KUWABARA Kineo 桑原 甲子雄 (1913.12.9-2007.12.10) Tokyo. Best known for his street photos of Tokyo taken in the 1930s. Also served as editor of a number of camera magazines.
Major themes Tokyo street photos
Education Graduated junior high.
Career Self-taught photographer. Chief Editor of Ars Camera, Tokyo 1948-53; Sankei Camera, Tokyo 1954-59; Camera Geijutsu, Tokyo 1960-65; The Photo Image, Tokyo 1969-73; Shashin Hihyo, Tokyo 1974-76. Professor at College of Tama Art School, Kawasaki, Kanagawa Pref. 1965-70. Professor at Tokyo College of Photography from 1972. President Japan Photo Critics Association 1954-65. Director, Japan Photographic Association 1954-65 and since 1979. Based in Tokyo.
Less a photographer and more of a commentator on photographers, Kuwabara was an amateur photographer in the 1930s. He used a Leica camera. His scenes of 1930s everyday life in mainly Tokyo have proven to be a valuable documentary record of those years.
After the war, he was involved mainly in editor jobs at major photo magazines. His prewar photos (about 20,000) were kept in a closet until he met ARAKI Nobuyoshi in 1964. They met through work on a magazine which Kuwabara edited. They became good friends (they both attended the same high school) and Kuwabara showed his prewar negatives to Araki who was astounded.
Araki took the negatives and made contact prints. This led to Kuwabara's first one-man exhibition, Tokyo 1936, at Nikon Salon, Ginza in 1973, made quite a stir and his photographer side was thereby discovered. He published a book of his photos, "Tokyo in the 11th Year of Showa" in 1974.
Awards Annual Prize, Japan Photographic Association 1975.
Tokyo 1934-1993 - 東京―1934～1993
Reviewed on: Nov. 22, 1997 Last modified: 2005-04-03 Great pictorial documentation of 1930s Tokyo. Lots of street shots.
Published: Sept. 1995 Publisher: Shinchosha ISBN: 4106024136 Price in Japan: ¥4,500 Qualities: Soft cover, B/W photos Size: A5, 629 pp. Language: Japanese and English Compiled by Kazuo Nishii Translated by Arturo Silva
This book is a comprehensive retrospective of Kuwabara's work as a photographer (although he was a photo magazine editor more than anything else). With 736 photos (mostly B/W) of Tokyo street scenes taken from 1934 to 1993, you get a good idea of what Tokyo looked like during those years and how it changed.
About half the photos in this thick book were taken in the 1930s. Mundane street scenes turn into wonderful glimpses into life in the past. Many of the photos were taken in Asakusa, Ueno, Sumida River, and other shitamachi parts of the city near where he lived. He also photographed 1930s scenes which still can be seen today: People waiting next to the Hachiko dog statue at Shibuya Station, fashionable "modern" girls strolling along Ginza, train station platforms, temples, parks, shop signs, street stalls, peddlars, flea markets, and places where people congregate or mix. There's also a photo of a young Ken Domon pushing his bicycle in the 1950s, a young Hiroshi Hamaya holding his camera, and Tadahiko Hayashi, another photographer destined for fame. Kuwabara is a street photographer. He is both a hunter of images and a random shooter capturing whatever catches his photographic eye.
One shot, taken in Asakusa in 1936, shows an elderly gentleman walking on the sidewalk pushing a baby stroller with the bobbing heads of two infant girls (twins perhaps). When this photo was shown on TV in 1973, the girls who were in the stroller recognized their grandpa and called Kuwabara.
His photos are interesting because almost all of them include people. You can see how they dressed (the transition from the traditional kimono to Western dress is interesting), what they were doing, their facial expressions, and the everyday things they used (cars, toys, newspapers, etc.). Tokyo's people, places, and activities are documented--the life and times of a great city. Even with the militaristic political system in the 1930s, life on the streets for the most part went on as usual.
In later photos, you see some dabbling in color. They too show glimpses of everyday Tokyo in the postwar era. People sitting in a bus, a girl standing at a bus stop, park scenes, shots of apprentice Nobuyoshi Araki, and other photo diary-type shots. The book shows Japan's human face--the face of the common people. From the 1970s onward, you see many photos of Setagaya Ward where he lived.
One of the best features of the book is the English captions. The year the photo was taken and the place (or subject matter) are noted next to the photo in English. (The year and location are unknown for a few photos.) More detailed captions are written in Japanese by Kuwabara at the end of the book.
When Kuwabara first started taking photos in the 1930s, he used a Kodak Vest Pocket camera. In 1934, Hiroshi Hamaya, a neighbor and now famous Japanese photographer, invited him to go to Kamakura for a summer photo session of swimsuit girls. Kuwabara entered his photos (taken with a Leica C) in a camera magazine contest and was selected as a second place winner. He started entering other camera magazine contests and starting winning. Whenever he had free time from taking care of the family business, he rode around the neighborhood on his bicycle and took photos with his Leica. If he went on foot, he usually ended up taking more photos. At the time, his photos had no outlet for public display. They were just for hobby purposes. Then in the early 1970s, Nobuyoshi Araki, "discovered" them and urged him to go public. In 1973, many of the photos were shown at the Nikon Salon and later published. (Reviewed by Philbert Ono)