Kimura Ihei (1901-1974) is one of the most celebrated Japanese photographers of the twentieth century, particularly known for his portrayal of Tokyo and Akita. Born on 12 December 1901 in Shitaya-ku (now Taito-ku), Tokyo, Kimura started taking photographs when very young but his interest intensified when he was around 20 and living in Tainan (Taiwan), where he was working for a sugar wholesaler. He opened a photographic studio in Nippori, Tokyo in 1924. In 1930, he joined the advertising section of the soap and cosmetics company Kao, concentrating on informal photographs made with his Leica camera.
In 1933, he joined Natori Yonosuke and others in forming the group Nippon Kobo ("Japan workshop"), which emphasized "realism" in photography using 35mm cameras; but this rapidly broke up and Kimura formed an alternative group, Chuo Kobo ("central workshop") with Ina Nobuo and others.
During the war, Kimura worked in Manchuria and for the publisher Tohosha.
In 1950, Kimura was elected chairman of the newly formed Japan Professional Photographers Society (JPS); together with Domon Ken he did much to encourage a documentary spirit in amateur photography.
In the mid-fifties, Kimura made several trips to Europe, providing photographs for the camera magazines. Pari, a collection of his color photographs of Paris, would only be published in 1974, but the use of color was ahead of its time.
On his return to Japan, Kimura concentrated on photographing rural life in Akita. He also worked on portraits, particularly of writers.
Kimura died at his home in Nippori on 31 May 1974; the Ihei Kimura Award for new photographers was promptly set up in his honor. He remains popular in Japan: samples of his photographs still regularly appear in the magazine Asahi Camera.
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