Toru Kono (1907–1984)

Kono was born in Reijin-machi, Tennoji-ward, Osaka. He began photography after graduating from Yao Junior High School in 1927 and joined the Tampei Photography Club in 1931.

              Kono had a unique sensitivity for detecting the latent strangeness in ordinary landscapes. Takeji Iwamiya wrote in his memoirs that when he accompanied Kono to one of the club’s outdoor photo sessions, Kono left after taking only a few random shots of some dead grass. Try as he might, Iwamiya couldn’t see what made the dead grass special, but when he saw the photos that Kono had taken later, they showed him the “life in the dead grass.”

              In 1951, Kono joined the Democratic Artists Association formed by Ei-Q, with Kei Mori, Shigeru Izumi, Yoshio Hayakawa, Shisui Tanahashi, and Toshiji Yoshida from Osaka; and Morio Gunji, Kohei Uchida, and Hisashi Toyama from Miyazaki. Tanahashi and Kono were the only photographers among the founding members. Kono and Tanahashi exhibited their work at the First Democratic Art Exhibition in Osaka in June 1951, the Second Democratic Art Exhibition in Osaka in August 1951, and the First Democratic Art Exhibition in Tokyo in March 1952.

              In 1952, he participated in the Eight Person Tampei Exhibition held at the Matsushima Gallery on the second floor of the Ginza Matsushima Eyeglass Store, together with Shisui Tanahashi, Takeji Iwamiya, Katsumasa Kimura, Gyokai Sahoyama, Hatsutaro Horiuchi, Ikko Wada, and Mizuo Tamai. He left the Tampei Photography Club in the same year. In the following year, 1953, he left the Democratic Artists Association. He formed the Spiegel Photographers Association, with the same members included in the Eight Person Tampei Exhibition, to explore new photographic expression after the war. In the same year, he opened Kono Studio in Kita-ku, Osaka City, and in 1959, he opened K-O-C Photo Studio with his nephew, Hiromi Ogi.


Iwayama, Takeji. “Karekusa (Dead Grass),” in Kono, Toru, Kono Tetsu (Toru) Photobook: Wadachi (Footsteps), Self-published, 1977

Okatsuka, Akiko “Ei-Q and Photography” in Demokrato (1951-1957) The Liberation of Art in Postwar Japan exhibition catalog, Miyazaki Prefectural Art Museum; The Museum of Modern Art, Wakayama; and The Museum of Modern Art, Saitama

328 Outstanding Japanese Photographers, Tankosha Publishing, 2000

Biographic Dictionary of Japanese Photography, Nichigai Associates, 2005

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


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


Further readings