PhotoHistory 1940s

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Chronology of Japanese photography 1940-1949.

Researched and compiled by Philbert Ono

1940 (Showa 15)

In Jan., the Leotax camera is sold by Showa Kogaku Seiki. It was a copy of the Leica 35mm camera except for the rangefinder which was not coupled to the lens.

In June, official prices for photosensitive materials are set and put into effect, making the prices of the same type and format of photosensitive materials uniform. In Dec., official price controls for cameras are also put into effect.

On July 7, camera production was restricted for military purposes only, stunting the growth of the Japanese camera industry.

In Sept., Mamiya Koki Seisakusho produces the first Mamiya Six camera.

In Nov., Konishiroku markets the "Sakura Tennen-shoku Film R35" film, Japan's first coupler-in-developer color slide film with multi-layer emulsion.

1941 (Showa 16)

The many camera magazines are consolidated into only a handful of magazines. In Jan., "Shashin Nihon" is formed by consolidating "Kogata Camera," "Amateur Camera," and "Koga Gekkan." In Feb., "Shashin Bunka" magazine is created by consolidating "Camera," "Shashin Salon," and "Camera Club" magazines. "Hodo Shashin" magazine is formed by joining "Photo Times" and "Camerart" magazines. Asahi Camera magazine absorbs "Geijutsu Shashin Kenkyu" and "Shozo Shashin Kenkyu" magazines but stops publication in April 1942.

In July, the Zenkoku Shashin Kikai Seizo Kogyo Rengokai association of photo equipment makers is formed to negotiate with the government on photography equipment matters such as official pricing revisions and equipment procurement and exportation.

In Dec., makers of photosensitive materials are consolidated into a company called Nihon Shashin Kanko Zairyo Tosei Co., Ltd. It aimed to distribute the scarce film supply fairly.

Japan attacks Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on Dec. 7 (Dec. 8 in Japan), starting World War II.

1942 (Showa 17)

On Jan. 1, Imperial Navy photos of the Pearl Harbor attack are allowed to be published in Japanese newspapers for the first time.

DOMON Ken's photos on farming villages, portraits, etc., are published in a number of magazines earning him widespread recognition.

Eastman Kodak introduces Kodacolor film, the world's first practical color negative film.

1943 (Showa 18)

In Sept., in an article titled "Taigai Senden Zasshi-ron" in Nihon Hyoron magazine, DOMON Ken censures the deceptive articles in propaganda photo magazines and advocates a more objective approach to report the truth. The magazine is subsequently banned. Domon also resigns his position at the Kokusai Bunka Shinkokai (International Culture Promotion Association).

In Nov. various photo exhibits for military propaganda are held in department stores in Tokyo and other cities. Exhibit themes include the military in Manchuria, Burma, air wars, and youth brigade military schools.

Also in Nov., small- and medium-size manufacturers of photosensitive materials such as Asahi Shashin Kogyo go bankrupt due to the worsening Pacific war. Only three manufacturers remain: Konishiroku Shashin Kogyo, Fuji Photo Film, and Toyo Shashin Kogyo (forerunner of Oriental Shashin Kogyo).

1944 (Showa 19)

Due to a military supply company law enacted in Dec. 1943, most of the major Japanese photo equipment and materials manufacturers are forced to cooperate in the war effort.

In the spring, various photo exhibits for military propaganda are held in department stores in Tokyo and other cities.

Iwo Jima by Joe Rosenthal

1945 (Showa 20)

In February 1945, Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal on Iwo Jima captures a Pulitzer Prize-winning shot titled, "Old Glory goes up on Mt. Suribachi." The photograph shows a few US soldiers pushing a large American flag upright on the captured mountain. The photo is published on the front page of the New York Times and later serves as the model for the Iwo Jima Memorial in Washington D.C. It becomes one of the most famous war-time photos in history.

In March, Tokyo air raids burn and flatten much of the city. The National Police Agency's ISHIKAWA Koyo photographs the devastation, later published in 1953.

On Aug. 6, an atomic bomb is dropped on Hiroshima. This is followed by another atomic bomb on Nagasaki on Aug. 9. Japan consequently surrenders on Aug. 15.

