Please view the main text area of the page by skipping the main menu.

43 unpublished photos accredited to Japanese 'master of snapshots' up for auction

Newly discovered photographs considered to be works by Ihei Kimura are seen in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on Oct. 25, 2018. (Mainichi/Akinori Miyamoto)

TOKYO -- Forty-three recently discovered black and white pictures, considered to be works of legendary 20th century Japanese photographer Ihei Kimura, will be put up for auction starting from Oct. 31 by bookshops in Tokyo's Kanda district.

The discovered works capture everyday moments in Tokyo and its environs -- most of them apparently taken in the 1960s and 1970s. One individual with knowledge of his unique style explained that the photos "look very much like the work of Kimura, the 'master of snapshots.'" It's very rare for his photos to surface like this because Kimura usually discarded his negatives and paper records after they were published in magazines. Their origins are unknown.

Those pictures in question were brought by an individual from a secondhand bookstore to Bohemian's Gallery in Kanda in August. They were determined as Kimura's because of their style, and because his published prints contain the same subjects shot from different angles.

The images were printed out on photographic paper, with a length of 30.5 centimeters and a width of 20.5 centimeters. Written on the back of the photos are the names of places like "Asakusa ueki-ichi (potted plant fair in the Asakusa district in eastern Tokyo)," "Ueno Kaneiji" temple and "Ginza" shopping district. They are assumed to be the locations of where the photos were taken.

There are also photos marked "Yokohama Chinatown," and "Tsukudajima," on the capital's southeastern waterfront. What appear to be different shots of these objects have been published.

Kimura, who was born in 1901 and died in 1974, considered himself a photojournalist who could present his works in print publications like magazines, according to his close friend Kazuo Kitai. The 73-year-old Kitai, who won the first Kimura Ihei Photography Award, says Kimura burned his own negatives and did not ask publishing firms to return his photo prints.

Kitai hopes that a comparison between newly found photos and published images "will lead to a new analysis of Kimura's views on photography."

All of the 43 photos will be put up at the first photograph auction ever in the area of Kanda where stores with well-stocked shelves of old books and rare titles are closely packed together. The 60-year-old president Shigeru Natsume of Bohemian's Gallery, which will host the event, said, "I'm pleased that Kimura's unknown works have been discovered."

The works will be open for previews from Oct. 31 until Nov. 2, and auctions will be held on Nov. 3 and Nov. 4. For inquiries, please contact Bohemian's Gallery at 03-3294-3300 (in Japanese).

(Japanese original by Masaki Takahashi, Tokyo Bureau)

Also in The Mainichi

The Mainichi on social media