Talk: “Theater of Monochrome: Photography in Japan”

Saturday, December 1, 2018, 2 PM

How do black-and-white photographs in Japan Modern relate to the Japanese tradition of monochrome ink painting? In this talk, guest scholar Dr. Ayelet Zohar explains that the introduction of the camera in Japan during the last days of the shogunate (1850s) was not a simple case of Western technology replacing local traditions. Photography did not diminish the importance of monochrome aesthetics, but added a new option—black-and-white photography—to existing artistic practices and visual preferences. Numerous Japanese photographers, from the early days of the medium to contemporary practitioners, have used monochrome images as a way of representing the world and expressing personal interpretations. In this way, the history of photography in Japan is parallel to that of the mainstream tradition of photography in the West.

Dr. Zohar will refer to images from the early days of photography in Japan, during the Meiji and Taisho eras, comparing them to ink paintings and discussing how they created a new mode of expression. She will also interpret postwar images and contemporary conceptual practices to discuss performative and expressive elements of black-and-white photography, including the work of artists such as Hamaya Hiroshi, Fukase Masahisa, Tomatsu Shomei, and Nishino Sohei.

Dr. Ayelet Zohar is a senior lecturer in the History of Art Department, Tel Aviv University, and is currently a visiting associate professor in the history of art at Yale University. Her main fields of research are the history and theory of Japanese photography, contemporary fine art photography, art and visual culture in Japan, and postcolonial theory. She received her PhD from the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London, in 2007, and has held fellowships at Stanford University, the Smithsonian Institution, and Hokkaidô University. Dr. Zohar currently holds a research grant from the Israeli Science Foundation for her research on war memory in contemporary Japanese photography and video art.

Seikan Ferryboat, from the series Karasu (Ravens); Fukase Masahisa (1934–2012); Japan, 1976; gelatin silver print; partial gift from Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck, and purchased through the Freer|Sackler acquisitions fund in honor of Julian Raby, director emeritus of the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, S2018.2.24. © Masahisa Fukase Archives, courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery in London

  • Venue: Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
  • Event Location: Sackler, level B1 lobby
  • Cost: Free