Issue #189  2/28/2012
Yasuhiro Ishimoto Passes Away in Tokyo

An important photographer who worked in the U.S. and Japan, Yasuhiro Ishimoto, passed away on February 6 in Tokyo at the age of 90. He was born in San Francisco, CA, June 14, 1921 and raised in Kochi City, Japan. He became one of the leading figures in the new wave of photography in Japan in the years after WWII.

In 1939, because of his mother's concerns about him being drafted, he returned to the U.S. where he studied agriculture at the University of California (1940-42), but then was caught up in WWII.

Ishimoto first developed his interest in photography while he was interned at the Amache Camp in Colorado during the war. Upon his release from internment he was forced to move to Chicago because he was still forbidden by the U.S. government to live on the coast since he had taken part in military drills while at high school in Japan. Ironically it was this series of negative events that led him to enroll at the Institute of Design in Chicago.

He moved to Chicago in 1944 and began to study architecture at Northwestern University in 1946 when he met photographer Harry Shigeta and took up photography seriously. He exhibited at the Fort Dearborn Camera Club in the late 1940s. Two years later Ishimoto transferred to the Institute of Design where he studied with Harry Callahan, Aaron Siskind and Gordon Coster during a period from 1948-52.

Ishimoto moved back to Japan again in 1953, and in that same year he made the series of pictures for which he is perhaps best known, of the Katsura Imperial Villa in Kyoto. During the years following, he kept his American connections and was included in Steichen's 'Family of Man' exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. He moved back to Chicago again in 1958.

In 1961 he returned to Tokyo and became a naturalized citizen in 1969. Ishimoto also showed his devotion to his adopted city, Chicago, in his book, "Chicago, Chicago" (Bijutsu Shuppan-sha, 1969). This book is often regarded as Ishimoto's most personal statement. His bold use of contrast, the design of the frame and the influence of his studies in architecture define his Chicago.

He was also noted for both his gritty street photography of Chicago, and--on a totally different note--for his delicate flower studies.

Ishimoto has published many books and exhibited widely throughout Japan and the U.S. In 1999 he was the subject of a career retrospective at the Art Institute of Chicago. He was named a "Man of Cultural Distinction" by the Japanese state in 1996.

At the age of 90, he recalled all of his unsold prints from his gallery representatives in preparation for museum donations at his death.