Virna Haffer, His First Growth (1924), gelatin silver bromide print [Henry Art Gallery, Seattle WA, Feb 12-May 8] Randall Family Collection
The Seattle Camera Club (SCC) was founded in 1924 by a group of talented Japanese immigrants. Between the two World Wars art photography was popular and on the West Coast numerous Japanese-American photographers also formed clubs in other cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles. At its peak, the SCC produced work that was widely published and internationally exhibited. The club was particularly distinguished by its inclusion of non-Japanese and female members notably Ella McBride and Virna Haffer belonged to the SCC.
Pictorialism was the main style practised by the group. Many of the images are defined by romanticized subjects in black and white or sepia tones, a transient sense of light, soft-focus compositions and innovative darkroom techniques: the effects were reflective of poetry or contemporary painting styles of the time. The exhibit includes a broad range of work by prominent members Dr. Kyo Koike, Frank Kunishige, and Iwao Matsushita, whose works are preserved in the Special Collections of the University of Washington Library.
Over 70 years have passed since many of these photographs were exhibited. Dr. Kyo Koike, one of the groups leaders, was particularly interested in the influence of Japanese aesthetic tradition upon a western invention." Other well-known Seattle Pictorialists, like Imogen Cunningham, are included in the show giving the SCC works further visual context.
The club declined during the Depression era and completely dissolved with the onset of World War II and the internment of the Japanese. Shadows of a Fleeting World provides a glimpse into an under-recognized period of creativity and the diverse work that came out of the SCC. University of Washington Press is also publishing a major book that documents the accomplishments of SCC photographers and their contribution to the international Pictorialist movement.