Posts Tagged ‘Japan’

Photographer Arnold Genthe

Photographer Arnold Genthe

One of the unexpected gifts of researching the life of Joseph Anthony Horne has been exposure to photographers from the late 19th and early 20th centuries whose work and craftsmanship are no longer that widely known outside of scholarly circles.  Via the Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalog, I’ve most recently enjoyed learning about Arnold Genthe.  Born in Germany in 1869, by 1895 he would be living in San Francisco, California, serving as the tutor to a Baron’s son.  There, he would gain access to a camera, become adept at its use and begin documenting his travels around the city, especially in Chinatown.

Friends, Chinatown, San Francisco by Arnold Genthe. taken between 1896 and 1906

Friends, Chinatown, San Francisco by Arnold Genthe. taken between 1896 and 1906

Eventually he would become a famed photographer for the wealthy elite, politicians, artists and to budding movie stars like Greta Garbo.

Portrait of Greta Garbo, taken July 1925

Portrait of Greta Garbo, taken July 1925

His earliest photographs, with the exception of photos he took in Chinatown, would be destroyed by the city’s devastating 1906 earthquake and fire.  But with a successful career that spanned three decades, the Library of Congress has archived thousands of his photographic images — the negatives and other materials were purchased from his estate after his death in 1943.  During his lifetime, like many people of his generation with his financial resources, Genthe would spend time traveling throughout Africa and Asia.

It is his images taken in Asia during a several month sojourn in 1908 that I find especially captivating.  Collectively titled, Travel Views of Japan and Korea, the breadth of imagery is extensive.

No city names are cited or any geographic locations given.  There are certainly clues to be gleaned from the landscape (e.g. an image of a giant buddha that may be in Kamakura and images of the Itsukushima Shinto Shrine).

I am particularly fascinated by his photographs of the people.

Each image holds a story in the expressions captured on faces over a hundred years ago, in the clothing worn, in the backgrounds of each scene.

Genthe seemed particularly drawn to photographing how, rich or poor, young or old, everyone took care of the babies.

The images are a dream in terms of capturing a very specific moment in time.

The Genthe Collection at the Library of Congress can be viewed via this link: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/agc/

If you’re particularly interested in the photographs of Old Chinatown, there’s a book available here.

And it appears that at least one chapter of his 1936 memoir, As I Remember, is available online here.

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… a coin at the bottom of a suitcase, and with it, memories of a lovely trip to Japan.  I tossed the coin on a tabletop and that’s where the sun touched it.

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For a while, if you visit The Shop at Trinity Church in Copley Square, Boston, and wander over to the children’s section, you will see an array of paper cranes dangling from the ceiling…

… like a wave of birds in flight …

… colors bright and warm …

… shadows cast upon the ceiling in the wavering lights.

The birds were made by Anulfo Baez, a guest contributor on this site before.  Upon learning that Shop staff were contemplating a new window display involving birds, he donated his origami creations.  Several hundred in number, he had originally intended to make 1,000.  Do you know the lore surrounding One Thousand Cranes?

Even if you do know, read Anulfo’s story, One Thousand Paper Cranes for Japan.  While he did not reach his original goal, I think what he did create will bring a bit of brightness and joy into the life of anyone who has the opportunity to see his art repurposed.

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Here are a few of the things inspiring me of late:

Sunlight shining through Japanese Maple leaves.

Japanese Noh robes as described in the book, Patterns and Poetry.

And always, always, always, trees –  their green leaves, bare branches and beautiful barks.


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It was a nice surprise to receive word from the Somerville Arts Commission that my words are posted in the final installment of “Food from Afar,” the online series accompanying the food photographs on display in Davis Square, Somerville.  You’ve seen some of my Japan photos before on this blog or perhaps while strolling through Davis Square this month.  Now here are the stories behind a few of the pictures:  Food from Afar:  Kyoto.  And, if you’d like to see more photos from Kyoto, just click here.



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A dear friend used to work in Japan.  On occasion she would send me small treasures, like these small pieces of jade.

I found them as I cleaned out an old jewelry box this weekend.  The friend and I haven’t spoken in many years.  Just different life journeys.  I am thinking that I will turn one of these images into a postcard or even a notecard and send to her with words of thanks.  A good summer project. 😉

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First up, Japan!  As mentioned in last month’s update, I had the unique opportunity to travel to Japan where I spent three days in Kobe and three days in Kyoto.  View images here. Food was a highlight.  While there, I was indeed introduced to takoyaki, also known as Octopus Balls.  While I admired the satisfied looks on peoples’ faces as they popped the delicacies into their mouths, I decided to abstain until my next trip.

I did indulge in some of the best and freshest sushi I have ever eaten.  Just before departing Japan, I saw a Michelin man dancing in front of a bookstore.  Here’s why. My favorite food discovery was the art of preparing food for display.

An unexpected visual treat was to stumble upon the Festival of Ages, and to trek to Kurama outside of Kyoto to attend the annual Fire Festival. More pictures forthcoming.

Special thanks to recent guest contributors, friends and family who shared their images, including Lorraine’s Rainbow, Keith’s Sunrise and Frank’s Rose (below).

Publication Updates

  • A Boston-based nonprofit serving the homeless has selected one of my photos for its walls, Harbor Rocks.
  • Steve’s Kitchen Window appears in the November/December issue of Orion Magazine, in bookstores now.
  • Monday, November 1st, visit the Evolving Critic for a guest blog about my photographic adventures along the Charles River.



  • Inspired by his years of traveling in Japan, guest contributor Steve will write about sake.
  • Photos of New England in autumn.
  • Updates on winter sales events, silent auction participation, and other upcoming exhibits before year’s end.

And that’s the scoop, folks.  Thanks for reading!

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As you walk around Kyoto, you’ll notice in the windows of restaurants or any type of establishment selling food items, the most beautiful displays of freshly prepared delicacies.  Shrimp, appearing as if caught just that morning, top noodles and float in bowls of clear broth.  Sushi artfully arranged on bamboo platters glistens in the sunlight.  In front of the Italian restaurants, calzones spill melted cheese onto white plates.  It is amazing as you press your face against the windows to realize that every single dish is a fake.  Every scale, every shell, every bit of liquid is synthetic.  But the craftsmanship is of such a level as to make the mouth water even after you realize the dishes are plastic!

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It was an unplanned treat, traveling to Kyoto just in time for the Jidai Matsuri or The Festival Ages.  In this annual event, over 2000 people parade through the streets of Kyoto in traditional costumes from Japan’s feudal history. 

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