Osamu Shiihara


Born in Osaka Prefecture. In 1928 Osamu Shiihara entered the Tokyo Fine Arts School where he studied under the painter Takeji Fujishima in the Western Painting department.

After graduating in 1932, he returned to the Kansai area and started photography. He set up a studio in Nishinomiya city in Hyogo Prefecture and joined the Tampei Photography club. He also was affiliated with the Shoei Kai (“Light and Shadow Asocciation”) with Seiichiro Tokuda. In his studio there are remnants of his nude photo sessions for the Tampei Photography Club.

Critics say that his artistic education was academic because of the influence of his teacher, Fujishima who studied in western painting in France and Italy in the beginning of the 20th century. But his photographic works used cutting edge techniques such as photogram and photo montage that were considered avant-garde at the time. His photo peinture technique, where he would draw directly on glass plate negatives and then print those images on photographic printing paper, were unique to his background as a painter.

He has left behind many experimental works in the latter half of the 1930’s, just before the onset of the Pacific War. He fervently pushed the limits of the potential of the medium of photography through various methods like multiple exposure, deformation, solarization, photo montage and more. Female nudes, scientific equipment, lens, mirrors and carapaces featured prominently as motifs in his works.

He is also known for his 1941 documentary series, Wandering Jew where he and other members of the Tampei Photography club; Nakaji Yasui, Kametaro Kawasaki, Toru Kono, Kaneyoshi Tabuchi and Yutaka Tezuka took photos of Jewish refugees temporarily staying in Kobe during the Pacific war. This is one of the only examples where the plight of Jewish refugees outside of Europe has been photographed.

Shiihara’s work is included in permanent collections domestic and international such as The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo; the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum; the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art; the J. Paul Getty Museum; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and The Art Institute of Chicago. He also has two monographs; Osamu Shiihara (Only Photography, 2016) and Shiihara Osamu (Fine-Art Photography Association, 2018).


Osamu Shiihara
March 4 – 26, 2017

The Tampei Photography Club: Toru Kono, Sutezo Otono, Osamu Shiihara
January 6 – 28, 2018


Further readings