Yasuhiro Ishimoto

Yasuhiro Ishimoto, “Snow and Car”, 1948-1953, Chicago

Born in San Francisco to Japanese parents on June 14, 1921, Yasuhiro Ishimoto went with his parents to Japan at age three and grew up in Kochi, Japan. He returned to the United States in 1939 in order to study agriculture at the University of California, but was detained at the Amachi Internment Camp in Armach, Colorado from 1942 to 1944.

After World War II, Ishimoto moved to Chicago to study architecture at Northwestern University (1946). He transferred to the Institute of Design in 1948 to study photography, earning a BS in 1952. A student of Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind, Yasuhiro Ishimoto was an important figure in the cross-pollination of photographic ideas and styles between American and Japanese photography.

Ishimoto’s portrait of a city, “Chicago, Chicago”, published as a book in 1969, is a rich study full of the details of time and place. The cluster of white mannequin busts in the background of one of his photographs highlights Ishimoto’s strength in using environmental details to question or add subtle commentary about the individuals portrayed – and about their relationship to society at large.

Yasuhiro Ishimoto was a part of the time and place of his subject, a fact of photography that is simultaneously restrictive and beneficial. Moving through Chicago as both citizen and visitor, he presented highly original visual documents that speak eloquently for the culture of the city in the 1950s and 1960s.

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