This panel argues for a history of photography told through the object cultures that have contributed to the formation of photographic practice. Focusing on photobooks, printing processes, and camera design, we examine how a material turn reveals new perspectives on postwar Japanese photography.
This panel argues for a history of photography told through the various object cultures that have been crucial to the formation of photographic practice. From the end of World War Two to post-bubble-era Japan, photographers, designers, and avid viewers constructed a vibrant photographic culture. Seeking to examine the history of photography in Japan through a combination of disciplinary perspectives, this panel provides an occasion to explore the many intersections of the material culture of photography. Beginning in the 1950s, we look to the ways in which industrial and graphic designers approached the camera as a modern design object by examining the role that the camera played in new imaginings of Japan as a "design nation." Through an investigation of its packaging design, advertising, and user interactions, we examine the history of marketing photography to mass audiences as well as the professionalization of graphic and industrial designers in the1950s. From the late 1950s through 1970s, the rise in the production of photobooks signaled radical new conceptions of the photograph as a material object. Innovative book and object designs, technical experimentation, and collaborative projects from this period in the history of the postwar Japanese photobook allowed for more expansive notions of the viewer-image relationship, and for multisensory theories of the photograph. Finally, we turn to an examination of the return to originary forms of the camera and photographing practices in the 1980s and 1990s. From the construction of handmade pinhole cameras to experimentation with tactile printing processes such as the daguerreotype, we explore the appeal of the hands-on nature of these "primitive" processes in reaction to the dawn of the digital era. Our examination of this fifty-year period of Japanese photographic history seeks to position photography's diverse practices as necessitating methodological approaches that highlight disciplinary border-crossing as we look to the material makeup of photography.