WATANABE Yoshio

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WATANABE Yoshio 渡辺 義雄 (1907.4.21-2000.7.21) Sanjo. Niigata Prefecture. Premier architectural photographer specializing on Ise Shrine. First director of the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography.

Major themes Ise Shrine in Mie Pref.

Education Tokyo School of Photography, 1925-28

Career Worked in the photography department, 1928-30, and as editor of Photo Times monthly magazine, 1930-34.

Established Watanabe Studio in Ginza, Tokyo, 1935-36 working for government agencies such as the International Tourist Bureau (Ministry of Transportation), International Culture Promotion Organization, and the Foreign Ministry Intelligence Bureau.

Member of the International Report Photographers Society (IRP), Tokyo, 1936-40. Turned freelance in Tokyo in 1940.

Director, Japan Press Photography Society, Tokyo, 1941-45; part-time employee of the International Culture Promotion Organization, Tokyo, 1943. Lecturer, 1950-52, Assistant Professor, 1952-58, and Professor of Art from 1958 at Nihon University, Tokyo.

Director of Tokyo Institute of Technology from 1978. Chairman, 1958, and Honorary Chairman 1981-2000, of the Japan Professional Photographers Society (JPS), Tokyo. Director, 1959, and Vice-Chairman, 1973, of the Photographic Society of Japan (PSJ), Tokyo.

His most important theme is Ise Shrine which is completely rebuilt every 20 years in Mie Pref. He was the only photographer allowed to photograph the sacred shrine.

He was first allowed to do so in 1953 when the shrine was rebuilt. Twenty years later, he was allowed to do so again. And then after another 20 years in 1993, he was again able to photograph (for his last time) the inner precincts of the shrine for the third time.

If it were not for him and his published photos, the rest of us would probably never know what the shrine really looked like since the inner sanctum is mostly blocked from view.

He was a prime mover in promoting photography as a fine art in Japan. He was also a key figure in convincing the government that photography deserved a museum of its own. His efforts culminated with the construction of the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography in Ebisu, Tokyo, where he served as the museum's first director.

Awards Photographic Society of Japan Award, Tokyo, 1957; Art Encouragement Award, Ministry of Education, Tokyo, 1958; Photographic Society of Japan Service Award, 1970; Medal with Purple Ribbon, Tokyo, 1972; Mainichi Art Award, Tokyo, 1973; Third Order of Merit and Order of the Sacred Treasure, Tokyo, 1978; Order of Culture, Tokyo 1990.

Sample photos Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

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