State Library Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 76 Spring 2005


Plate I. Baron Raimund von Stillfried, Young Lady, hand-coloured albumen silver photograph, c. 1875, 23.8 × 19.1 cm. Views and Costumes of Japan, c.1876. H95.62/3. LTW 56, La Trobe Picture Collection.


Luke Gartlan
Views and Costumes of Japan
A Photograph Album by Baron Raimund von Stillfried-Ratenicz

Early Travel Albums

Among the many rare volumes in the La Trobe Picture Collection is the superb ‘world album’ entitled Views and Costumes of Japan by the Austrian travel photographer and aristocrat Baron Raimund von Stillfried-Ratenicz (1839–1911). Bound in dark burgundy leather with an elaborate key lock clasp, brass corner fittings, gilt leaves and an escutcheon on the front cover, the lavish exterior of the album strikes the viewer from the outset. Accessioned into the collection on May 20, 1916, the State Library purchased this lavish volume from the booksellers W. Heffer and Sons of Cambridge, England, for the bargain basement wartime price of £ The album remained in the Rare Books department for almost eighty years until transferred to the Picture Collection in 1995. No further information on the provenance of the album has been recovered, and the volume contains no annotation that may cast light on its original ownership. Its acquisition from a Cambridge bookstore may suggest that the album came from a British source, reflecting the strong Anglo-Japanese ties of the late-nineteenth century, but without further evidence the early provenance of the album remains obscure.
Such photograph albums left Japan in vast numbers in the final decades of the nineteenth century, either in the luggage of tourists en route around the world or exported for sale in the stores of the major metropolitan capitals.2 From the early 1860s the increasing commerce between Japan and the outside world, the burgeoning international vogue for all things Japanese, and various technical advances in trans-continental travel all stimulated foreign tourism in Japan. Travellers often parted with large sums in their desire for souvenirs that would commemorate and at once affirm their ‘authentic’ encounter with Japanese culture.3 At first the range of everyday Japanese objects that fell under the rubric of ‘curio’ served this function, but the photograph album also carved a niche for itself in the highly competitive souvenir market.
In many cases nineteenth-century globetrotters purchased photographs from local studios at each juncture in their travels for inclusion in their own albums, resulting in a sequential visual record of their tour, often annotated with their own observations. Several superb examples preserved in Australian archives, including photographic portfolios compiled by Benjamin Greene in 1866 and John Hart in 1875, attest to the compilation of such personal travel albums.4 On a grander scale official naval missions, such as the Challenger Expedition, also collected photographs at each port-of-call and compiled deluxe albums as sequential records of the journey.5 The alternative to this practice was to acquire a ready-prepared album from one of the numerous studios that prospered in every major centre. To some extent, customers could personalise the studio album by placing an order selected from the showroom inventory or by adding their own written notations beside each image. Prior to the introduction of the Kodak camera, nineteenth-century tourists produced an extraordinary range of albums through the selection, arrangement,
and presentation of photographs acquired from commercial studios, as well as the addition of descriptive captions, that commemorated their own experiences and views of foreign countries and cultures.
In contrast to this spectrum of possible compiled portfolios, the near-pristine state of Views and Costumes of Japan, a studio-prepared album in its original binding with no additional notation, is an exceptional rarity that exemplifies the finest work of the Yokohama photographic industry. The vast majority of photographic albums of Japan, packed in the luggage of departing tourists, buffeted by the seas on the homeward voyage, and shown to innumerable curious relatives and friends, incurred an inevitable degree of damage. That this album remains in remarkable condition perhaps reflects the considerable expense for such a deluxe volume purchased from the most celebrated studio in Japan. Moreover, the regrettable market practice of disassembling albums to sell individual prints has resulted in the loss of many examples. The State Library is thus fortunate to possess a rare album by one of the most influential foreign photographers of nineteenth-century Japan.

The Photographer and the Studio: A Brief Introduction

Unlike most nineteenth-century photograph albums of Japan, the impressive frontispiece of Views and Costumes of Japan provides a categorical declaration of authorship (figure 1). In the lower right corner, Baron Stillfried is credited with the production of the glass negatives followed by a proclamation of his imperial credentials as royal photographer to His Austrian Majesty's Court. In the lower left corner, the studio address and company title are supplied in careful cursive script. This separation between the production of the negatives, which constitute the basis for the album's one hundred silver albumen photographs, and the printing and publishing of the album under the studio name of ‘Stillfried & Andersen’, is a rare distinction that asserts the photographer's claim of authorship. Baron Stillfried thus claims credit for the album as the photographer responsible for the negatives.
Baron Raimund von Stillfried-Ratenicz was born on 19 August 1839 in the Bohemian town of Komotau (now Chomutov, Czech Republic), the second of three sons of the career military officer Baron August von Stillfried-Ratenicz (1806–1897) and Countess Maria Anna Clam-Martinicz (1802–1874).6 His early life and upbringing reflect the dual influences of his aristocratic sense of duty to the empire and a romantic spirit of exploration that led many of his generation overseas. After an early career in the military forces, Stillfried resigned his post and gained passage for South America. By September 1863, he had arrived in Nagasaki and found employment with the Dutch silk merchants Textor and Company. After two years he left Japan to join the volunteer forces of Emperor Maximilian in Mexico. For his distinguished military service, Stillfried received several honours, however his unceremonious expulsion from the country as a prisoner of war marked a decisive episode in his imperial identity. Almost immediately, he returned to Japan and settled in the thriving port of Yokohama.
On his second visit to Japan, Stillfried gained a diplomatic position with the North German Legation in Tokyo. In this capacity he sent to the Habsburg authorities in Vienna several reports on

