By Herman J. Moeshart
The history of photography in Japan being so intimately linked to the history of photography
in The Netherlands, it was only natural that the history of the pioneering years of Japanese
photography should be researched in the Printroom of Leiden University. The Printroom
originally was reserved for collections of drawings and prints, but in 1953 the director,
Professor H. Van de Waal, decided to add a collection of photographs and photographica.
This collection was the basis on which the Study and Documentation Centre for Photography
was built in the following years. It now owns a collection of c. 100,000 items. The aim of
the Study Centre is to train students in the history of photography and the collection is used
intensively for this purpose. The research emphasis is on Dutch photography. Documentation
is collected to support this research and is also used to publish the History of Dutch
Photography in instalments. Each instalment contains a number of monographs on Dutch
photographers. In this series, that started in 1984, so far more than a hundred monographs
have been published. Besides courses in the history of photography for students of art
history, once or twice a year a course for learning how to determine old photographic
techniques is given to students of the University and people like archivists and curators who
work with old photographs in the exercise of their profession.
Though the number of photographs of Japan in the collection of the Printroom is relatively small, it contains some interesting items like the photographic album of W. A. Kok, midshipman on the 'Amsterdam', a Dutch man-of-war that took part in the punitive expedition against Shimonoseki in 1864. In it are many photographs by Ueno Hikoma, who the accompanying text declares was a friend of Kok. The study of the early years of Japanese photography and the request to organize an exhibition of photographs from Japan taken in the years of Bakumatsu and early Meiji (1857-1875) to celebrate the 10 year jubilee of the Japan-Netherlands Institute in Tokyo in 1986 prompted the collection of material available in The Netherlands. The book Yomigaeru Bakumatsu containing c. 200 photographs selected from the available material was published to accompany the exhibition in Japan in 1986, which was sponsored by Asahi Shimbun.
The Bauduin brothers
More than a thousand photographs were brought together from the collections of the Maritime Museum (Nederlands Historisch Scheepvaartmuseum) in Amsterdam, the Royal Archives (Koninklijk Huisarchief) in The Hague and from private collections. The largest among the latter is the collection of photographs of the Bauduin brothers. Albert Bauduin, already mentioned, was joined in 1862 by his brother Antoon who came to Japan to replace Dr. Pompe van Meerdervoort. Dr. A.F. Bauduin was an amateur photographer who documented his 8-year stay in Japan, until 1870, by photographing the people he met, parties he attended, and the surroundings of Nagasaki. A small album, probably presented to Albert Bauduin when he left Japan in 1880 contains 350 photographs among which are c. 120 photographs of Japanese performing their function in the government of that time and 230 views taken in Tokyo and the rest of the country.
The photographs from the Maritime Museum in Amsterdam belonged to the Dutch Minister Resident in Japan, Dirk de Graeff van Polsbroek. As he resided in Edo and Yokohama, the bulk of his collection contains photographs taken in that area. In an album put together by the British photographer Felix Beato, who worked in Japan from 1863 till 1877, there are views of Nagasaki, Edo and Yokohama and photographs showing life in Japan taken in the streets or in scenes enacted in the studio. Another of his albums was put together using photographs from several sources and showing events in Yokohama and Edo during his 14 years in Japan. These include photo's of bodies of Henry Heusken, killed in 1861, and C.L. Richardson, killed in 1863, as well as portraits of his colleagues in the diplomatic service. The photographs from the Royal Archives show the members of the Japanese embassy which visited the Netherlands in 1862. They were presented to King Willem III by the embassy. Among them are portraits of Japanese like Fukuzawa Yukichi, at that time interpreter, and Matsuki Koan, who became better known as Terashima Munemori, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan. The collection of photographs also contains the portraits of Dutch officials who were members of the committee which welcomed the embassy: J.H. Donker Curtius, who negotiated the first treaty between Japan and a Western nation in 1856 (Commodore M.B. Perry only concluded a convention in 1853) and the first professor of Japanese at Leiden University, J.J. Hoffmann.
Some years ago the computer made its entry into the Study and Documentation Centre for Photography and since that time the data of the photographs in the collection have been entered into a database. That work is now approaching completion and the next step in the process of digitalization is about to be taken: the digitalization of the photographs themselves.
This year, in cooperation with the Inter Documentation Company in Leiden, a project has been started to make c. 1000 photographs from Japan available on a CD-ROM. In the data accompanying the photographs, the latest results of our research will be presented. The beauty of Japan is shown in the fine landscape and city views, the charm of the Japanese women and girls is revealed in their portraits. The violence of the time is also not ignored: attacks on Europeans and the subsequent decapitation of the murderers. Tough Samurai, Japanese statesmen and Western representatives were fraternally united on this modern medium.
Prentenkabinet der Rijksuniversiteit Leiden
Studie- en documentatiecentrum voor fotografie
Rapenburg 65, NL 2311GJ Leiden (The Netherlands) E-mail: FOTOHIST@let.leidenuniv.nl
The collection contains approximately 1,100 photos and will be published on one disc. It will be possible to order positive copies of the photos. The scheduled publication date is 1 January 1996. The price of the disc will be Dfl. 1,950. If your order is received before 1 January 1996 a 10% discount will be given, and you will pay only Dfl. 1,755. Payment with credit card is possible.
Minimum requirements for the CD-Rom:
double speed CD-Rom
For additional information or your order please contact:
IDC Publishers bv
P.O. Box 11205
2301 EE Leiden