The floral photographs shown here are the work of Ogawa Kazumasa (1860 – 1929), a Japanese photographer, printer, and publisher known for his pioneering work in photomechanical printing and photography in the Meiji era (1868-1912)
The originals are hand coloured albumen photographs and were featured in the 1896 book ‘Some Japanese Flowers’ and were also included in ‘Japan Described and Illustrated by the Japanese’ edited by Francis Brinkley in 1887.
Born in Saitama Prefecture, Ogawa was the son of a samurai. Ogawa showed early interest in learning English and studied photography from the age of thirteen. Ogawa moved to Tokyo at twenty to further his studies and improve his English which he knew would be important in enhancing his technical knowledge. After opening a photographic studio and working as an English interpreter for the Yokohama Police Department, Ogawa decided to travel to the USA to learn the latest photographic techniques. As he was low on funds Ogawa signed on as a sailor on the USS Swatara and six months later arrived in Washington. For the next two years, Ogawa studied printing techniques including the complicated collotype process in Boston and Philadelphia.
In 1884, Ogawa opened a photographic studio in Tokyo and in 1888 established a dry plate manufacturing company, and later the following year, he opened Japan’s first collotype business, the “K. Ogawa printing factory”.
In 1894 he met the author Alicia Little who was visiting Japan from her home in China. She was already a published writer and she had a diary that she had written. Ogawa supplied photographs and it was published as My Diary in a Chinese Farm. The book described their stay on a farm near the Yangtse River as they avoided the summer heat at their home in Chingqing.
Ogawa enjoyed working as an editor on various photography magazines which were printed using the collotype printing process, Ogowa was a founding member of the Japan Photographic Society.