Samuel Cocking and the Rise of Japanese Photography

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This study analyses the various contributions of the Angio-Australian merchant Samuel Cocking to the photographic community of nineteenth-century Japan. It argues for his central role in the importation and supply of photographic goods, the promotion of a local manufacturing industry, the founding of informal learned societies, and the general advancement of the technology in Japan. Contrary to recent studies that have tended to separate the careers of foreign photographers active in Japan front their Japanese counterparts, this study argues that any such approach misrepresents the everyday interaction and proximity of the two groups. The author aims to emphasise the significance of informed, long-term foreign expatriates as cultural advisers and supporters of the local photographic community. In so doing, this study questions the application of recent critical approaches that have emphasised the camera's role as a technology of colonial expansion and cultural imperialism. Instead, the essay highlights the importance of photography as a shared interest and passion of foreign and Japanese practitioners that Could promote dialogue and mutual awareness across Cultures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-164
Number of pages20
JournalHistory of Photography
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2009


  • Samuel Cocking (1845-1914)
  • Sugiura Rokuemon (1847-1921)
  • Shimooka Renjo (1834-1914)
  • Fukazawa Yokitsu (1847-1914)
  • William K. Burton (1853-1899)
  • photography - Japan - Tokyo
  • Photographic dealers - nineteenth-century Japan


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