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Tamamura, Kozaburo (c. 1856 - 1923)

Kinkakuji Garden at Kioto

Medium: Photography
Date: ca. 1880-1900
Size (H x W): 10 x 7.75 (inches)



This photograph is a hand-colored albumen print. In this paper-based technique, the image was printed with negative plate. This was the first true commercial printing process and the dominant form of photography to the turn of the 20th century. Unfortunately, these images faded easily and lost detail and the paper was so thin that many times the images had to be mounted.

After the Meiji Restoration, photographs were challenging woodblock prints in popularity. In hand-colored photographs, the artist would apply the color using water-soluble pigments that were more transparent than the oil paints used in the West. The paint was mixed with a small amount of glue. The process of coloring a photograph was so time consuming an expert could only complete two or three prints in a twelve-hour day. Soon, however, studios began to streamline the coloring process, where each colorist would specialize in a specific area of color, passing the photograph to another colorist after completing his section. By the 1890s, a successful studio regularly employed anywhere from 20 to 100 colorists.

About the artist

Kozaburo Tamamura was a pioneer of Japanese photography during the Meiji Period. Born in Edo in 1856, Tamamura began to study photography under Genzo Kanamaru in 1868. Tamamura opened his first photography studio in Asakusa, Tokyo in 1874. In 1883, he moved business to Yokohama, where he continued operations until 1909. The studio enjoyed great success, in part due to Tamamura’s creation of Yokohama shashin, staged-scenes intended for foreign tourists. Beginning in 1897, the Boston-based publisher J.B. Millet commissioned Tamamura’s studio to produce staged scenes of the Japanese landscape and traditional customs. These hand-painted photographs were wildly popular among foreign audiences. Tamamura’s photographs were compiled with the writing of Okakura Tenshin and collotype plates of Kazumasa Ogawa in an album titled Japan. Tamamura’s death is often given as 1923, though there is some uncertainty about this date.