sense of what must have seemed a very strange exotic society.
So who was this Italian travelle and war correspondent? Well Beato arrived in Japan in 1863 and spent more than twenty years in the port city of Yokohama capturing the earliest glimpses of Japanese culture. Many of these early photographs were compiled into photographic volumes but most of the authorship has since been lost. The book ‘Japanese Dreams’ from which these photographs are taken attempts to retrieve some of these lost scenes into a single volume, a time before industrialization, before Japans rude awakening into the modern era and before the wars of the 20th century.
Just to note, you’ll notice that many of Beato’s photographs were hand-coloured. It was a technique that successfully applied the refined skills of Japanese watercolourists and woodblock printmakers to European photography. A rather incredible legacy to leave behind don’t you think?
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