||Kazumasa Ogawa (1860
A master of
photography, Kazumasa Ogawa is best known for his artistic photographs
and collotype publishing which numbered over 400 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 briefly apprenticed under the photographer Hideo Yoshiwara in his
hometown of Kumagaya in Saitama Prefecture. By 1877 at the age of seventeen,
Ogawa opened his first studio in Tomioka, Gumma Prefecture.
Seemingly unsatisfied with his progress, Ogawa honed
his English skills 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.