Ishimoto Yasuhiro dies at age 90

Well-known Japanese photographer Yasuhiro Ishimoto (石元 泰博) passed away in Tokyo on Feb. 6, 2012 due to pneumonia. He was 90 years old. Born in San Francisco, California in 1921, he was a fine-art photographer with ties to both Japan and the US. He was one of the “elder statesmen” of the Japanese photography world.

Parents were Japanese immigrant farmers in the US. Raised in Kochi city, Kochi Prefecture from age three. Studied agriculture in Kochi until 1939. Due to concerns of him being drafted in Japan, his mother urged him to return to America which he did in 1939.

Lived with a farmer and went to Univ. of California in 1940 until being interned at Armach, Colorado when war between Japan and America broke out. Since he had no assets, he did not lose anything unlike other Japanese-Americans who were interned.

He stuck with a group of shutterbugs in the internment camp. After being released in 1944, he went to Chicago after being told that he was free to go anywhere except the coastal cities. Joined a camera club in Chicago.

Studied architecture at Northwestern Univ. in Chicago 1946-48 where he met photographer Harry Shigeta and took up photography seriously. Studied under Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind at the Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago 1948-52 (B.S. degree 1952).

Freelance photographer in Tokyo 1953-58; Chicago 1958-61, and Tokyo since 1961 after moving back to Japan. Naturalized as a Japanese citizen in 1969. Instructor at Kuwazawa Design School 1962-1966 and Tokyo Photographic College 1962-1971. Professor at Tokyo Zokei Univ. Photo Dept. 1966-1971.

With ties to both Japan and America, Ishimoto gained recognition in both countries. He took an interest in traditional Japanese architecture, starting with photographs of the Katsura Palace in Kyoto. (Katsura was subsequently published by Yale Univ. Press.) His photo book, Chicago, Chicago is another signature work.

He has received numerous awards including Medal with Purple Ribbon and the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette. Survived by his nephew Takashi.

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