Figure 1. Baron Raimund von Stillfried, Frontispiece to ‘Views and Costumes of Japan’, c. 1876, 18.6 × 23.3 cm. LTW 56. La Trobe Picture Collection.

the rapidly changing state of affairs in Japan, and assisted the Austro-Hungarian Expedition to East Asia and South America on their arrival in October 1869.7 Given that many rival nations had already established strong diplomatic and commercial relations with Japan, the presence of an aristocratic expatriate, versed in diplomatic protocols and local customs, proved invaluable to the Habsburg authorities. In acknowledgment of his services in aid of the Austro-Hungarian Expedition, Stillfried received the prestigious Franz Joseph Order on 15 March 1871.8
Parallel to these diplomatic duties, Stillfried became increasingly occupied with the field of photography and soon recognised the opportunities for commercial profit. In August 1871, a local newspaper announced: ‘A new photographer has started in Yokohama, Baron Stillfried was once a pupil of Mr. Beato and is now trying to undersell him….’9 Felice Beato (1834?–1908?) has long been considered one of the most important travel and war photographers of the nineteenth century. A British citizen born on the Mediterranean island of Corfu, Beato made his career following in the wake of the British army from one colonial battlefield to another.10 In the summer of 1863, he arrived in Yokohama with an impressive résumé that included photographic assignments in the Crimea, the aftermath of the so-called ‘Indian Mutiny’, and the Second Opium War in Northern China.11 He brought to Japan an extensive practical knowledge of photography and introduced a number of innovations that would become standard aspects of Yokohama photography. These included the use of leather-bound albums, the division of photographs into the categories of ‘views’ and ‘costumes’, the hand colouring of studio genre subjects, and the use of
painted backdrops and studio props. Baron Stillfried was no exception to the widespread adoption of these practices in his own work.
The new studio of Stillfried & Company opened at No. 61, Main Street, in the heart of Yokohama's retail precinct. As the demand for photographic albums increased in proportion to the rising number of foreign tourists, Stillfried's enterprise rapidly gained pre-eminence. By January 1873, the studio had moved to the larger premises on the corner diagonally opposite at No. 59, Main Street.12 Eager to expand his enterprise, he transported a seven-room Japanese teahouse to Vienna for the World Exhibition and contracted three Japanese women to serve tea to the Viennese public. Accused of managing a bordello under the guise of an ethnographic display, Stillfried returned to Yokohama near bankruptcy, his reputation tarnished by the entire sordid affair.13 This setback appears only to have strengthened his resolve and he returned to the studio with even greater determination.
The three years between Stillfried's return from the Vienna World Exhibition in February 1874 and the destruction of his studio by fire in January 1877 constitute the zenith of his photographic career in Japan. It was during this period that he produced the vast majority of the studio-based genre scenes that form the basis of his current reputation and gained numerous international accolades for his work. On 25 April 1875, the title of royal and imperial photographer to Emperor Franz Josef was conferred upon him.14 The following year his photographs received considerable press attention at the Philadelphia Exhibition and he was awarded the prestigious Centennial medallion ‘for excellent landscapes and genre pictures of Japanese life.’15 Alongside such international acknowledgments, Stillfried's studio expanded to employ thirty-eight Japanese assistants, each assigned a specific duty in the production of the albums.16 To help manage the thriving business, he entered into partnership with the Prussian accountant Hermann Andersen,17 whose management of the company's finances enabled Stillfried to dedicate himself to the studio production.
This brief outline of the studio's fortunes provides an historical framework for the album in the State Library of Victoria. The frontispiece includes many of the awards that had established Stillfried's professional reputation and identity. Although the use of English – as the lingua franca of nineteenth-century treaty-port society in Asia – underscores the studio's international target market, the frontispiece includes several references to the photographer's Austrian background. In addition to the declaration of his ‘special appointment’, Stillfried acknowledges his loyalty to the Habsburg crown by the crest bearing the famous imperial motto ‘Viribus Unitis’. On either side of the title, the frontispiece depicts the ‘medal for improvement’ awarded for his photographs at the Vienna World Exhibition,18 as well as each face of the Franz Josef Order surrounded by decorative motifs typical of Viennese designs of the period. Finally, the three awards under the title acknowledge the photographer's military services in Mexico. The overall intention of the frontispiece is to establish the international reputation and grandeur of the firm.
From the information provided on this frontispiece, we can deduce that this album dates from the period, between the establishment of Stillfried and Andersen in late 1875 and the destruction of the studio by fire in January 1877, when the photographer's fortunes and international renown were at their highest.19 The market demand for his work, however, did not

Plate 2. Baron Raimund von Stillfried, Daimio, hand-coloured albumen silver photograph, c. 1875, 23.6 × 19.0 cm. Views and Costumes of Japan, c. 1876. H95.62/7. LTW 56, La Trobe Picture Collection.


Figure 2. Baron Raimund von Stillfried, Index to ‘Views and Costumes of Japan’, untinted albumen silver print with handwritten titles, c. 1876, 20.3 × 26.0 cm. LTW 56. La Trobe Picture Collection.

result in a corresponding diminution in the quality of the studio output. The rarity of these albums stands in stark contrast to the rapid expansion of the Yokohama photographic industry in the final quarter of the nineteenth century, which witnessed the fulfilment of huge orders for hand-tinted Japanese photographs.20 Against this tide of cheap photographs flooding an apparently insatiable overseas market, Stillfried's studio maintained an exceptional, perhaps even glacial, standard of production in the industry that catered to the upper end of the market. The superb presentation of the State Library album indicates that, despite the expanding commercial nature of the industry, Stillfried held steadfastly to personal control of the production process, paying meticulous attention to every detail in the studio. The album is divided into fifty hand-tinted genre subjects and fifty untinted topographical scenes. Each photograph is attached to the recto side of each page.21 Whereas Beato attached lengthy descriptive captions opposite each photograph in his albums, Stillfried's volume eschews the use of text in order to encourage the viewer's direct assessment of the image. An index page at the back of the volume provides only the most general title descriptors (figure 2).
Although other albums undoubtedly remain forgotten in collections around the world, only two other examples are known to possess this studio frontispiece. Though less ornate, these two albums possess many of the same features as the State Library volume. The first album, now in a private collection in Lille, France, features brown leather binding, a key lock clasp, gilt edge leaves, and a round central plate on the front cover. Like the State Library of Victoria album, it also

Plate 3. Baron Raimund von Stillfried, Singing Girl, hand-coloured albumen silver photograph, c. 1875, 23.7 × 19.1 cm. Views and Costumes of Japan, c. 1876. H95.62/20. LTW 56, La Trobe Picture Collection.


Plate 4. Baron Raimund von Stillfried, Two Officers, hand-coloured albumen silver photograph, c. 1875, 23.7 × 19.0 cm. Views and Costumes of Japan, c. 1876. H95.62/21. LTW 56, La Trobe Picture Collection.

consists of an equal number of hand-tinted costumes and untinted views, but with fifty rather than one hundred albumen prints. Similarly, the second album preserved in the Museo Chiossone, Genoa, Italy, features the same elaborate binding, but unlike its counterpart, contains thirty-two tinted costumes and sixteen untinted views. Comparison of duplicate prints from these three albums reveals the consistency in the colour selection and arrangement, indicating that the studio employees followed a strict prototype to ensure the uniform application of colours. While these two smaller albums contain important inscriptions that reveal the use of such compendia as gifts, the State Library album represents the largest known volume of Stillfried's Japanese work at the height of his international career, and thus constitutes a key volume in understanding his nineteenth-century reputation and influence.

Tinted Costumes

During an intense period of activity in the mid-1870s, Baron Stillfried expanded his stock with a series of genre studies that would bring him international fame and wealth. These exquisite hand-tinted photographs can be subdivided into a number of groups based on subject, setting, and studio props. In general, I will examine four broad categories that comprise the ‘costumes’ section of the volume; studio portraits, painted backdrop scenes, interior domestic scenes, and outdoor genre subjects. While not every work fits neatly into one of these classifications, these groups enable us to introduce the broad themes and pictorial devices that constitute the album's content.22
The first major group in the album consists of twelve consecutive half-length portraits of Japanese subjects. As the generic titles such as Young Lady or Daimio suggest, these works do not so much present individual personalities as representative examples of their social demography (plate 1, 2). Each portrait adheres to a set of practices that vary little from photograph to photograph, as if, like a laboratory experiment, the studio conditions had been calibrated in order to record empirical data. The half-length sitters are depicted before a monochrome background, head turned to one side with a light source emanating from an upper corner in order to accentuate the contours of the face. Closely adhering to this set visual formula, Stillfried produced an exquisite series of portraits that sought to categorise Japanese subjects according to their age, sex, profession, and social status. Each study remains, for all its visual poignancy, an anonymous exemplar of its culture that forms part of an indexical project to categorise and define Japanese society. Such an interpretation emphasises the nineteenth-century use of the camera as an instrument of ethnographic research, which purported to document and classify the subtle facial distinctions that were believed to constitute entire societies.23
This empirical impetus had informed several recent multi-volume publications (notably The People of India and Illustrations of China and Its People) which had established the protocols for photographic surveys of Asian societies.24 At the annual exhibition of the Photographic Society of Great Britain in October 1877, the critic for the Photographic News highlighted the ethnographic value of Stillfried's portraiture:
Messrs. Stillfried and Anderson send many examples [of portraiture and portrait studies] from Japan, in which class or caste distinctions are finely and subtlely worked out. In one frame we have an “old man” and “old gentleman,” in which the distinction is marked more strongly in the air of culture and

Plate 5. Baron Raimund von Stillfried, At Dinner, hand-coloured albumen silver photograph, c. 1875, 19.1 × 23.7 cm. Views and Costumes of Japan, c. 1876. H95.62/36. LTW 56, La Trobe Picture Collection.

refinement in the face of the latter than in the costume, in which latter points the difference is not necessarily manifest to Western eyes. A “Young Girl” of Yokohama presents a soft, comely face, sufficiently attractive, without possessing the charms of Western beauty.25
Such judgements reflect the Victorian era fascination with class, race, and sex distinctions manifest on the visible body. Whereas the cultural signs, the clothes worn by the sitter, may not be so readily interpreted, the foreign viewer informed by the latest scientific theories could rely on the subject's physiognomy to assess their social standing. This passage highlights the significance of the subtle variations in title and its role as a textual guide of social rank and class for nineteenth-century viewers to decipher in the photographed likenesses. To peruse the list of succinct titles in the album index is to acquire the most generic information about each sitter. Such nuanced distinctions between young lady, old woman, young girl, and girl, for example, direct the viewer to compare the photographs with one another in order to determine the features specific to their categorisation. As the frontispiece suggests, these photographs are indeed ‘costumes’ that present the

Plate 6. Baron Raimund von Stillfried, Lady Writing, hand-coloured albumen silver photograph, c. 1875, 19.1 × 23.7 cm. Views and Costumes of Japan, c. 1876. H95/62/39. LTW 56, La Trobe Picture Collection.

accoutrements and physiognomy of a social group. While each portrait occupies its own textless leaf of the album, the relationship between the images becomes central to the meaning of the compilation, inviting the viewer to turn back and forth between the works and the index page.
Young Lady and Daimio are representative examples of the visual splendour and technical skill that so impressed the photographer's contemporaries, and while we cannot be sure that the above-cited critic referred to these portraits or others in the album, they were surely works in the same style. One major aspect of this appreciation was the skill of the hand colouring. In both works only a few select colours are added to highlight the garments and hair implements. On closer inspection the exceptional care taken in the minute details, such as in the patterns of the woman's broad waist sash or obi, disclose the skill of the studio's artists. Stillfried once claimed under oath before a consular court in Yokohama that the colouring of two photographs ‘would occupy a skilled workman 20 days’.26 Even taking into account the need for one colour to dry before adding another, this period of time seems excessive, particularly in view of the economic pressures of a
competitive industry. Nonetheless, Stillfried concluded his evidence with the qualification that the two photographs ‘might do very well for a certain public’.27 For the élite customer a photograph album that reflected the painstaking work of the studio's personnel was preferable to a mechanical product, the result of a brief photochemical reaction, of a mass-market industry. Stillfried's studio practice emphasised the value of the time-consuming process of production. Just as the traditional artisan could labour for hundreds of hours in the production of lacquered or inlaid objects, hand colouring bestowed an aura of cultural authenticity on the photographs based on anti-modernist notions of patience and diligent labour.
Hand-tinting was not the only respect in which the studio blurred the boundary between painting and photography. The use of painted backdrops characterised the second group of costumes, exemplified by the photograph Singing Girl (plate 3). During the mid-1870s, von Stillfried completed numerous full-length studies of Japanese figures placed before this forested backdrop, five of which appear in the State Library album. In the evocative, delicately tinted Singing Girl, a young woman stands in her fine garments before this mise-en-scène. Given Stillfried's early training as a painter,28 it seems plausible that he rendered this backdrop himself with the specific purpose of its application to his studio tableaux. The luxurious vegetation, with the twisting branches smothered in patches of thick foliage, recalls the dreamy landscapes of the French Rococo. The sense of pictorial recession, from the large trunk on the left into the distant wooded spaces on the right, derives from established pictorial codes of European landscape painting. For the modern viewer this sylvan setting appears an unusual choice before which to present studies of Japanese traditional society. The cultural paradox between the subject matter and its mise-en-scène reflects the cross-cultural nature of Stillfried's studio, but it also highlights his efforts to devise a visual language familiar to his foreign clientele that would satisfy their desire for an idyllic vision of Japanese society.
Even before their arrival, the vast majority of foreign tourists harboured romantic notions of Japan fuelled by the numerous travel accounts of the country and its people. While these travelogues vary considerably in their observations, most tourists affirmed the widespread view of Japanese social harmony, particularly in terms that emphasised the affinities with European classical tradition. ‘The Greek and Latin races have passed away,’ noted one traveller, ‘but Japan still remains, without a change of dynasty and with an inviolate country.’29 Foreign visitors often compared aspects of Japanese culture with those believed to constitute classical society; sumo wrestlers were compared to Roman gladiators, kimonos to Roman togas, and Japanese sculpture to ancient Greek statuary.30 Such observations often went hand in hand with a critique of the social turmoil in their home nations that was seen to threaten the fabric of Western society. The Melbourne journalist James Hingston, for example, compared Japan to the imagined social harmony of feudal England ‘before money-grubbing had soiled the souls of men, cankered their hearts, and driven chivalry and enjoyment of life out of their nature!’31 In contrast to the class tensions of the metropolitan cities, another tourist noted an ‘absence of rowdyism, riot, and crime.’32 This notion of Japan as an oasis of social order in an uncertain world conceived of modernity as contrary to the nation's values.
Baron Stillfried's studio photography played an important role in promoting this image of

Plate 7. Baron Raimund von Stillfried, Fireman, hand-coloured albumen silver photograph, c. 1875, 23.7 × 19.0 cm. Views and Costumes of Japan, c. 1876. H95.62/18. LTW 56, La Trobe Picture Collection.


Plate 8. Baron Raimund von Stillfried, Furniture Shop, hand-coloured albumen silver photograph, c. 1875, 19.1 × 23.7 cm. Views and Costumes of Japan, c. 1876. H95.62/42. LTW 56, La Trobe Picture Collection.

pre-modern Japan. For most tourists able to afford the studio's prices, the costumes gratified their desire for an idyllic social order purportedly lost to the industrialised Europe and North America. Those studios able to portray an authentic Japan, untouched by modernity and yet amenable to the tourist impulse to collect and classify, would attract the lucrative foreign clientele. In the photograph entitled Two Officers, von Stillfried utilised a second backdrop depicting a lush landscape of twisted trees and rich foliage (plate 4). While the stylistic rendering of this vegetation closely resembles that in the backdrop of Singing Girl, the presence of a hillside temple and the iconic peak of Mount Fuji adds two archetypal signs of Japan to the setting familiar to all international visitors. This amalgam of European landscape conventions and national emblems sought to present Japan within an identifiable frame of reference for the foreign tourist that would pander to desired notions of an idyllic past.
Although these painted backdrops furnish the setting for each scene and thus merit close
attention, the viewer's interest is primarily directed to the models and their ornate garments. Singing Girl and Two Officers are superb examples of the care and skill of the colourist's practice apparent throughout the costume section of the album, but these two prints also highlight the painstaking studio arrangements taken before the exposure of the glass negative. In addition to the efforts to paint the backdrop, the studio models were carefully groomed and dressed in preparation for the photograph. Two factors indicate that the sitters are models rather than actual samurai. With the advent of the Meiji era, the new leaders of Japan instigated a series of radical policies aimed at the modernisation of the country. New imperial edicts abolished the samurai class, banned their right to carry swords, and the traditional ‘top knot’ hairstyle. In light of these changes, the figures in Two Officers were already casualties of the new political reality in Japan. Secondly, these models are also identified in other studio photographs, including some other images in the State Library album. Along with the sitter from the work Daimio, these models are again present in the photograph At Dinner (plate 5). This indicates that the sitters did not simply walk in off the streets of Yokohama but were paid employees of the studio. The creases in their broad trousers, or hakama, suggest that they had shortly beforehand donned these vestments from the studio's wardrobe collection.
The Japanese domestic interior characterises the third major group of costumes. In the work At Dinner, the three men seated before the implements of their meal occupy the middle ground in the composition, neither too close nor too far removed from the picture plane. The pictorial space is divided into several sections by the tatami and the lines of the decorated door. Within this architectural space, Stillfried arranged the three sitters with careful attention to their place in this grid of vertical and horizontal lines. The suggestion of an in situ domestic interior enhances the aura of authenticity by providing the appropriate cultural setting for the subject. In other prints such as Lady Writing, the interior sets the scene for a visual exploration of the interaction between sitter, domestic objects, and architectural space (plate 6). As in other domestic scenes, Stillfried pays close attention to the relation between the architectural division of the pictorial space and the determined positions of the model and associated props. With a trained pictorial concern for their arrangement that belies the camera's unmediated portrayal of the scene, Stillfried deliberates over the placement of every item to compose several minor still-life arrangements, including the ceramic cups and tray to the right, the miscellaneous objects on the table, and the seemingly random bundle of booklets on the floor. A similar care in the placement of objects is also evident in At Dinner, with each sitter holding one item – a ceramic cup, paper fan, and saki bottle – for display before the camera.
The final group of costumes are characterised by their outdoor settings. While the studio allowed the photographer to control the conditions and vary the props, outdoor photography had the advantage of natural lighting and ready prepared locations. Stillfried's portrait of a fireman dressed in traditional protective garments and holding the brigade banner is a splendid example of the use of an outdoor setting (plate 7). This superb portrait continues in the tradition of his predecessors Felice Beato and Wilhelm Burger.33 The fire fighter was a figure deserving of great respect in Japan, whose profession was of direct relevance for the fire-prone studios. Both Beato and Stillfried had suffered the destruction of their property by fire and thus had personal
experience of the dangers of flammable chemicals amid the wooden buildings of Japanese cities.34 Despite attempts to impose precautionary measures and modernise the fire-fighting service, fires were a regular occurrence in the port with more than one outbreak in photographic studios.35 In view of these dangers, this striking portrayal of a fireman represents the photographer's personal homage to the courage and service of the profession.
Another benefit of outdoor work was the impression of cultural authenticity associated with the street photograph. A typical example of this genre is the photograph Furniture Shop (plate 8). No less than in the studio, however, Stillfried carefully arranged the selected site to correspond with the desires of the foreign client. As numerous travel accounts of the period testify, the open store was an irresistible lure for foreign tourists eager to acquire curios to commemorate their visit. One nineteenth-century tourist warned prospective visitors: ‘Curio Street, Yokohama, is one of the streets of the world, and a day may be as well spent in it as in Regent Street or Broadway, if one does but take care not to take much money along.’36 Even more suggestively, the American travel writer Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore claimed that the shops ‘deliberately make eyes at you.’37 With the rise of the department store, commodity fetishism had become part of nineteenth-century consumerism, but the links between visual pleasure, cultural shopping, and sexual gratification also became central to the tourist's experience of Japan. Scidmore continued her account of seduction and sightseeing: ‘the shops open their arms to you… their wares lie invitingly exposed to the public, seemingly to you already half your own.’38 For those travellers with tight purse strings, Furniture Shop provided an affordable pictorial substitute for ceramic vases or other curios, easier to transport and less prone to damage, that not only documented the range of available merchandise, but also the pleasure of the shopping jaunt on the streets of Yokohama. A major factor in the studio's success was its ability to document not only what foreign tourists encountered, or wished to encounter, on their visit, but also how they viewed the sites and people of Japan.
This brief survey of Stillfried's genre work reveals the careful planning and attention invested in each photograph. Far from spontaneous records of an ‘old Japan’ about to disappear amid the realities of the modern world, these photographs were the result of thoughtful deliberation at every stage in the production process, with the primary intention being their appeal for the lucrative tourist market. The repeated use of particular motifs, sites, and props assisted in the exploration of the relationship between sitter and setting, and thus the production of a coherent portfolio of the culture and people. With their carefully arranged settings and applied colours, the album's genre photographs constituted notions of social order and unity as core values of Japanese society.

Untinted Views

Given my recent discussion of Baron Stillfried's ‘views’ of Japan, this article has dealt primarily with his hand-coloured ‘costumes’.39 Nonetheless some general comments on the album's topographical scenes are in order, particularly in view of the short shrift usually received by such untinted work. Without the colourist's skill or the flamboyance of the later coloured view, these monochrome scenes perhaps have been seen to lack the pictorial vividness considered a trait of the industry. That the State Library album contains fifty untinted views, equal in number to the costumes, suggests that their significance should not be overlooked.

