Sonntag, 3. Januar 2016

Meiji Era in Photography

The Museum of Photography in Berlin is well known for the impressive collection of Helmut Newton works. However, regularly here are organised various exhibitions dedicated to extraordinary photographic works. One of them I visited this summer and still can be visited till the 10th of January and is dedicated to a place where I was lucky enough to live for one full year: Japan. It covers 250 photographies from Meiji era in German collections. Photography was considered a way to induce Europenization of the Japanese culture, similarly with the hot air balloons, gaslights or engine. The first example was given by the Emperor himself, appearing photographed in his new European uniform, the sending the main incentive for the well awaited change.
But the change cannot happen over night and the tradition and modernity will coexist till today. The art of photography will equally help the strengthening of tradition, widespreading images about kabuki theater, tattooed fighters or tea house girls - what we know as geishas. In a way, it also delivers to Europeans that exotism they were always looking for in this part of the world. The lady photographer featured as the representative image of the exhibition is a proof in this sense: a woman with the camera in a society where the social roles are clearly defined but dressed in a traditional way in the modest posture the society is waiting from a young lady.
The neo-confucianist line of the Enlightening era represented by Meiji was that a portrait was a symbol of visual praise for the achievement of a virtuous work. For me, the nature representations are by far one of the most beautiful snapshots. When simple communication fails, the nature can offer to the traveller the simplest way to be thankful. Beyond the politics and other strategical reasons, the beautiful Meiji photography brings Japan to Berlin.

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