These rare shots of vintage Japan during 1908 are thanks to the acute artistic eye of Arnold Genthe. The German-born American scholar honed his photographic talent on the streets, spending his off-time roaming through his city with a partially hidden camera in attempts of recording memorable moments. This intriguing series was collected during a 6-month visit to Japan, during which Genthe managed to share his perspective of the vivid daily experiences of its local citizens.
Born in Germany, Genthe pursued formal education in the field of philology before immigrating to San Francisco to work as a tutor. Drawn to the expansive Chinatown in the city, he began practicing photography, learning to be subtle in order to capture the genuine expressions of the neighborhood’s diverse characters. Though most famous for his San Francisco street shots, Genthe did extend his talents abroad, apparent in his noteworthy Japanese series.
With a feel for visually interesting compositions and restless background lines, Genthe’s images of Japan maintain a very human focal point. The hectic details of the shots create an atmosphere that tells of a bustling daily life which transcends the film. Featuring a range of cultural scenarios, which include young women in traditional garb, locals taking a dip at the beach, and children roaming the streets while keeping an eye on the foreigner with a camera, Genthe was able to capture a distinct flavor of Japan over a century ago.