Imaging the Islanders of Ogasawara: Changing Dynamics of the Photographic Encounter


Wednesday, July 17, 2019, 9:00am to 10:45am


Kamerlingh Onnes A0.51

Presentation for the panel, Mediascapes in Asia at the International Convention of Asia Scholars 11, Leiden, Netherlands.

When Tokyo-based commercial photographer Matsuzaki Shinji made the first photographs of the Ogasawara Islands during a Japanese colonial expedition in 1875, he also created the first photographs of the multicultural islanders residing there, and among the first sets of colonial photographs commissioned by the emerging modern Japanese Empire. Ogasawara, known as the Bonin Islands in Western languages, was first settled by a cosmopolitan group of people from Hawaii, the US, and Europe, who left Honolulu in 1830 to establish a whaling station. Colonized by Japan in the Meiji period, fierce battles were fought there during WWII, and they were occupied by the US Navy after the war. After finally reverting to Japanese control in 1968, they today constitute a village in Tokyo Prefecture, despite being 1000 km south of the Japanese capital. Throughout these years and up to the present day, the islanders – with varying degrees of resistance - have been the subject of photographic fascination. This paper will explore the dramatic changes that have taken place over more than 140 years of photographing the islanders, from Matsuzaki’s colonial documents in 1875, to early 20th century postcards, to contemporary portraits created by another Tokyo-based commercial photographer, Nagasawa Shinichiro.