Transcultural, Resistant, Everyday: New Photographic Histories of China and Japan

Shana J. Brown, University of Hawai‘i, Mānoa

Luke Gartlan and Roberta Wue, eds. Portraiture and Early Studio Photography in China and Japan. New York: Routledge, 2017. 252 pp. $150 (cloth).

David Odo. The Journey of “A Good Type”: From Artistry to Ethnography in Early Japanese Studies. Cambridge, MA: Peabody Museum Press, Harvard University, 2015. 144 pp. $45 (cloth).

Kerry Ross. Photography for Everyone: The Cultural Lives of Cameras and Consumers in Early Twentieth-Century Japan. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2015. 256 pp. $85.00 (cloth), $25 (paper/e-book).

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These three books shed light on how much there is to celebrate in the trajectory from the Western-dominated photography of the mid-nineteenth century to the much more diffuse, diverse, and democratized photography of the twentieth. Not all photographers, or photographs, are benign. Just because an image is more similar to a selfie than an ethnographic type does not eliminate the potential for abuse. But few technologies have tied the world together so closely in our ability to imagine ourselves in affirming ways, as well as to preserve and complement others. Despite very dark chapters in the technology’s past, sometimes we take pictures because we like what we see...