Capturing Japan in Nineteenth-Century New England Photography Collections examines the evidence left behind from a famous first encounter-that of prominent New England Americans with the remnants of feudal Japan in the 1870s and 1880s. The study reveals that, despite these Americans' varied reasons for traveling to Japan and studying its culture, a common desire united all of their collecting activities: to gather photographic documentation of a Japan they believed was disappearing under the pressures of trade and industrialization. Eleanor Hight focuses on the case studies of six New Englanders, whose travel and photograph collecting influenced the flowering of Japonism in the late nineteenth-century Boston area-still visible today in institutions such as the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Peabody Essex Museum, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. The book also explores the history of Japanese photography and its main themes, from images of travel and historic sites, to exotic subjects such as geisha and samurai. The first history of its kind, this study makes fundamental points about the ways photographs, seeming conveyors of fact, imprint mental images and suppositions on their viewers.
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Eleanor M. Hight is Professor of Art History at the University of New Hampshire. She was the co-editor with Gary D. Sampson of Colonialist Photography: Imag(in)ing Race and Place (2004).Review:
'Hight [...] offers a perceptive, multifaceted study of photographs made in Japan in the 1870s-80s...This book is important both for its Japanese subject and for its wider implications for the history of photography. Extensive notes and bibliography... Highly recommended. Lower-level undergraduates through researchers/faculty.' Choice 'The book [...] is well-designed and beautifully illustrated with many examples of nineteenth-century photographs, including eleven colour plates reproducing hand-coloured photographs and one showing the collector's album cover... Capturing Japan in Nineteenth-Century New England Photography Collections is an entertaining, informative, and highly readable account of an important facet of American Cultural History.' Historical Journal of Massachusetts 'Eleanor M. Hight offers an intriguing addition to the growing body of literature on early Japanese photography... Hight's book draws on a rich archive of previously understudied primary source material: the photographs, albums, letters, and travelogues of six early visitors to Japan... the book is a welcome contribution to the literature. Hight's highly readable text provides a clear and concise summary of Yokohama photography and its primary themes. It raises a number of provocative questions regarding the roles played by the consumers of the images, both in shaping the market within Japan and in shaping the perceptions of audiences back home, and ultimately opens up a number of further avenues of inquiry into this very rich material.' History of Photography
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