Monday, April 24, 2017

Uncle Yuta has an Adventure -- Photography

Book 4 in the Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy series is in the FINAL stages of construction.  Right now I'm searching for illustrations, and have come upon a surprising development:  Photography!

With the advent of photography, woodblock printing didn't go out, exactly.  In fact, modern artists make prints to this day.  They're very different from the playbills, portraits of actors in roles, senic views and nature folios that went before.  Myth and folklore seemed to vanish as subjects, when there was so very much innovation to portray!

Change came with the foreigners in 1858, and by 1871, when Book 4 more or less takes place, Japanese innovators had started using analine inks to create Yokohama-e prints, which are brilliant to the point of harshness, and also full of life and innovation as Japan lurched forward into its embrace with the West.  Folklore and secenery fell by the wayside as technology surged.

Further change came with the introduction of photography, both by foreigners for historical and journalistic records, and by Japanese people themselves, as everybody explored this new medium.

This makes illustrations a little hard to come by!  I've seen photographs of the Empress Shoken in a Western Dress visiting a silk factory.  (I've also seen the actual dress; she was tiny as well as tough!)  I've seen photographs of people harvesting nori and making bricks in Shinagawa.  These photographs are in museum collections and not available on-line for public use.  Many photographs are public domain, however, yet they're often not easy to view due to fragility and age, and few subjects have been preserved.

This photograph is a colorized image of women working at a silk mill.  The Empress -- and the smiles -- are nowhere in sight.

I very much prefer the prints also though those will by stylized.  I've found some good representative ones, though, especially among the Yokohama-e!  Things changed so fast!

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