Yushi Kobayashi

(born: 1898, Tokuyama City, Yamaguchi Pref., died: 1988, Kyoto City)

Kobayashi moved to Kyoto at the age of 9 to live with his uncle who ran a photographic studio in the city then later studied photography at the Tokyo Fine Arts School (present-day Tokyo University of the Arts). After graduation in 1923 he returned to Kyoto where he worked with his uncle in his studio, the Kobayashi Photo Studio. He later inherited the studio, renaming it the Yūshi Kobayashi Photo Studio.

From around the end of the Taishō period (1912–1926) he opened a studio in the resort town of Karuizawa every summer where he took portraits of many famous people, including Yukio Ozaki, Bertrand Russell, Sessue Hayakawa, Inazō Nitobe, etc. He became a leading member of the K.P. S. (Kyoto Photo Society), working actively with Noboru Ueki, etc., to produce new works. In the beginning, he employed so-called ‘art photo’ techniques, creating landscape photographs using oil pigment prints, such as Bromoil, or portrait photographs using deformation, becoming active as a member of the Nihon Kōga Kyōkai, which was one of the art photography societies of the day. From the 1930s he began to publish works and editorials in The Photo Times. Through this journal he became acquainted with other photographers who shared the same ideology and style of ‘new photography’ as well as avant-garde painters, ‘becoming released from the doubts of the long-established art photography to shine a light on his own works.’* From around this time his work changed from art photography to an avant-garde style employing various experimental techniques.

Immediately after the war, he began to submit his work to photographic magazines, such as Photography and Shashin to Gijutsu (Photography and Technology). In 1948 he joined the Bijutsu Bunka Kyoukai (Fine Art and Culture Association), a society for avant-garde artists, where he was put in charge of the photographic section and submitted works in society’s exhibitions in both Tokyo and Kyoto. He also interacted with avant-garde painters from the society, such as Gentarō Komaki, Nobuya Abe, Noboru Kitawaki, etc., saying that they ‘opened his eyes to avant-garde developments in art and new aesthetics in photography.’* In 1975 he joined the Panreal Art Group, which was established by avant-garde artists, as a photographer and continued to submit mainly large-scale, color experimental photographs to the group’s exhibitions well into his old age.


*Expert from his unpublished personal notes owned by the Kobayashi family.


“K・P・S Noboru Ueki + Yūshi Kobayashi”
September 14 – October 6, 2019


Further readings