A Life in Photography: Ryuichi Kaneko (1948–2021)

Dates | June 28 – July 31, 2022
Venue | MEM map, NADiff a/p/a/r/t (Bookshop)
Hours of Operation |
MEM  13:00-19:00 (Closed on Mondays. If Monday is a national holiday, closed on Tuesdays)
NADiff a/p/a/r/t  13:00-19:00 (Closed on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday / Open July 18. Monday)


This exhibition outlines the trajectory of the life of Ryuichi Kaneko, a pioneering historian of photography in Japan. The exhibit will include many previously unpublished items by Kaneko.

Photography historian Ryuichi Kaneko, passed away on June 30, 2021. To celebrate his achievements the MEM gallery has organized an exhibit of primary sources to commemorate the first anniversary of his passing. The exhibition follows in chronological order Kaneko’s engagement with the life-long project of researching, reconstructing, and promoting the history of Japanese photography while also nurturing the work of bourgeoning photographers.

This exhibit includes documentary photographs, photographs taken by Kaneko, writings, printed materials, pamphlets, catalogs, and correspondences. Photographer Tokuko Ushioda has created a set of documentary photographs of Kaneko’s library of books. These images will be on display as part of the exhibit.

Spanning decades of activity, the exhibition covers Kaneko’s path in Japanese photography. This includes activities as a member of the All Japan Students Photo Association, his role in the independent gallery movement of the 1970s, and his long tenure at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, beginning with its establishment in 1990.

NADiff a/p/a/r/t, the art and photography bookshop that is in the same building as MEM Gallery, will feature publications and important photographic collections that reevaluate the history of modern and contemporary Japanese photography. NADiff a/p/a/r/t will present a selection of rare books containing articles and essays by Kaneko and other related publications recommended by Kaneko, who was also well-known as a collector of photography books.

Exhibition catalogue|A Life in Photography: Ryuichi Kaneko (1948–2021), MEM INC., Japanese, 160 pages, ISBN978–4–909598–09–7, 188x128mm


About Ryuichi Kaneko
Kaneko was born in Tokyo in 1948 and became interested in photography early in his life thanks to his father’s influence. He joined the All Japan Students Photo Association as a university student and participated in their socially engaged projects. In the 1970s, Kaneko became immersed in the independent photography gallery movement. It was during this time that he became a photography historian. In the 1980s, as a researcher for publisher Shogakukan’s twelve-volume Complete Collection of Japanese Photography, he traveled throughout Japan to discover the work of many overlooked prewar photographers. Later, he was involved in establishing the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography. After the museum opened its doors to the public, he worked as a specialized researcher for many years and was involved in planning many exhibitions at the museum as well as in other institutions outside Japan. Kaneko is also internationally recognized as a collector of Japanese photography books and magazines. He has conducted in-depth research on the history of Japanese photography by surveying Japanese photography books and magazines from the prewar and postwar periods. He has contributed to various publications, including Masterpieces of Japanese Photograph (Kokusho Kankokai), NIPPON Reprint Edition (Kokusho Kankokai), and others. His published works include Nihon ha Shashinshu no Kuni de Aru (“Japan is a Country of Photography Collections”) (Azusa Shuppansha), and others.


Chairman of Ryuichi Kaneko Memorial Exhibition Committee
Hitoshi Tsukiji (Photographer)

Board members of Ryuichi Kaneko Memorial Exhibition Committee
Kotaro Iizawa (Photography Critic)
Toshiharu Ito (Art Historian/Professor Emeritus, Tokyo University of the Arts)
Eiji Ina (Director, Tokyo College of Photography)
Michiko Kasahara (Deputy Director, Ishibashi Foundation Artizon Museum)
Shinzo Shimao (Photographer, Artist)
Kazuko Sekiji (Chief Curator, Tokyo Photographic Art Museum)
Norihide Takahashi (President, The Japan Society for Arts and History of Photography)
Jo Takeba (Curator, Nagoya City Art Museum)
Takeyoshi Tanuma (President, Japan Photographic Copyright Association)
Yasufumi Nakamori (Senior Curator of International Art (Photography), Tate)
Harumi Niwa (Chief Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo)
Norihiko Matsumoto (Vice President, The Photographic Society of Japan)

*Takeyoshi Tanuma passed away on June 1, 2022, just after his contribution to the manuscript for this exhibition catalog was finalized. It is with heavy hearts that we make this announcement, and our thoughts are with his family.


Setsuko Kaneko


Ryuichi Kaneko Memorial Exhibition Committee


Exhibition cooperation
Tokyo College of Photography


Exhibition installment
Taketo Kobayashi


Exhibition assistant
Haruka Yamada


Ryuichi Kaneko Memorial Exhibition Committee
Satomi Fujimura, Tokyo Photographic Art Museum
Katsuya Ishida, MEM
Keizo Mitsui, Tokyo Metropolitan Foundation for History and Culture
Sayaka Takahashi, PGI
Mizuho Takahashi, MEM
Ivan Vartanian, GOLIGA
Yuri Yamada, Tokyo Photographic Art Museum



6th November, 2019、Bombas Gens Centre d’Art, València, Spain

Photographed by Eiji Ina