Evening Lecture 2017

“Photography’s Histories in Meiji Japan: New Approaches and Challenges”

by Dr. Luke Gartlan, University of St Andrews, UK

Thursday, October 12, 2017, 6:15 p.m.
University of Zurich, Rämistrasse 59, 8001 Zurich
Room:  RAA-G-15



In the book A Career of Japan (Brill, 2016), Luke Gartlan sought to present the first detailed account of one of the major photographers and personalities of nineteenth-century Japan—the Austrian aristocrat Baron Raimund von Stillfried (1839–1911). In this talk, Gartlan will reflect on the historiographical challenges that were encountered in the writing of this book and the potential avenues that it opened to further research and the challenges that remain. He will present a brief overview of von Stillfried’s career, stepping back from the details of his activities to ask broader questions about the rele- vance of such close studies to Meiji-period visual culture as a whole. In what ways do the careers of such long-term foreign expatriates re-orient current understandings of nineteenth-century photography in Japan? What was their role in Meiji Japan and how are we to understand their contribution to photography in their adopted country? This talk will argue that the historiographical division between ‘Japanese’ and ‘non-Japanese’ photographers misrepresents the entangled nature of Meiji Japan’s photographic industry. It calls for a much more inclusive approach to the writing of photography’s history at the coalface of cultural exchange, which emphasizes current, ongoing efforts to write shared histories of overlooked photographs and photographers.

Luke Gartlan is Senior Lecturer and Director of the MLitt History of Photography programme in the School of Art History at the University of St Andrews. He is the author of A Career of Japan: Baron Raimund von Stillfried and Early Yokohama Photography (Brill, 2016), awarded the Josef Kreiner Hosei University Prize for Japanese Studies, and is the co-editor of two volumes: with Ali Behdad, Photography’s Orientalism: New Essays on Colonial Representation (Getty, 2013) and, most recently with Roberta Wue, Portraiture and Early Studio Photography in China and Japan (Routledge, 2017). Since 2013, Luke has also served as Editor-in-chief of the peer-reviewed quarterly journal History of Photography.

The lecture is free and open to the public.

Funded by the Graduate Campus of the University of Zurich


Supported by the Dr. Carlo Fleischmann-Stiftung


Photo: Baron Raimund von Stillfried, Two Officers, 1875, hand-coloured albumen print. From Views & Costumes of Japan, Stillfried and Andersen, 1876. Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne.