The first camera entered Japan in 1848, but it was only after the establishment of diplomatic relations with western powers in the mid-1850s that photography spread as a commercial enterprise. Westerners and Japanese alike opened studios in port cities, where they hawked images of famous landmarks and “types” to tourists and a growing foreign population. These “types” accorded with western expectations of “authentic” Japanese clothing and customs that were often at odds with the contemporary government’s policy of rapid and wholesale modernization. By the time this photograph of a samurai was staged, it would have been illegal to don a topknot or the warrior’s double swords, considered stigmas of the country’s feudal past.


  • Title: Samurai
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: 1865/1875
  • Physical Dimensions: 9 x 7 1/2 in.
  • Provenance: Davis Museum at Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA, Gift of the Wellesley College Art Department Slide Library, 1983.24.31
  • Rights: Davis Museum at Wellesley College
  • External Link: Davis Museum at Wellesley College
  • Medium: Albumen print

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