Ken Domon


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(1909–90), Japanese photojournalist. Joining Nihon Kobo publishers in 1935 as staff photographer for Nippon, a magazine devoted to disseminating Japanese culture, he adopted a German-influenced style encouraged by the editor-in-chief, Yonosuke Natori. Domon's photographs are strong, even rigid, face to face with his human or architectural subject, aiming for truthfulness and clarity. In 1939 he resigned over a conflict with Natori. The year 1941 saw him photographing Bunraku puppet theatre. After the war he concentrated on the lower end of society, Japan's beggars, shoeshine boys, and marginal people. He judged amateur competitions for the magazine Camera intermittently from 1950 to 1955, and for other magazines for several more years. Through the competitions and his teaching he propagated photographic realism and encouraged amateur photographers to pursue the straight, unstaged image. His charisma and style influenced many. Amongst his books are Muroji Temple (1954); and Hiroshima (1958), focusing on the victims of the atomic bomb thirteen years later. Children of the Chikuho Coal Miners (1960), printed cheaply on pulp paper, sold over 100,000 copies. Though partly paralysed by a stroke, he continued to photograph with a large-format camera from his wheelchair. The series Koji Junnrei (Temple Pilgrimages) and subsequent books of strong and reverent photographs of temples and Buddhist statues in Kyoto and Nara testify to his perseverance.

From The Oxford Companion to the Photograph in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Photography and Photographs.

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