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From the Same Artist / Collection
Writing a Letter
by Kusakabe Kimbei / Tamamura Kozaburo


This image, accredited to both Kusakabe Kimbei and Tamamura Kozaburo, depicts a young woman in a kimono sitting on a tatami while writing a letter. A box with brushes and sumi, ‘ink’, with an andon or ‘lamp’, can be seen on the floor next to the woman. Also observed in the background is a kakejiku, a ‘traditional hanging scroll’.

About the Artist

Recognized as one of the most commercially successful Japanese photographers from the 19th century, Kusakabe Kimbei, professionally known as Kimbei, started his apprenticeship at a young age. At the age of sixteen, Kimbei left his hometown in Kofu and went to Yokohama where he entered the studio of British photographer Felice Beato during the 1860s. In 1870 he went to work at the studio of Baron Raimund von Stillfried, an Austrian photographer who had bought the studio of Beato. Kimbei’s new studio benefitted greatly when Stillfried left Japan in 1886; Kimbei inherited the majoity of Stillfried’s stock, in addition to other stock from his original teacher, Beato.


Employing the traditional method of the albumen printing process, Kimbei then meticulously hand painted each and every print. By combining his own studio portraits and landscape views of Japan with the reprinted works of Beato and Stillfried, Kimbei created some of the most sought after albums. Selling almost exclusively to wealthy Western tourists visiting Japan, as well as exporting his albumens to other countries, Kimbei’s work came to represent the concept of Japan’s exotic uniqueness to the world. The impressive popularity of Kimbei’s work among foreign collectors made him far more widely recognized overseas than in his own country. Kimbei continued to operate his business until 1913.


Opening in 1874, Tamamura Kozaburo began his photographic business in the Asakusa area in Tokyo. In 1883 Kozaburo moved to Yokohama where he established one of the most successful studios of the era. Kozaburo is known as the originator of the Yokohama shashin photographic scene. His images, geared to the tourist market, captured staged scenes of the Yokohama lifestyle. At the time, Kozaburo was the only photographer to produce both albumen photographs and collotypes. His photographs were hand colored with great skill by local artisans, and though his collotypes were typically produced only on a small scale, both his photographs and collotypes were highly sought after.


Kozaburo’s move to the Yokohama area is thought to have been prompted by his brief partnership with Farsari. The two eventually became rivals, but their acquisition of the Stillfried & Anderson studio, also known as the Japan Photographic Association, helped build Kozaburo’s reputation and business. This acquisition brought with it an addition of fifteen Japanese employees, and a collection of images by other recognized photographers such as Felice Beato, one of the founders of Japanese photography. It is believed that by the 1890s, Kozaburo’s own studio employed a hundred colorists for special orders of his albumens and was filling orders to the amount of 180,000 a year. In 1897, the majority of his prints were published in the book “Japan Described and Illustrated” by the American publisher Francis Brinkley. Kozaburo’s studio continued to operate until the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923.

Print Series


28 x 35.5cm, edition limited to 500


Giclée print on matt archival paper


40 x 50cm, edition limited to 100

60 x 75cm, edition limited to 100


Giclée print on matt archival paper



Find out more about the VP Series »

* All prints come with a minimum of 10mm border to allow
   for framing or mounting.