Sutezo Otono (1905–1988)

Born in Kishibe-mura, Mishima-gun, Osaka Prefecture (now Kishibe Kita, Suita City) in 1905. After graduating from Osaka Municipal Higashi Shogyo High School, he joined Yamaguchi Bank (later Sanwa Bank), where he was a member of the Sanwa Photo Club.

In 1930, he joined the Tampei Photography Club and the Zen Kansai Shashin Renmei (“All Kansai Photography Association”). He received numerous awards at the Nippon Dai Shashin Salon (“Japan Grand Photography Salon Competition”) and others.

In addition to regular exhibitions organized by the Tampei Photo Club and the Sanwa Photo Club, he also participated in international salon exhibitions.

Otono has pursued photographic expression through photograms, and his works are characterized by his use of plants and other living creatures collected outdoors. Before World War II, he contributed articles on the photogram technique to the photography magazines Camera Club (1) and Shashin Bunka (2). According to these articles, he would contrast opaque materials with semi-transparent or transparent materials such as flowers, leaves, paper, cloth, textiles, opaque glass, cellophane, and glassware to create a composite effect.

He also describes the works included in his photobook, Light, published by the Tampei Photo Club, as follows:

“The photogram can be encapsulated in the single phrase: light composition. If I were to explain further, it would turn into a tedious and useless discussion. The refraction of light renders various subtle forms on a photographic plate that are countless and astronomical in number. I believe that the essence of the photogram is how it handles the straightforward beauty of light in a three-dimensional way. Three-dimensionality has lines, faces, and volume, whereas two-dimensionality has no volume. Regarding volume, width and depth are deeply connected. When three-dimensionality is lacking, images become schematic (3).”

Although Otono was active primarily before World War II, he remained committed to the photogram and was known as one of the leading artists in this field.



Biographic Dictionary of Japanese Photography, Nichigai Associates, 2005

The Founding and Development of Modern Photography in Japan, Tokyo Photographic Art Museum, 1995

Hikari, Tampei Photography Club, 1940

(1) Otono, Sutezo. “Introduction to the Photogram” Camera Club, ARS (November 1936)

(2) Otono, Sutezo. “How to Make a Photogram” Shashin Bunka, ARS (November 1941)

(3) Tampei Photography Club, Hikari, 1940


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


Further readings