Hiroshima's mushroom cloud is photographed by YAMADA Seizo outside the city as well as by a junior high school student named FUKADA Toshio (four successive photos). MATSUSHIGE Yoshito photographs the Hiroshima victims near the epicenter right after the explosion. Another photographer named KISHIDA Mitsugi photographs the devastation on the morning after. On Aug. 10, army photographer YAMAHATA Yosuke photographs the aftermath in Nagasaki. His photos still receive high acclaim today.

On Aug. 21 and 25, all the major Japanese newspapers publish photos of Nagasaki taken by YAMAHATA Yosuke.

General MacArthur and Emperor Hirohito In Sept., Emperor Hirohito visits General Douglas MacArthur at the American Embassy where they are photographed together. In the photograph published in Japanese newspapers on Sept. 29, the Emperor stands straight and at attention contrasting sharply with the General's casual, hands-on-hips pose. The Ministry of Home Affairs at first banned the publication of the photo, but was later overturned by the GHQ (General Headquarters).

During the first few years after the war ended in 1945, Japan faced severe shortages of raw materials. Camera companies were short on materials and capital to rebuild. They had to think about sheer survival rather than developing new cameras. Thus, the first Japanese cameras after the war were pre-war carryovers.

1946 (Showa 21)

Camera</b> magazine (published by Ars) is revived in Jan. (folds in Aug. 1956).

The Nihon Shashin-kai association is reestablished in April.The Zen-Nihon Shashin Renmei association's Kansai Chapter is reestablished in April.

Nihon Univ.'s Photography dept. is reestablished in April.The public exhibition of nude photos, which used to be prohibited in Japan, is permitted. Photographers such as FUKUDA Katsuji and SUGIYAMA Kira hold nude photo exhibitions called Camera and Five Nudes and A Group of Nudes respectively. Other photographers such as NAKAMURA Rikko, NAKAMURA Masaya, MATSUSHIMA Susumu, HAYATA Yuji, AKIYAMA Shotaro, OTAKE Shoji, and INAMURA Takamasa also help proliferate nude photography in Japan during the post-war period.

In Dec., the domestic manufacturing of film and cameras was restarted. However, the production volume was still low and most of the output went to supply the Occupation Forces, leaving little for the rapidly-increasing domestic demand. In large cities, a black market for film and cameras appeared.

1947 (Showa 22)

Camerabug American soldiers of the Occupation Forces commented that there were too many names to remember with regard to Canon cameras: lenses by Serenar, cameras by Canon, and the manufacturer was Seiki-Kogaku Kogyo. Company president MITARAI Takeshi took this to heart and changed the corporate name to Canon Camera Company Ltd. on Sept. 15, 1947. This name was later modified to Canon Camera Company Inc. in early 1951. The present corporate name of "Canon Inc." was adopted in 1969.

In Oct., the Ginryusha photographers club was formed by HAYASHI Tadahiko, HIGUCHI Tadao, KUWABARA Kineo, and others.

In Nov., Shukan Sun News magazine is started with NATORI Yonosuke as the editor. This is a weekly devoted to photo documentaries modeled after Life magazine. (Folds in Jan. 1949 after 41 issues.)

1948 (Showa 23)

Chinon Industries, Inc.'s forerunner, Sanshin Seisakusho, is established by CHINO Hiroshi to manufacture lens barrels and mounts for cameras such as Olympus, Ricoh, and Yashica. It started manufacturing lenses from 1959. The corporate name was changed to its currrent one in Jan. 1973.

After being dissolved after the war which destroyed most of the factory, Asahi Optical Co. was restarted. It made binoculars for export.

1949 (Showa 24)

In April., Canon Camera Company markets the Canon IIB 35mm rangefinder camera having a viewfinder which could switch magnifications to match the field of view for the 50mm, 100mm, and 135mm interchangeable lenses. This useful and unique feature helped to establish Canon's reputation for the following 10 years. The camera remained in production for 3 years.

Takachiho Seisaku-sho is renamed Olympus Optical Company, Ltd. (Olympus Kogaku Kogyo K.K.).

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