July 17, 2009
Look carefully. These are photos, not paintings. These photos are taken by Shinzo Maeda (前田真三), his photos are beautiful enough to fool you into thinking they are paintings. Shinzo Maeda is a Japanese photographer famous for landscape photographs and movies. He was born in 1922 in Hachioji City on the outskirts of Tokyo into a large family whose father worked in the forest industry. Before he became a full time photographer he was what we called a salaryman (サラリーマン) employed by Nichimen Co., Ltd.( a clothing manufacturer), and worked there for 17 years. In 1965 he quit Nichimen to pursue photography full time. By 1967 he launched his own photo agency called Tankei Photo Agency Co., Ltd. in Tokyo. This led to a long and successful career as a landscape photographer. His personal style of landscape photography won him a number of major awards in his lifetime, including the top prize of the Japan Photographers Association. When he died in 1998 he had published forty six photography books in Japan, eight in other countries, as well as produced films. His son Akira Maeda (前田晃) is also an accomplished landscape photographer who continues in his father's tradition.
Shinzo Maeda is said to be one of the big names in Japanese landscape photography. He doesn't seem to be that well known in Europe or the US. I came across his photos through these postcards I bought 20 years ago and was transfixed by them. Just these small printouts are still quite breathtaking. His photos have a very high quality with great sense for colors, composition and detail often mixed with a great amount of quietness and peacefulness. And in this quiet, peaceful way, I see the landscape change. Shinzo Maeda took his photos not only with his lens but with his heart; he shown people not only what he saw but what he felt through the eyes of his heart.
Thanks to Shinzo Maeda, the town Biei's(美瑛) beauty is widely known. He liked this town so much that he moved to Biei later in his life to take pictures. Takushinkan Gallery (拓真館) in Biei, Hokkaido(北海道 美瑛), a photo art gallery dedicated to Shinzo Maeda, which opened in 1987 still continues to this day.
I like to flip through his postcards or books especially when I need a break or an escape. His photos can always calm me down and take me to a quiet peaceful world. I'd been to Hokkaido but never Biei. I would like to go there and see what he saw someday soon.