Plate 9. Baron Raimund von Stillfried, Nagasaki, Desima, Main Street, albumen silver photograph, 1872, 19.0 × 23.7 cm. Views and Costumes of Japan, c. 1876. H95.62/52. LTW 56, La Trobe Picture Collection.

In many cases nineteenth-century albums of Japan present no discernable logic in the sequence of topographical views. The State Library album, however, charts a geographical route through the archipelago from the southern port of Nagasaki to the northern island of Hokkaidô. As the index page indicates, the order of the compilation corresponds to the route of the steamship services from Southeast Asia, with occasional interludes from the main ports for excursions to such popular inland destinations as Kyoto, Tokyo, and Nikkô. Thus the first six photographs illustrate the port of Nagasaki and its environs, beginning with a panoramic view of the harbour. Nagasaki was the first port-of-call for many visitors to Japan, and its significance as their initial impression of the country is signalled in the comparatively large number of prints dedicated to the region. As the only port open to Dutch traders during the long period of official isolation, from the seventeenth- to mid-nineteenth centuries, the city's historical overtones invariably attracted the interest of foreign visitors. These historical associations are the theme of the second photograph Nagasaki, Desima, Main Street, which depicts the harbour island of Dejima where Dutch traders

Plate 10. Baron Raimund von Stillfried, Kamagatake Volcano, albumen silver photograph, 1872, 19.0 × 23.7 cm. Views and Costumes of Japan, c. 1876. H95.62/100. LTW 56, La Trobe Picture Collection.

had been restricted during their business in Japan (plate 9).40 Aside from its value as a rare inner view of the settlement and its foreign-style architecture, the selective placement of figures in an otherwise empty street exemplifies the photographer's approach to the genre of the street view. The anonymous bystanders occupy the middle distance and signal their supposed ignorance of the photographer by facing in various directions other than the camera. Like his outdoor tinted works (and the borderline between these ‘costumes’ and street ‘views’ is sometimes indistinct), the selection and arrangement of the scene is no less meticulous than his studio-based work.
As the case of Nagasaki suggests, the photographs of each city and its surrounds are grouped together in the album and usually begin with a general panorama before moving to sites of particular historical or cultural interest. The number of photographs assigned to a location reflects the significance of this destination for the tourist market, with Kobe (four prints), Kyoto (five prints), Tokyo (eight prints), and Nikkô (four prints), receiving the most attention. Such albums
responded to, and simultaneously helped promote, the major tourist destinations for visitors to Japan. Foreign travellers could not miss the opportunity to visit the temples of Kyoto or the Imperial sites of Tokyo, but they did not always view albums a posteriori to their sightseeing. While many tourists purchased an album to commemorate their tour, photography also inspired some viewers to make the journey to Japan in the first place. Many foreign tourists prior to their visit were exposed to such photographs, or their engraved progeny, in the numerous illustrated accounts of Japan that flooded overseas markets.41 Travellers could also peruse albums at their leisure in the libraries aboard steamships or in such prestigious institutions as the Grand Hotel in Yokohama.42 Like visual guidebooks, these viewings would influence the tourist's choice of destination. An intimate relationship developed between the industries of tourism and photography that meant that ‘views’ could function both as mementoes of an excursion and invitations for prospective visitors to embark on their own voyage. In short, the view photograph became a kind of advertisement, attracting more foreigners to visit Japan and thus potential clients for the photograph industry.
The State Library album concludes with three views of the northern island of Hokkaidô. The first of these photographs depicts a teahouse on the outskirts of Hakodate, the island's only treaty port and foreign enclave. From such a reassuring picturesque scene, however, the final two photographs in the album illustrate the less accessible frontier regions: a view of an Ainu village and the barren peak Kamagatake Volcano (plate 10). Apart from such intrepid travellers as Charles Longfellow and Isabella Bird, these regions were beyond the circuit of most foreign tourists.43 In one respect, these photographs complete the geographical scope of the album, attesting to the photographer's extensive travels throughout the archipelago. However, as the closing images of the album, these views reiterate the tourist romance of an unexplored corner of the country, untouched by foreign influence and awaiting the determined tourist. Through the choice and arrangement of the views, the second half of the album narrates an established route through Japan, but the album's final images of distant terrains, far from the regular tourist procession, uphold the ultimate mystery of the country that fuelled the tourist boom.


Recently some scholars have turned their attention to the role of consumers in the generation of album meanings.44 While this is certainly a rich vein of enquiry, the relationship between photographer and customer was interactive and dynamic. As a commercial photographer, Baron Stillfried relied on his ability to recognize the desires of his clientele in order to produce albums commensurate with their tastes. In the constantly evolving market of 1870s Yokohama, this was no minor feat. His portfolios both catered to these tourist desires and helped mould its character and direction. We should not lose sight of the photographer's role as a tastemaker, able to anticipate market changes and respond in visual form, however difficult it is to recover the historical threads of their careers. The focus on the consumer, rather than the producer, is often due to the survival of personal archives of nineteenth-century travellers who acquired large collections, but usually did not bother to record the firms patronised during their travels. The State Library album reverses this tendency. With no inscription, hand-written captions, or known provenance, and a patent declaration of authorship on the frontispiece, this volume emphasises the photographer's
significance as an arbiter of meaning. Its careful arrangement, presentation, selection, and sequence testify to his sophisticated understanding of his clients’ desires and intentions. As one of the few ready-prepared albums to survive from the most influential studio of 1870s Yokohama, the State Library album is a key compilation, pivotal to any assessment of Stillfried's professional skills, objectives, and influence.


La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, H95.62.


On the history of the Yokohama photographic industry, see Sebastian Dobson, ‘Yokohama Shashin’, in Art & Artifice: Japanese Photographs of the Meiji Era, Boston, MFA Publications, 2004, pp. 15–39.


