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Kotaro IIZAWA's essay

Photographers of Japan

Vol.4 "Shoji UEDA -Locality open to the world-"

by Kotaro Iizawa (Critic and historian of Photography)

Shoji Ueda was born in 1913 at Sakai town, Saihaku district of Tottori prefecture (present Sakaiminato city), and spent his entire life in the small town located in the San-in region of western Honshu. With such fact, he can be described as a typical "rural artist". However, his works had a sense of scale and a composition uncommon to a Japanese photographer, and were regarded very highly among the world. To prove this, after his death in 2000, retrospective exhibition tours in Spain, France and Italy were very popular and the word "Ueda-cho (Ueda style)" was recognised worldwide. Looking at works Ueda named "Dune Theater", works which photographed models and objets in the Tottori sand dunes, certainly have somewhat surrealistic atmosphere.

Around 1930, when Ueda joined Yonago Photography Circle and begun his steps into the world of photography, was the time when Japanese photographers begun to shift from "artistic" photography to "Shinko" photography which used backgrounds such as modern cities. Ueda was also on this movement and his works changed rapidly from initial pictorial style to abstract composition style. In 1937 Ueda formed the photographic group "Chugoku Shashinka Shudan (Chugoku Photographer Group)" with photographers in Hiroshima and Okayama prefecture. During this period he established his style of positioning models on a wide screen, which leads to "Dune Theater".

After the world war II, Ueda begun to produce works actively. In 1947 he joined the photographic group "Ginryusha" and he also became a member of "Nikakai Shashin Bu (Nikakai Photography Club)" in 1955. Since around this time Ueda has gained reputation in Tokyo and attracted attention when he published his collection of photographs "Warabegoyomi (Children the Year Around)" from Chuou Kouronsha in 1971. This collection of photographs portrays life of children in the San-in region through seasons with a combination of a lyric and an intellect, and became one of Ueda's representative works. Also, the series "Chiisai Denki (A small biography)" which was published intermittently on the magazine "Camera Mainichi (Camera Everyday)" between 1974 to 1985 was a very experimental series, like using films dirtied and damaged from 1930s on purpose. Challenging fashion photography ("Mode in Dunes" series) in the 1980s, his enthusiasm as a photographer never seemed to decline.

Next year, 2013 is Shoji Ueda's 100th anniversary. It is certain that we are coming to a moment where, through exhibitions and publications, discover and solve the secret as to why his photographs are still so vivid and attractive today.

(Kotaro Iizawa)

Works by Shoji UEDA
"My Wife in the Dunes III"
c.1950 (Printed later)
Gelatin Silver Print
"Dune D" from series
"Mode in Dunes"

Gelatin Silver Print
"White Road" from series
"Children the Year Around"

1955-1970 (Printed later)
Gelatin Silver Print

All works listed above are owned by Toki-no-Wasuremono.
For inquiry about our collection, please contact us from our inquiry form.


Vol.16 "Ogawa Takayuki (1938 - 2008) − explorer of “shape” through photography"
Vol.15 "Kitai Kazuo - Capturing “a scene I once saw…”"
Vol.14 "Kazama Kensuke"
Vol.13 "Narahara Ikko - Double Vision"
Vol.12 "Q Ei and photo dessin"
Vol.11 "Fukuhara Shinzo 1883-1948 -- Japanese Landscape Photography"
Vol.10 "The city observer’s gaze Akihiko HIRASHIMA (1946~)"

Vol.9 "Hitoshi FUGO 1947- -- The unusual world of works which fuses thought and technique"
Vol.8 "Iwata NAKAYAMA (1895-1949)"
Vol.7 "KISEI KOBAYASHI (1968-)"
Vol.6 "Tamiko NISHIMURA (1948-)"
Vol.5 "Shigeo GOCHO (1946-83)"
Vol.4 "Shoji UEDA -Locality open to the world-"
Vol.3 "Yu OGATA, ICHIRO OGATA ONO -Dyslexia's picture of the world-"
Vol.2 "Eikoh Hosoe's theatrical imagination"
Vol.1 "maroon" -- Whereabouts of new works by Hiroshi Osaka


Born 1954 in Miyagi prefecture, Japan. Iizawa is a Japanese photography critic, historian of photography, and magazine editor.
He studied photography in Nihon University, graduating in 1977. He obtained his doctorate at University of Tsukuba in 1984. With his trilogy, "Geijutsu shashin to sono jidai (Art Photography and its Time)", "Shashin ni kaere (Go back to the photography)" and "Toshi no shisen (Glance of the City)" published in 1986, 1988 and 1989, he stood out and became the representive photography researcher of the early 20th century. Iizawa founded magazine "Deja-vu" in 1990 and was its editor in chief until 1994. He has been taking part as a judge in public competitions "Shashin-shinseiki (New Generation Photography)" and "Hitotsubo-ten (3.3m² Exhibition)", since their beginning, and through these competitions made the "girly photo" trend in the 1990s.

Reknowned as Nobuyuki Araki researcher. In 1996, he was awarded the Suntory Arts Award for his book "Shashin bijutsukan e yokoso (Welcome to the Photography Museum)". Also, he is an enthusiast for mushrooms and published books such as "Sekai no kinoko kitte (World's Mushroom Stamps)" and "Aruku kinoko (Walking Mushrooms)".
He was a part-time instructor at the Tokyo College of Photography in 1981, teaching Photography Artist Research. In 2004 and 2008, he was a part-time lecturer at Faculty of Liberal Arts, University of Tokyo, teaching history of photography in Japan.

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