Here’s to you fans of Japan! According to the website Japanization The New York Library’s digital collection — a huge resource comprising over 700,000 documents — has just made a major collection of Japanese photography from the Meiji period (1826-1912) available online for free.
The images document a transformative period in Japanese culture that saw the country switch from a feudal system to a more Western industrial system. Retracing this key moment within Japanese history, these images are of real documentary significance.
Today Japan is at the forefront of photography technology, however the first cameras arrived relatively late. As such, these images were taken by visiting tourists and therefore provide a somewhat fantasised image of Japan. They focus heavily on stereotypical elements of traditional Japanese culture, including temples, sumo wrestling and Geishas under cherry trees.
Hand painted, these photos have been colourised with great care in a way that is reminiscent of Japanese artistic traditions. These delicate images are also a reminder of the places that are today no longer present following the bombings of the second wold war.
Download the images now from the New York Library digital collection.