K I Y O S H I N I I Y A M A
So many years have flown past since the death of my father Kiyoshi Niiyama.
He died a sudden death at the age of fifty-seven, still in the prime of his life, on May 13th in early summer of 1969 when I was twenty-four years old. Although the number of years I have lived since this loss by far exceed the years I spent together with him, my memories of my father are still vividly imprinted on my mind, never to fade. The image of my father remains at all times that of a photographer who also acted as a leader in the world of amateur photography. Tears still well up in my eyes when I remember how I caught sight of my father from behind as he stayed up late checking his photos on the night before he died, or when I recall the scene of my father clicking away with his camera at Yokohama Port as I was about to set off on my two-and-a-half-month long journey to India and Southeast Asia even though he had said that he would not be able to come and see me off because he was too busy.
At the time of my father's death, I was in the export and import trade and hardly had any knowledge on photography. Blessed with the valuable opportunity of compiling a posthumous edition of my father's works upon the suggestions voiced by my father's friends and acquaintances including eminent photographers who so kindly contributed texts in memory of my father, I arrived at publishing this posthumous edition a year later. Through this process, I came to understand the passionate devotion with which he had engaged in photography.
This experience, together with my nostalgia for my father, induced me to make up my mind to enter the world of photography at the age of thirty. My father's negatives, prints and contact prints have continued to give me moral support, encouraging and inspiring me at all times, for whenever I take a look at them, I find myself filled with the passion and energy with which he had continued to take photographs during the pre-war and post-war years.
Since establishing Gallery Cosmos five years ago, I have been holding exhibitions focusing on various themes taken up in Kiyoshi Niiyama's world of photography every year in May to commemorate my father's death anniversary. A close observation of Kiyoshi Niiyama's photographs makes me realize that they are consistent in his stance to capture his times by faithfully depicting natural objects and landscapes with the focus on pictorial subjects. In order to pursue this, there was no need for high-grade cameras, and he took his photographs with cameras that any amateur with a love for photography could manipulate without difficulty. Dexterously applying techniques in each of the processes of photographing, film developing and paper printing, his finished works are not in any way highlighted documentaries, but rather reflect the various expressions of the very age he had lived. Kiyoshi Niiyama's world of photography had won the understanding and sympathy of Dr. Otto Steinert who was the leading authority on "Subjective Photography", and three photographic works by my father are stored at the Folkwang Museum founded by Dr. Steinert in Essen, Germany. My father's works were selected for the photo exhibition "SUBJEKTIVE FOTOGRAFIE: Images of the '50s" hosted by this museum in a total of seven locations, specifically in the U.S.A., Germany, Belgium, and Sweden, in 1984 and 1985.
In September 2006, owing to the kind offer on the part of Mr. Dieter Neubert, President of Monochrom, a German business partner of my company, I was able to organize my father's exhibition for the "Photos of the Month" at his company's gallery in Berlin. This photo exhibition caught the attention of Mr. and Mrs. Kicken, and this led to the duo exhibition "Otto Steinert and Kiyoshi Niiyama" at their Kicken Gallery in Berlin, winning high acclaim among many people visiting this exhibition.
Such a turn of events made me decide on the publication of the first of a series of collections of my father's photographic works in time for the 40th anniversary since his death next year. I selected "The Pearlette Age" as the title of this collection, for I have edited my father's works between 1934 and 1953 with the focus on photographs taken with Pearlette cameras, and have also included a number of works taken with the Semi Pearl and the Semi Masmy cameras which belong to the same period.
In many cases, the accurate dates and locations of my father's photographs remain unknown, and there being large volumes of works, it was no easy task deciding on which works to include in this book. As the works have been selected and edited at my own discretion, this collection may be subject to various opinions and criticisms, but I wish to ask you for your generous understanding.
I would also like to take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to all those who extended me generous cooperation, support and assistance upon the production of this book, especially to photographer Mr. Takao Kajiwara, Mr. Hiroyoshi Ushijima, Editor-in-Chief of Nippon Camera Inc., Ms. Hiromi Sakiyama who translated the text into English, photo printer Mr. Norihisa Kato, Mr. Kimio Mizuki in charge of binding, and Mr. Yasuo Yamazaki of Fujifilm Co., Ltd.