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Shimooka Renjō

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Native name  下岡 蓮杖
Name  Shimooka Renjo
Died  March 3, 1914
Nationality  Japanese
Role  Photographer
Shimooka Renjo wwwkokushocojpimgcoverl9784336057822jpg
Full Name  Sakurada Hisanosuke
Born  March 24, 1823Shimoda, Japan

Shimooka Renjō (下岡 蓮杖, March 24, 1823 – March 3, 1914) was a Japanese photographer and was one of the first professional photographers in Japan. He opened the first commercial photography studio in Yokohama, and in Japan he is widely considered the father of Japanese photography.


Early life

Shimooka Renjō httpsuploadwikimediaorgwikipediacommonsthu

He was born with the name Sakurada Hisanosuke in Shimoda on the Izu Peninsula in central Honshū to a samurai family. When he was thirteen years old he moved to Edo (Tokyo) to study painting and serve as an apprentice to a stock merchant. In 1843 he served as a samurai in the Shimoda artillery battery where he may have been first introduced to daguerreotypes from Holland. However, some accounts say that he was not exposed to photography until he returned to Edo to study art, becoming a student of Kanō Tōsen, the famous painter. These accounts report that he saw a Dutch photograph at the home of a Tokugawa clan member. He began studying photography when he could, and moved to Yokohama in 1859 or 1860 where he would begin his career in photography.


Renjō acquired his first camera in 1861 from the American photographer John Wilson by trading it for a painting of a panoramic scene. Shortly thereafter he abandoned his studies in painting and pursued photography as a career. He opened a photographic studio in Yokohama in 1862, one of the first in the country. He continued to open studios in the city, primarily focusing on portraiture, and changed his name to Shimooka Renjō in 1865. He taught many photographic students and apprentices before leaving his businesses to his pupils in 1877. He was elected to the Japan Photographic Society in 1893.


Renjō’s significance to the history of photography lies in the fact that he helped introduce and spread photography throughout industrializing, Meiji era Japan. His commercial studio in Yokohama was thought to be the absolute first in the country for many years. Recent discoveries have found that Ukai Gyokusen had opened an ambrotype portrait studio in Edo only a year or two before Renjō opened his studio in 1862. Ueno Hikoma, a chemist, began operating a studio in Nagasaki later the same year. Despite this, Renjō was still one of the nation’s first professional photographers, and one of the most successful. He opened several additional studios and businesses across Yokohama during his career. (Other contemporaries of Renjō included Uchida Kuichi and Shima Kakoku.)

In addition to being a pioneer of the art, Renjō also helped to establish photography in Japan by teaching it to many of his other countrymen. For example, he was the teacher of the great photographer Yokoyama Matsusaburō, starting in 1864. He also taught many other students including: Usui Shusaburo, Esaki Reiji, and Suzuki Shinichi I and II. He was honored by the government of Tokyo before his death for his influence, and was elected to join the Japan Photographic Society in 1893.


Shimooka Renjō Wikipedia

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