"Once You Have Decided to Have Your Photograph Taken..."

Matsuzaki Shinji and the Dos and Don'ts of Studio Practice in mid-Meiji Tokyo

April 7, 2014 - 4:30 pm

A talk by Sebastain Dobson

Published in Tokyo in the summer of 1886, the pamphlet "Shashin hitsuy├┤ - shakyaku no kokoroe" ("The Essentials of Photography: Dos and Don'ts for the Photographic Customer") is one of the most unusual examples of photographic literature, not just in Japanese but apparently in any langauge. Written by Matsuzaki Shinji toward the end of a notable career as a photographer and endorsed by an established member of Tokyo's contemporary literati, it was addressed to an exclusively Japanese readership with the declared intention of providing any would-be patron with a useful vade mecum to having his (or her) photograph taken. For the reader who inwardly digested Matsuzaki's advice, there was the promise that a future visit to a photographer's studio would no longer be an ordeal but would offer instead a rewarding experience resulting in "a picture worthy of the name of photograph." For the hard-pressed studio photographer, Matsuzaki's text offered the corresponding benefit of a clientele that had been familiarised with current studio practice and disabused beforehand of any unrealistic expectations.

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Chris Williford
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