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Japan's Modern Divide: The Photographs of Hiroshi Hamaya and Kansuke Yamamoto

Edited by Judith Keller and Amanda Maddox

With contributions by Kōtarō Iizawa, Ryūichi Kaneko, and Jonathan Reynolds

In the 1930s the history of Japanese photography evolved in two very different directions: one toward documentary photography, the other favoring an experimental, or avant-garde, approach strongly influenced by Western Surrealism. This book explores these two strains of modern Japanese photography through the work of two remarkable figures: Hiroshi Hamaya and Kansuke Yamamoto.

Hiroshi Hamaya (1915–1999) was born and raised in Tokyo and, after an initial period of creative experimentation, turned his attention to recording traditional life and culture on the coast of the Sea of Japan. In 1940 he began photographing the New Year’s rituals in a remote village, which was published as Yukiguni (Snow country). He went on to record cultural changes in China, political protests in Japan, and landscapes around the world.

Kansuke Yamamoto (1914–1987) became fascinated by the innovative approaches in art and literature exemplified by such Western artists as Man Ray, René Magritte, and Yves Tanguy. He promoted Surrealist and avant-garde ideas in Japan through his poetry, paintings, sculptures, and photographs.

Along with essays by the book’s coeditors, Judith Keller and Amanda Maddox, are essays by Kōtarō Iizawa, Ryūichi Kaneko, and Jonathan M. Reynolds, life chronologies, and a selection of poems by Yamamoto translated by John Solt. This book, which features more than one hundred images, accompanied an exhibition of the same name on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum March 26 to August 25, 2013.

Judith Keller is former senior curator in the Department of Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum. She is the author of Jo Ann Callis: Woman Twirling (Getty, 2009); Walker Evans: The Getty Collection (Getty, 1995); and Graciela Iturbide: Juchitán (Getty, 2008). Amanda Maddox is assistant curator in the Department of Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum. Kōtarō Iizawa is a photography historian, critic, and curator based in Tokyo. Ryūichi Kaneko is a photography historian and guest curator at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography. Jonathan M. Reynolds is associate professor of art history at Barnard College.

Winner of the 2013 Photo Book of the Year: Fine Art from American Photo.

“Long after the original motives for Hamaya’s most famous work are forgotten, we will still have these marvelous images as evidence not so much of a unique Japanese spirit as of a humane and wonderful artist.”
—Ian Buruma, New York Review of Books

“[This volume] celebrates two forerunning Japanese image makers.”
—American Photo Magazine

“Interesting work by artists rarely seen on this side of the Pacific.”
—Library Journal

“A beautiful book with beautiful images and informative, accessible essays. . . . Highly recommended as both a valuable resource on the history of Japanese photography and the development of photographic movements in the decades preceding and following the Second World War.”
—Photo-Eye Blog

“An exciting presentation of work from two significant Japanese photographers.”
—Good Reading Copy, May 2013


224 pages
9 1/2 x 11 inches
105 color and 40 b/w illustrations
ISBN 978-1-60606-132-9

Getty Publications
Imprint: J. Paul Getty Museum