Front of fall, Hakone


Hand coloured albumen print
Attributed to Kajima Seibei
Circa 1880

D. 20,8 × 27,3 cm


This photograph is attributed to Kajima Seibei, one of the most renowned Japanese photographers of the Yokohama school. Born into a wealthy family, he was initially an amateur who devoted himself to his passion. It was when he became a partner with a Scottish engineer that he founded the first Japanese photographic association. They presented their collaboration at the Universal Exhibition of 1893, an event that testified to the worldwide impact of Japanese photography. At the same time, they contributed greatly to informing about the technical progress of photography, and many photographic associations were created in Japan under their impetus. Appreciating the originality of Japanese photography at that time, they were pioneers in encouraging the development of Japanese artistic photography, which has not failed to shine since.

This waterfall, located in the vicinity of Mount Fuji, is a typical Japanese landscape view that Western clients love. Sublimated by the subtle hues of the colour scheme, this waterfall invites contemplation. In fact, it is a photographic mise en abyme that Kajima Seibei achieves, since the spectator admires this natural view in parallel with three protagonists who contemplate this same landscape in a meditative attitude. This colourised view, both exotic and picturesque, contributes to the success of Kajima Seibei’s enterprise.

If the colouring, so typical of Japanese photography, was initially intended to be documentary, it has spread for its aesthetic side and contributes to the originality of Japanese production. Hand-coloured, these photographs bear witness to a specific know-how, and the translucent colours are obtained from pigments mixed with bone glue (nikawa). This technique is particularly suited to the paper used for the print, whose main component is albumen. This warm-toned paper is particularly suitable for the colouring technique, whose translucent aspect reinforces the naturalism of the representation.

Condition report:

This photograph is in good condition. There are some slight losses in the two upper corners. In addition, a small crease is visible on the lower right corner.