Japanese Vogue in the Photographs of Yasuzō Nojima
12 min

Japanese Vogue in the Photographs of Yasuzō Nojima

12 min

In one of our previous articles, we regarded Kansuke Yamamoto’s works as an example of productive westernization. Another Japanese photographer who successfully followed Western methods was Yasuzo Nojima (1889-1964). While the photographs of Yamamoto represent Japanese surrealism, the images by Nojima give us Japanese Vogue vibes.

Yasuzō Nojima Model E

Fig. 1. Model E. 1931 (lapetitemelancolie.net)

Yasuzō Nojima Miss Chikako Hosokawa

Fig. 2. Miss Chikako Hosokawa (theculturetrip.com)


Nojima was born into a family of wealthy bank manager. He began practicing photography at 17, being a student at the Keiō school. His first amateur exhibitions happened in 1909. That time he left his school studies to devote himself to photography. Several years later, in 1915, he opened the Mikasa studio in Tōkyō to exhibit the works of photographers and painters. In 1920, the studio was closed, but Nojima started painting himself. His pictures were shown in various Japanese salons. In the 1930s, together with Iwata Nakayama and Ihee Kimura, Nojima founded the Kōga review, which promoted modern photography. In 1939, the artist founded a photography club.

Yasuzō Nojima photography

Fig. 3. twgreatdaily.com

Yasuzō Nojima Jaoanese photographer

Fig. 4. twgreatdaily.com

To Paint a Photograph

Nojima was an artist willing to legitimate photography as art. He displayed this intention, being a founder of different platforms connected with the new medium. His ambitions were as well manifested by the ways he treated photography in early and mature periods. At the beginning of his photographic activity, Nojima stuck to pictorialism, which was the 19th-century movement considering photography as a form of fine art. The aim was to “paint” a picture using a camera. Thus, photography was supposed to stop being something profane and vulgar and took its’ place next to fine art oeuvres by imitating them. Pictorialistic period of Nojima makes us recall abuna-e designs of beauties by Utamaro or Kunisada.

Yasuzō Nojima Japanese photographer

Fig. 5. Early photograph by Nojima (twgreatdaily.com)

Yasuzō Nojima Seating Woman

Fig. 6. Seating Woman (blogspot.com)

early photograph by Nojima

Fig. 7. Early photograph by Nojima (twgreatdaily.com)

Yasuzō Nojima Woman combing her hair Utamaro

Fig. 8. Left: Woman combing her hair, 1914 (lapetiitemelancolie.files.wordpress.com); Right: Utamaro, woman combing her hair, ca. 1802-1803 (ukiyo-e.org)

Yasuzō Nojima seated beauty

Fig. 9. Seated Beauty (sakura-do.photoshelter.com)

Yasuzō Nojima Woman

Fig. 10. Woman, 1920 (lapetitemelancolie.net)

Yasuzō Nojima Standing Woman

Fig. 11. Standing woman, 1917 (lapetitemelancolie.net)

To Photograph a Painting

In the 1920s, pictorialism was replaced by Neues Sehen (“New Vision”). This movement considered photography as self-sufficient art, which mustn’t imitate painting. All avant-gardists, in general, can be described as the apologists of the New Vision. They used montage and photogram (producing images on photographic paper without a camera), unusual perspective, and multiple exposure. Nojima’s works created in the 1930s demonstrate the shift in his artistic views. Photography takes its’ place among other arts only by proving its’ self-sufficiency.

Yasuzō Nojima Ginreika (Loosestrife)

Fig. 12. Ginreika (Loosestrife) 1940 (lapetitemelancolie.net)

Yasuzō Nojima nude

Fig. 13. Ginreika (Loosestrife) 1941 (lapetitemelancolie.net)

Yasuzō Nojima Model K

Fig. 14. Model K, 1937 (lapetitemelancolie.net)

Yasuzō Nojima Model K nude

Fig. 15. Model K, 1938 (lapetitemelancolie.net)

Japanese Edward Weston

When Nojima became adherent to the New Vision movement, he started producing female nudes. The composition of these photos and Nojima’s attitude to the process of photographing remind us of American photographer Edward Weston, whose creative method was also shaped by the New Vision. Nojima wrote the following about his work: “When I take a portrait, I move the subject towards a point where the light is adequate. Then I evaluate the quality of the light, the shadows, and forms. When I am satisfied, I shoot. I am not interested in capturing the personality of the model or in revealing her peculiarities. I shoot in tune with my perception of light and form: these are the elements that interest me.” (theculturetrip.com)

Yasuzō Nojima nude model

Fig. 16. Nude (theculturetrip.com)

Yasuzō Nojima nude legs

Fig. 17. Nude (lapetiitemelancolie.files.wordpress.com)

Yasuzō Nojima Miss T

Fig. 18. Miss T, 1931 (lapetiitemelancolie.files.wordpress.com)

Yasuzō Nojima Nude from rear

Fig. 19. Nude from rear, 1930 (lapetiitemelancolie.files.wordpress.com)

