Gen Otsuka (1912–1992)

Otsuka was born in Takinogawa-cho, Kita Toshima-gun, Tokyo (now Takinogawa, Kita-ku, Tokyo). He graduated from Tokyo High School of Technology (now Chiba University) with a degree in photography.

His father was Masayoshi Otsuka, a pioneer of photography retouching techniques. While still in school, he and his father attended the regular meetings of Kōga, a magazine founded by Nojima Kōzō, Kimura Ihei, and Nakayama Iwata. In 1933 he began showing his works. He held his first solo exhibition in 1934, the Commercial Photography Exhibition at Kinokuniya Gallery in Ginza. The same year, he joined the Asahi Shimbun’s Osaka headquarters as a social affairs reporter. From 1937, he worked as a foreign correspondent in mainland China and reported in Thailand, Singapore, and Korea. He was one of the few correspondents who both took photographs and wrote for the newspaper. In 1925, he started publishing the Shin Tokyo Fukei (“Scenes from New Tokyo”) series for Asahi Graph. In July 1952, he began to serialize his Tokyo series in Genkosha’s Shashin Salon (“Photo Salon”). He also actively published works in the Asahi Camera magazine. Otsuka was known as a member of the triumvirate in the photography department of Asahi Shimbun Publications, along with Yoshioka Senzo and Funayama Katsu. Throughout his career, Otsuka used experimental techniques such as long exposures and photomontages; his extensive oeuvre includes snapshots of people, urban landscapes, theater photographs, and a series of photos of Mt. Fuji.

Looking at Otsuka’s work, one can discern the ebb and flow of his two identities as a photojournalist and an expressionist. This duality is due mainly to his editorial experience with Kōga magazine as a student, his interactions with leading photographers such as Nakayama, Nojima, and Kimura, and photo critics such as Itagaki Takao.


Nihon no Shashinka Japan (Biographic Dictionary of Japanese Photography): Nichigai, 2005
Press Photographrs’ Story, exhibition catalog, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, 2009
Tracks, The World of Gen Otsuka, Heibonsha, 1996



Further readings