Superb large format colored collotype
by Kazumasa Ogawa. From the 1896 publication Japan Described and
Illustrated by the Japanese (Boston: Millet). These same photographs
were also published in collotype in the 1896 edition of Some Japanese
Flowers. Japanese photo great Ogawa was one of the Meiji Period's
(1867-1912) most successful photographers. He created a publishing
house in Tokyo for the production of collotype photo books. His
multi-striked hand colored collotype plates rival the finest gravures
of his day.
Collotype is a high quality printing process when gelatin
is applied to a glass plate, allowed to dry, then exposed to
a photographic negative. Once exposed the plate creates a fine
grained image of reticulated gelatin that when inked can be used
to print onto paper. This process was invented in 1855 by Alphonse
Poitevin and was immensely popular in Japan from the 1890's to
the 1940's due largely in part to Ogawa. Because of the high
costs of copper associated with gravure printing, collotype became
Japan's preferred method of printing over the gravure process.
than a few minor thumb mark size dings, this plate is in very
Kazumasa Ogawa (1860 - 1929):
A master of photography, Kazumasa Ogawa is best
known for his artistic photographs and collotype publishing which
numbered over 300 titles. Born in Saitama Prefecture in 1860,
his father was a samurai and a retainer of the Matsudaira clan.
By the age of fifteen Ogawa was studying English and photography
and obtained his first camera before age twenty two. During his
early days Ogawa was employed for six months by a photographer
named Yoshiwara, but this studio has yet to be discovered.
Unsatisfied with his progress, Ogawa learnt English
as a means to study photography overseas. In July 1882 he was
hired aboard the American frigate Swatara and arrived Boston
in 1882. During his nearly two year stay in America, Ogawa studied
studio portraiture, carbon printing, the dry plate process and
collotype printing in Boston, Washington and Philadelphia. In
1884 he returned to Japan and the following year opened his first
photo studio, the Gyokujun-kan. In 1888 Ogawa established the
Tsukiji Kampan Seizo Kaisha (Tsukiji Dry Plate Manufacturing
Company) which manufactured dry plates for use by photographers.
In 1889 he launched Japan's first collotype business, the Ogawa
Shashin Seihan-Jo. These early businesses were partly funded
by Viscount Nagamoto Okabe and Seibei Kajima, a wealthy amateur
photographer. In 1889 Ogawa also helped to launch Kokka, an important
arts journal that is still published to this day. The first six
volumes from 1889 to 1902 featured Ogawa’s photographs
of traditional Japanese relics in collotype format.
By 1890 Ogawa was on a successful career path.
In 1891 he was commissioned to do a series of portraits on one
hundred famous geisha of Tokyo to celebrate the opening of Tokyo's
first skyscraper, the Ryounkaku. These photographs gained him
notoriety for their artistry. Throughout the rest of the Meiji
period Ogawa produced many lovely collotype titles too numerous
to mention. These were illustrated with photographs by himself
and other photographers like Kajima Seibei, William Kinnimond
Burton, John Milne, Tamamura Kozaburo, and Herbert Ponting. One
entitled "Some Japanese Flowers" published in 1896
is beautifully illustrated with hand colored collotype plates
by Ogawa. Other projects he photographed include the 1893 world's
fair in Chicago and the Imperial Palace in Beijing.
Ogawa played an active role in his printing company
and photo studios well into the Taisho period. During his long
career he perfected the collotype process, bringing it to a whole
new level as an artform with the use of multi-strike printings,
as well as the addition of hand coloring. As a result, Japanese
collotypes have endured a legacy as the finest in the world even
to this day.
In the past there has been some debate as to
the correct spelling of his name. He sometimes went by Isshin
Ogawa, but the correct spelling is Kazumasa Ogawa. He also became
a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society in England.