Shadows of a Fleeting World: Pictorial Photography and Seattle Camera Club
Image 1 / 12: Ella McBride. Judging a Print.
Image 2 / 12: Virna Haffer. His First Growth.
Image 3 / 12: Frank A. Kunishige. Untitled [Aida].
Image 4 / 12: Frank A. Kunishige. Artist and Model.
Image 5 / 12: Yukio Morinaga. Magellans of Today.
Image 6 / 12: Dr. Kyo Koike. Reconstructive.
Image 7 / 12: Iwao Matsushita. Untitled.
Image 8 / 12: Shadows of a Fleeting World: Pictorial Photography and Seattle Camera Club. (installation view).
Image 9 / 12: Shadows of a Fleeting World: Pictorial Photography and Seattle Camera Club. (installation view).
Image 10 / 12: Shadows of a Fleeting World: Pictorial Photography and Seattle Camera Club. (installation view).
Image 11 / 12: Shadows of a Fleeting World: Pictorial Photography and Seattle Camera Club. (installation view).
Image 12 / 12: Shadows of a Fleeting World: Pictorial Photography and Seattle Camera Club. (installation view).
Shadows of a Fleeting World presents over 200 works by Seattle Camera Club photographers and others in the Seattle area who worked in the pictorial style during the movement’s heyday. The Seattle Camera Club (SCC) was founded in 1924 by Japanese immigrants to the Pacific Northwest. The activities of SCC photographers paralleled those of members of Japanese immigrant photography clubs in Los Angeles and San Francisco, but the SCC was distinguished by its enthusiastic and successful efforts to recruit non-Japanese members and by its monthly journal, Notan, which more than any other factor preserved SCC activities for posterity. Despite the pervasive racism that prevented Japanese immigrants from gaining citizenship, the work of SCC members was well received, finding prizes, purchasers, and general acclaim. Acknowledging the prominence of West Coast camera club photographers, the editor of the 1928 The American Annual of Photography wrote, “the influence of this group on our Pacific coast has put a lasting mark on photography in this country, the repercussions of which are echoing throughout the world.”
The exhibition, curated by Henry Chief Curator Elizabeth Brown, presents a picture of an important yet obscure moment in the cultural history of the past century. In the period between the World Wars art photography was a popular endeavor, with numerous practitioners who reached a wide audience. As in Seattle, amateur and professional photographers gathered together in camera clubs and other organizations in innumerable cities around the globe, encouraging creative work among their members and sponsoring exhibitions that were open to the public.
Shadows of a Fleeting World provides a broad selection of photographs by the central members of the Seattle Camera Club, particularly Dr. Kyo Koike, Frank Kunishige, and Iwao Matsushita, much of whose work is preserved in the Special Collections of the University of Washington Libraries. The 37 charter members of the SCC were all Japanese men, but it was not their intention that the club remain exclusively male or Japanese American; in the five years of its existence the SCC welcomed several Caucasian members and a number of women, notably Ella McBride and Virna Haffer. Work by these members is featured in the exhibition, along with archival materials and publications that provide a visual context for the SCC’s accomplishments and influence. The works seen in Shadows of a Fleeting World reveal a lively and fruitful exchange between Eastern and Western artistic traditions, expressed in the medium of pictorial photography, and provide a glimpse into the artistic milieu in Seattle in the early decades of the twentieth century.