Ueno Hikoma

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Ueno Hikoma was an early Japanese photographer, a famous portraitist. He was born in Nagasaki in 1838 as son of on of Ueno Toshinojō, the merchant who in 1848 probably imported the first camera to Japan for the daimyō Shimazu Nariakira who gave it to Ichiki Shirō for studying photography. The oldest persisting Japanese quality photograph was made with that camera in 1857, a portrait of the daimyō.

Ueno Hikoma came in contact with photography through the Dutch naval officer Johannes L. C. Pompe van Meerdervoort who had a camera and was his teacher in western science. The Swiss photographer Pierre Rossier had been in Japan from 1859 to 1860 and taught the new wet-collodion process to some Japanese photographers, including Ueno Hikoma. Ueno decided to become a photographer instead of a scientist. In 1862 he opened his photographic studio and began to import cameras.

Felice Beato used Ueno's studio when he was in Nagasaki. The success of his business grew slowly. Ueno became photography teacher for many important Japanese photographers, among them Uchida Kuichi, the official portrayer of the Japanese Emperor. Ueno made photos of Nagasaki and of the transit of Venus in 1874. In 1877 he was ordered by Nagasaki's governor to document the Samurais' Satsuma Rebellion on the battlefield. He began to apply Belgian dry plates. In 1879 Ueno could portray former U.S.-President Ulysses Simpson Grant. 1882 he could move the studio into a bigger well-lit building. Finally he even opened branches of his photographic studio in Vladivostok in 1890 and in Shanghai and Hong Kong in 1891. In 1893 he won an award for “Good Taste and Artistic Finish” for his images at the World Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago. Ueno died in 1904.

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