(Japan 1898 – 1987)
7.9 x 5.2 cm image/sheet
Iwao Yamawaki was born (Iwao Fujita) in Nagasaki and later studied architecture at the Tokyo School of Arts from 1921 to 1926. It was there that he first began taking photographs. He married Michiko Yamawaki in 1928 and took her name. They were very excited by the architectural and design magazines they saw which covered the latest ideas from Europe and in particular the Bauhaus. Michiko was well off so it was relatively easy for them to travel to Europe and study at the Bauhaus where they were readily accepted. At first they enrolled in the preliminary course with Josef Albers and Wassily Kandinsky, but they quickly moved on to study architecture before Yamawaki changed to the class of Walter Peterhans to develop his photographic skills. He also became good friends with Kurt Kranz who was teaching there and who exposed Yamawaki to more creative ideas such as photomontage.
Photography was never a major part of the Bauhaus curriculum and there was no studio at all prior to 1929. Even after this time photography was largely devoted to photojournalism and the documentation of design and architecture. Nonetheless, some creative photographers were studying at the Bauhaus and László Moholy-Nagy was one of the great exponents of the most inventive new techniques and ideas about photography. Something of the new vision filtered through and students like Yamawaki, Katt Both and Grit Kallin-Fischer incorporated the modern interest in unusual angles and closely observed lighting effects. This portrait of a fellow student is a good example. It is shot looking directly down at the model and the play of light and shadow lends the composition a dramatic and dynamic quality.
Yamawaki returned to Japan where he worked in architecture, continuing to teach Bauhaus principles. He did not work as a photographer again, except for his exceptional images of architecture.
© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007
Anthony Bond, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'International modernism', pg.93-111, Sydney, 2007, 104 (illus.).
Jackie Menzies (Editor), The Asian Collections Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Photography', Sydney, 2003, 292 (illus.).
What's in a face? aspects of portrait photography, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 24 Sep 2011–05 Feb 2012