Fujiyama from Tagonoura, Suruga


Hand coloured albumen print
(Non attributed)
Circa 1880
D. 21 × 28 cm


This photograph on albumen paper is part of the refined production of the Yokohama school, whose subtle tones and soft colour palette ensured its success, especially with Westerners.

It depicts a lakeside landscape, with Mount Fuji-Yama in the background, appearing in the mist. On the peaceful surface of the lake is a fisherman’s boat standing with its eyes turned towards the camera. The calmness of the scene, as well as the translucent colours, may suggest that this scene takes place at dawn or dusk, when the calm atmosphere allows for contemplation. However, the long exposure time and the sensitivity of the plates did not allow for shooting at these times of the day. Thus, the photographer has recreated an atmosphere through the subtlety of the colouring, which may recall Turner’s seascapes, testifying to the influence of Western aesthetics in the conception of landscape views.


In fact, the photographs of the Yokohama School were often produced by studios of first foreign and then local photographers, who accumulated picturesque views of the country, its landscapes and traditions, for foreigners. Indeed, Westerners’ taste for exoticism conditioned the subjects selected by the photographers.


If the use of colour, so typical of Japanese photography, was initially intended as a documentary tool, it is now spreading for its aesthetic side and contributes to the originality of Japanese production. Hand-coloured, these photographs are the result of a specific know-how, and the 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 suited to the technique used for colouring, whose translucent aspect reinforces the naturalism of the representation.

Condition report:

This photograph is in good condition. A slight crease is visible in the upper left corner. A small stain and two slight marks are also to be noted in the upper part of the photograph.