Yasuzō Nojima Nude Hair

Fig. 20. Nude Torso, 1930, bromoil print (lapetiitemelancolie.files.wordpress.com)

Yasuzō Nojima Femme nue de dos,

Fig. 21. Femme nue de dos, 1932, gelatin silver print (lapetiitemelancolie.files.wordpress.com)

Femme au miroir,

Fig. 22. Femme au miroir, 1933 (lapetiitemelancolie.files.wordpress.com)

Yasuzō Nojima Untitled

Fig. 23. Untitled, 1933 (lapetiitemelancolie.files.wordpress.com)

Yasuzō Nojima Breasts

Fig. 24. Breasts, 1933 gelatin silver print (lapetiitemelancolie.files.wordpress.com)

Yasuzō Nojima Breast

Fig. 25. Breasts, 1933 gelatin silver print (lapetiitemelancolie.files.wordpress.com)

Yasuzō Nojima nude on chair

Fig. 26. Untitled, 1921 (lapetiitemelancolie.files.wordpress.com)

Yasuzō Nojima Nude Yoga

Fig. 27. Untitled, 1920 (lapetiitemelancolie.files.wordpress.com)

Yasuzō Nojima nude photography

Fig. 28. Femme nue de dos, 1921 (lapetiitemelancolie.files.wordpress.com)

Yasuzō Nojima Femme Nue art

Fig. 29. Femme Nue, 1921 (lapetiitemelancolie.files.wordpress.com)

Yasuzō Nojima Femme photo

Fig. 30. Femme, 1933 (lapetiitemelancolie.files.wordpress.com)

Yasuzō Nojima model near tree

Fig. 31. twgreatdaily.com

Yasuzō Nojima Seated Woman in Ukiyo-e manner

Fig. 32. Seated Woman in Ukiyo-e manner, 1918, early pictorialistic period (lapetiitemelancolie.files.wordpress.com)

Yasuzō Nojima ukiyo-e

Fig. 33. Left: Untitled, 1931 (lapetiitemelancolie.files.wordpress.com); Right: Kunisada, The seven flowers of autumn, 1832

Yasuzō Nojima Utamaro

Fig. 34. Left: Untitled, 1931 (woman, probably in front of the mirror). Right: Woman looking in the mirror, Utamaro, 1790 (ukiyo-e.org)

Yasuzō Nojima sitting nude

Fig. 35. Untitled, 1931 (lapetiitemelancolie.files.wordpress.com)

Yasuzō Nojima Nude Girl with long hair

Fig. 36. Untitled, 1931 (lapetiitemelancolie.files.wordpress.com)

Yasuzō Nojima Kneeling nude girl

Fig. 37. Untitled, 1931 (lapetiitemelancolie.files.wordpress.com)

Yasuzō Nojima Japanese photographer art

Fig. 38. Untitled, 1931 (lapetiitemelancolie.files.wordpress.com)

Yasuzō Nojima nude mirror

Fig. 39. Untitled, 1931 (lapetiitemelancolie.files.wordpress.com)

Nude photography Yasuzō Nojima

Fig. 40. Untitled, 1931 (lapetiitemelancolie.files.wordpress.com)

nude Yasuzō Nojima

Fig. 41. Untitled, 1931 (lapetiitemelancolie.files.wordpress.com)

lying nude with hands in front of her eyes

Fig. 42. Untitled, 1931 (lapetiitemelancolie.files.wordpress.com)

Yasuzō Nojima Japanese art

Fig. 43. Untitled, 1931 (lapetiitemelancolie.files.wordpress.com)

European Manner

Another specific feature of Nojima’s images is the European vibe we feel while watching them. The portraits of Japanese women are much in the spirit of the covers of popular European magazines. Nojima’s models often hold a cigarette, which was a European trend and a sign of emancipation. They wear European clothes and pose to the camera in a European manner. The cultural contrast of Nojima’s works, where East and West peculiarly meet each other makes them esthetically appealing and very amusing to watch.

Yasuzō Nojima Model K portrait

Fig. 44. Model K, 1951 (lapetitemelancolie.net)

Yasuzō Nojima close up face

Fig. 45. Portrait with a Cigarette, 1930 (lapetitemelancolie.net)

Yasuzō Nojima young girl

Fig. 46. Young Girl, 1931 (lapetitemelancolie.net)

nude portrait Yasuzō Nojima

Fig. 47. Untitled, 1931 (lapetitemelancolie.net)

Yasuzō Nojima relaxing nude

Fig. 48. Untitled, 1938 (lapetitemelancolie.net)

Yasuzō Nojima Female and flowers

Fig. 49. Untitled, 1939 (lapetitemelancolie.net)

Yasuzō Nojima Female portrait of female sporting hat

Fig. 50. Untitled, 1932 (lapetitemelancolie.net)

Sources: Wikipedia.org; theculturetrip.com; lapetitemelancolie.net; twgreatdaily.com

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