For a representative case study, see the account of the Parisian dealer Philippe Sichel, Notes d'un bibeloteur au Japon, translated and fully annotated in Max Put, Plunder and Pleasure: Japanese art in the West 1860–1930, Leiden, Hotei Publishing, 2000, pp. 43–72.


Travels in China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Etc., 1866. Compiled by Benjamin Greene, PIC Album 717, National Library of Australia; and Photographs 1875, PRG 218, Mortlock Rare Books Collection, State Library of South Australia.


Eileen V. Brunton, The Challenger Expedition, 1872–1876: A Visual Index, London, Natural History Museum, 1994.


For a detailed guide to the life of Baron von Stillfried, see Luke Gartlan, ‘A chronology of Baron Raimund von Stillfried-Ratenicz (1839–1911)’, in John Clark, Japanese Exchanges in Art, 1850s to 1930s, with Britain, continental Europe, and the USA, Sydney, Power Publications, 2001, pp. 121–188.


Stillfried Reports, 10 September 1868 – 14 September 1869, Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv, Administrative Registratur, Fach 34 – Sonderreihe, 1869–1872, cited in Peter Pantzer, Japan und Österreich-Ungarn: Die diplomatischen, wirtschaftlichen und kulturellen Beziehungen von ihrer Aufnahme bis zum Ersten Weltkrieg (Beiträge zur Japonologie 11), Vienna, Institut für Japanologie der Universität Wien, 1973, pp. 211–212.


Certificate of the Franz Joseph Order, Stillfried Family Archive, Vienna.


The Hiogo News, 9 August 1871, cited in the Harold S. Williams Manuscript Collection, National Library of Australia, Box HSW 15.


On Beato's background and photographic training, see Luke Gartlan, ‘James Robertson and Felice Beato in the Crimea: Recent Findings’, History of Photography, vol. 29, no. 1, Spring 2005, pp. 72–80.


For the main source on Beato's life and career, see John Clark, John Fraser, and Colin Osman, ‘A revised chronology of Felice (Felix) Beato (1825/34?–1908?)’, in Clark, Japanese Exchanges in Art, pp. 89–120; and on his complex ties to the British Army, see David Harris, Of Battle and Beauty: Felice Beato's Photographs of China, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1999, pp. 19–37.


The “Japan Daily Herald” Annual Directory and Hong List, for Yokohama, Yedo, Kobe, Osaka, Hakodate, Nagasaki & Niigata, for the year 1873, Yokohama, Japan Daily Herald and Shipping List, 1873, p. 11.


A. Th. ‘Freiherr von Stillfried-Ratenicz und sein japanisches Theehaus’, Allgemeine illustrirte Weltausstellungs-Zeitung, vol. 5, nos. 9–10, 9 November 1873, p. 103.


Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv, Vienna, Obersthofmeisteramt, Karton 939, 1875, r.12/8, zi.1489.


United States Centennial Commission: International Exhibition, 1876: Reports and Awards Group XXVII, ed. Francis A. Walker, Philadelphia, J. B. Lippincott, 1877, p. 80.


Baron Stillfried to H. L. T. Haakman, Photographic News, vol. 21, no. 1000, 2 November 1877, p. 522.


Published in January 1876, the Desk Hong List first recorded Andersen's arrival at the studio: ‘Japan Photographic Association. Stillfried & Anderson. Stillfried, Baron., Anderson, H., Repenn, J. A.’ The Desk Hong List: A General and Business Directory for Shanghai and the Northern & River Ports, Japan, &c., Shanghai, North China Herald, 1876, p. 139.


Photographische Correspondenz, vol. 10, no. 107, 1873, p. 85.


On the destruction of the No. 59 studio, see Gartlan, ‘A chronology of Baron Raimund von Stillfried’, pp. 145–146.


For example, the Yokohama studio of Tamamura Kôzaburô produced 151,500 large format photographs and 254,000 small format photographs in 1896 for export to the Boston publishers J. B. Millet. These photographs were individually hand-coloured and pasted into 37,750 volumes of the deluxe publication Japan: Described and Illustrated, edited by Francis Brinkley. See Denise Bethel, ‘The J. B. Millet Company's Japan: Described and Illustrated by the Japanese. An Initial Investigation’, Image, vol. 34, nos. 1–2, Spring-Summer 1991, pp. 2–15.


The presentation and arrangement of the State Library album can be compared with another ‘Stillfried and Andersen’ album in Australia, now in the Royal Geographical Society of South Australia, Adelaide, which was produced after Stillfried's departure from the studio. This album bears a later version ‘Stillfried and Andersen’ frontispiece (Andersen continued to market albums under the joint company name for several years after the partnership dissolved in mid-1878). The album contains thirty-eight tinted ‘costumes’ and sixty-two tinted and untinted ‘views’ affixed to both recto and verso sides of each page. In addition to Stillfried's images, the album includes reprints of other photographers’ work, notably Felice Beato, and these disparate sources have resulted in variations in print size and quality. Furthermore, the hand colouring is not as consistent or attentive to detail as the State Library album. These differences between the two albums are indicative of the less vigorous production standards of Hermann Andersen, who increased the studio's output but with a corresponding diminution in quality.


The entire album is available as digital images, subdivided into various categories according to subject, on the State Library of Victoria's on line pictures’ catalogue. See, for example,; Internet.


On photography's role in nineteenth-century anthropometry, see Chris Pinney, ‘The Parallel Histories of Anthropology and Photography’, in Anthropology and Photography 1860–1920, ed. Elizabeth Edwards, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1992, pp. 74–95; and James R. Ryan, Picturing Empire: Photography and the Visualization of the British Empire, Chicago, The University of Chicago Press, 1997, pp. 140–167.


