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Tokyo-born photographer Hiroshi Hamaya’s first brush with photography was in 1933, when he was just a curious 18-year-old enthusiast. The zealous Hamaya joined the Oriental Photographic Industries in order to learn the basics of aerial photography.
Unlike other shutterbugs who were inspired by other photographers, Hamaya drew inspiration from ethnologist Keizo Shibusawa. The ethnologist’s penchant for documentaries sparked Hamaya’s interest in capturing rural and farming activities and Japanese ancient practices.
In 1940, he started his work on the Snow Land or Yukiguni book – which revolved around the mountain life and farming activities of people living in the Niigata prefecture. In 1954, he started the foundations of the Japan’s Back Coast (Ura Nihon) photo book.
The following year, Hamaya became an international figure when his inspiring photos were featured in the Family of Man exhibition by Edward Steichen. The pictures were exhibited at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
In 1960, Hamaya broke tradition by becoming the first Asian photojournalist to work for Magnum. Covering the Japan-US Security Treaty depressed him, and pushed him to go back to his first love: aerial photography.
Even if he bowed away from the limelight, the late Hamaya’s works as a dedicated photographer earned him the Master of Photography Citation from the International Center of Photography in New York in 1986.