MEIJI JAPAN in Photographs: Washi Prints from the Claude Estèbe Collection

 Meij Japan in Photographs is the second exhibition at Serindia Blue. Catalogue is available online here: MEIJI JAPAN. Prints from this show are also available online here in the Artworks - Photography section.

During Meiji period (1868-1912) Japan was already dubbed as “the land of photography”. Numerous photographs were produced, yet they suffered significant loss with time. Many considered them much more valuable than Japanese prints of comparable periods. As an expert in this field, Claude Estèbe saw hundred of thousands of them and for him they all have great historical values. Also, as a photographer and an artist, he was deeply moved by many rare examples that had special subject or composition which he started to collect.

The original prints were too fragile to be shown for a long period and have many details deserving proper enlargements. Two years ago, in Arles, France, Claude met a couple of French artisans (Atelier Papetier) who were doing hand-made organic washi (Japanese paper) in the old nagashizuki technique as they were taught in Japan by two masters (UNESCO intangible cultural heritage). Claude was stunned by the printing capacity of this material and they started a collaboration that will be shown here for the first time.

Indeed, washi was not used in the 19th century for photographs but this paper revived the charm of the delicate old hand-colored albumen prints. This exhibition, organized by Serindia Gallery at the Blue Building NYC, is not a historical panorama of the Meiji period but shares some “coups de cœur” of Claude Estèbe. More importantly, it introduces some forgotten Japanese masters of photography like Ueno Hikoma, Uchida Kuichi, Yokohama Matsusaburō or Kajima Seibei.