Saturday Scenes

Fri 15 June 2012

Ukiyo-e and Photography

Filed under: #satscene —— Sylvia @ 21:43

On the 9th of June in 1892, Tsukioka Yoshitoshi died in a rented room, following almost a decade of mental problems. Yoshitoshi was the last and greatest master of traditional ukiyo-e, Japanese woodblock printing. Ukiyo-e dates back to the 16th century and the well-known example of “Japanese art”, View of Mount Fuji, is an example of this genre. When Japan opened to imports from the West in 1868, photography largely replaced ukiyo-e, which fell so far out of fashion that the worthless prints were often used as packing material.

Yoshitoshi – Wikipedia

Like many Japanese, Yoshitoshi was interested in new things from the rest of the world, but over time he became increasingly concerned with the loss of many aspects of traditional Japanese culture, among them traditional woodblock printing.

By the end of his career, Yoshitoshi was in an almost single-handed struggle against time and technology. As he worked on in the old manner, Japan was adopting Western mass reproduction methods like photography and lithography. Nonetheless, in a Japan that was turning away from its own past, he almost singlehandedly managed to push the traditional Japanese woodblock print to a new level, before it effectively died with him.

Yoshitoshi insisted on high standards of production and created over 10,000 prints. There have been multiple attempts to catalog his full collection. His work, amazing and often disturbing, can be seen on Yoshitoshi 100 Aspects of the Moon and by choosing the fifth artist on the Nagoya Online Museum (requires Flash).

One hundred and twenty years later, ukiyo-e continues to have fans but there’s no denying that photography holds the lead. And on the 9th of June in 2012, these beautiful photographs were taken:

And these were the people who took them:

Every year we do a self-portrait Saturday! It’s just like every other Saturday except that you are invited — encouraged even! — to turn the camera around and take a photograph of yourself. We’ve done this three years in a row now:

This year, it’ll be on the 23rd of June so coming up quick. I hope to see you!

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