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Kotaro IIZAWA's essay

Photographers of Japan

Vol.12 "Q Ei and photo dessin "

by Kotaro Iizawa (Critic and historian of Photography)

It goes without saying that Q Ei (given name・Sugita Hideo 1911~1960) left some of the greatest footprints on the development of the avant-garde in pre- and post-war Japanese art. His works went beyond oils and watercolors to include etchings, lithographs, and other various media, and his involvement with Demokrat Bijutsu Kyokai (est. 1951) had a great impact on influential figures like Hayakawa Yoshio, Yamashiro Ryuichi, Ay-O, Ikeda Masuo, Yoshihara Hideo, Izumi Shigeru, and Hosoe Eikoh.


What is not as well known is that Q Ei also did notable work in the field of photography. In 1930, before he was recognized as a painter, Q Ei purchased a camera and enrolled in photography school (most likely Oriental College of Photography, a 3 month college established in 1929), where he became absorbed in the production of photographs. During that time, he also actively published essays in Photo Times as Sugita Hideo, including “The free creation of photograms” (1930 August edition), “Towards something greater than art photographs” (1930 December edition), and “In what way should photograms evolve” (1931 February edition). It can be said that young Ei Q/Sugita Hideo’s activity was a response to a period of great change in the world of Japanese photography, where the painterly trend of “geijutsu shashin (art photos)” was giving way to the harbinger of modernism, “shinko shashin (neue Foto)”.


After a brief time spent back in his hometown in Miyazaki, Q Ei returned to Tokyo where he received the help of the painter Hasegawa Saburo and art critic Toyama Usaburo to publish “Nemuri no Riyu (Reason for sleep)” (Geijutsugaku Kenkyukai, ed. 40), a portfolio of 10 new photogram works. The unique photo works, with their cut-out forms and shapes that danced and locked together freely, were dubbed photo-dessin. It was with the publication of “Nemuri no Riyu” that Sugita Hideo began to use the name of Ei Q, and it was certainly this that acted as a major launch pad of Q Ei the artist.

Q Ei continued on to produce more photo-dessins, photo collages, and drawings. In 1950 he held the exhibition Ei-Q Photo Dessin in Miyazaki, Osaka, and Tokyo, and in 1951 published another photo-dessin portfolio, “Mahiru no Yume (Mid-afternoon dream)” (9 works, edition of 100).  Looking at it this way, it seems that Q Ei’s works remained consistent from beginning to end - they were not a duplication or photograph of the image of reality, but an attempt to anchor the fantasy inside of Q Ei within the forms of light and shadow. The work he did over his lifetime shows that he was precisely a union of painter and photographer.


(Kotaro Iizawa)

Q Ei
Photo-dessin (photogram)


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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