John Forbes Watson and John William Kaye, The People of India, 8 volumes, London, India Museum, 1868–1875; and Illustrations of China and Its People: A Series of Two Hundred Photographs with Letterpress Descriptive of the Places and People Represented, by J. Thomson, 4 volumes, London, Sampson Low, Marston, Low, and Searle, 1873–1874.


Photographic News, vol. XXI, no. 999, 26 October 1877, p. 510.


Japan Daily Herald, vol. 34, no. 4538, 21 August 1878, [p. 2].




As a teenager, Stillfried trained under the Orientalist painter Bernhard Fiedler in Trieste and the illustrator Joseph Maria Kaiser in Linz. A. Martinez, Wiener Ateliers: Biographisch-kritische Skizzen, Vienna, Plant & Co., 1891, pp. 29–30.


Maturin M. Ballou, Foot-prints of Travel; or, Journeyings in Many Lands, Boston, Ginn & Co., 1889, p. 25.


See, respectively, Chester Glass, The World, Round It and Over It, 2nd ed., Toronto, Rose Belford, 1881, p. 471; E. K. Laird, The Rambles of a Globe Trotter in Australasia, Japan, China, Java, India and Cashmere, London, Chapman & Hall, 1875, vol. 1, p. 181; and Baron de Hübner, A Ramble Round the World, 1871, trans. Lady Herbert, London, MacMillan, 1874, vol. 1, p. 361.


James Hingston, The Australian Abroad: Branches from the Main Routes Round the World, London, Sampson Low, Marston, Searle, and Rivington, 1879, p. 87.


Henry Knollys, Sketches of Life in Japan, London, Chapman and Hall, 1887, p. 320.


For example, see Felice Beato's group portrait of the Yokohama Fire Brigade reproduced in Felice Beato in Japan: Photographien zum Ende der Feudalzeit 1863–1873, ed. Claudia Gabriele Philipp, Dietmar Siegert, and Rainer Wick, Munich, Braus, 1991, p. 174; and Wilhelm Burger's version of the theme reproduced in Gert Rosenberg, Wilhelm Burger: Ein Welt- und Forschungsreisender mit der Kamera, 1844–1920, Vienna, Christian Brandstätter, 1984, p. 133.


Beato's studio was burnt to the ground in the devastating fire of November 26, 1866, which destroyed almost two-thirds of Yokohama. For Charles Wirgman's report and illustration of the fire, see the Illustrated London News, 9 February 1867, p. 128. In March 1874, a fire also destroyed Stillfried's enterprise known as the Yokohama Library. See J[osef] D[oblhoff], Tagebuchblätter von einer Reise nach Ostasien, 1873–1874, vol. 3, Vienna, Wilhelm Köhler, 1875, p. 76.


For a report of a fire in a photographer's studio, see The Far East, vol. 4, no. 6, 1 December 1873, p. 144.


Hingston, The Australian Abroad, p. 68.


Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore, Westward to the Far East: A Guide to the Principal Cities of China and Japan, The Canadian Pacific Railway Company, 1891, p. 27.




Luke Gartlan, ‘Changing Views: The Early Topographical Photographs of Stillfried & Company’, in Reflecting Truth: Japanese Photography in the Nineteenth Century, ed. Nicole Coolidge Rousmaniere and Mikiko Hirayama, Amsterdam, Hotei Publishing, 2004, pp. 40–65.


As I discussed in my recent essay (see above), Stillfried produced his views during several early trips around Japan in 1871–1872. These photographs originally had titles inscribed on the negatives, which were subsequently removed by retouching or cropping. For every ‘view’ in the State Library album, there is an earlier uncropped version. Hence Nagasaki, Desima, Main Street also exists in a first-state print entitled ‘Desima’ (Stillfried & Company album, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, vol. 2, print 95). This cropping explains the difference in size between the MMA (22.7 × 28.5 cm) and SLV prints (19 × 23.7 cm).


Laird's The Rambles of a Globe Trotter was the first of numerous travel accounts to include illustrations derived from Stillfried's inventory. The photograph Kolec. Shinkadgi or Figure of Daïbutz (vol. 1, p. 185) is included in the State Library album under the title Hiogo Daibutz, LTW 56, f.61 [H95.62/61].


During her stay at the Grand Hotel, Lady Brassey noted in her diary: ‘After dinner we looked over a fine collections of photographs of Japanese scenery and costumes, and then returned to the yacht in the houseboat belonging to the hotel…’ Annie Brassey, A Voyage in the ‘Sunbeam’: Our Home on the Ocean for Eleven Months, 6th ed., London, Longmans, Green and Co., 1878, p. 325.


For their tours of Hokkaidô, see Charles Appleton Longfellow: Twenty Months in Japan, 1871–1873, ed. Christine Wallace Laidlaw, Cambridge, Mass., Friends of the Longfellow House, 1998, pp. 42–79; and Isabella Bird, Unbeaten Tracks in Japan, 3rd ed., London, John Murray, 1880, vol. 2, pp. 1–165.


See Allen Hockley, ‘Packaged Tours: Photo Albums and Their Implications for the Study of Early Japanese Photography’, Reflecting Truth, ed. Rousmaniere and Hirayama, pp. 65–85; and Eleanor M. Hight, ‘Japan as Artefact and Archive: Nineteenth-Century Photographic Collections in Boston’, History of Photography, vol. 28, no. 2, Summer 2004, pp. 102–122.