Japanese Culture and Society in the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries Through Herbert Geddes' Photographs

Herbert Geddes was a British photographer who traveled to Japan in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. During his time in Japan, Geddes captured a wide range of photographs that provides a unique glimpse into the country’s culture and society during this period.

One of the most striking aspects of Geddes’ photographs is how they showcase Japan’s traditional customs and practices. He captured images of everything from traditional festivals and ceremonies to everyday life and landscapes. For example, he took photographs of geishas and samurais and pictures of temples, gardens, and traditional houses.

Geddes’ photographs also highlight the rapid modernization of Japan during this period. He captured images of new buildings, including the first skyscrapers in Japan, and pictures of the developing infrastructure, including railways and roads. His photographs also show the influence of Western culture on Japan, with pictures of Western-style buildings and people dressed in Western clothing.

Geddes’ photographs are also notable for their technical skill and artistry. He used various techniques, including panoramic views and close-ups, to create a sense of depth and movement in his photographs. He also paid attention to composition, lighting, and perspective to create striking and beautiful images.

One of the most exciting photographs that Geddes took was of the Meiji restoration period, the period of rapid modernization and westernization in Japan. He took photographs of Emperor Meiji, who played a crucial role in the modernization of Japan and the development of the new capital city of Tokyo. He also took photographs of the new Western-style buildings, such as the Imperial Palace and the Diet building, and the new infrastructure, such as the railway and telegraph lines.

Geddes’ photographs of Japan provide a fascinating and unique insight into the country’s culture and society during a period of rapid change. They are highly valued by historians and art lovers alike for their historical importance, technical skill, and artistry.

Although Herbert Geddes is not a household name, his photographs of Japan from the late 19th and early 20th centuries are valuable historical documents that provide insight into a rapidly changing country. His photographs offer a glimpse into the Japanese people’s customs, traditions, and ways of life during this period, as well as showing the impact of modernization and westernization on Japan.

#1 Crowd-filled street lined with banners and lanterns.

#2 Interior shot of two geishas asleep in bedding on floor mats; musical instrument, fan and implements for tea ceremony nearby.

#3 Japanese people in local attire hiking through mountains.

#7 Man beginning to carve lantern from block of stone.

#9 Man painting parasols; painted lanterns in background.

#13 Men carving wooden furniture of intricate design.

#17 Old woman with raised grinding stone; two little girls carrying babies on their backs looking on.

#20 People in boats on waterways through rice fields; snow-covered mountain in background.

#21 People in special attire, with lanterns, posing for photograph.

#22 People wading in sea; fisher with hand net; boats in background.

#24 Rice being poured into a wooden mechanical hopper.

#25 Rural women in local attire carrying large baskets on their backs.

#26 Series of red wooden gateways; stone animals on pedestals between first and second gateway.

#27 Snow-covered mountain (Mt. Fuji ) wreathed with clouds; low ground leading down to water in foreground.

#29 Tea implements in centre of richly furnished room.

#30 Three women with fans, musical instrument and a table set with food.

#33 Two boats with cloth canopies being rowed along river; wooded mountain on one side; rushing water in foreground.

#35 Two young women in Kimonos, one standing, one seated on wooden bench outside open greenhouses filled with blooming flowers.

#36 Woman separating rice from chaff with steel comb.

#41 Four women smiling and leaning through openings in lattice work.

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Written by Aung Budhh

Husband + Father + librarian + Poet + Traveler + Proud Buddhist. I love you with the breath, the smiles and the tears of all my life.

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