Mittwoch, 17. Oktober 2012, 18:30–20:00 Sebastian Dobson: „Michael Moser (1853-1912): Photographer of Meiji“

Photo Event Photo Event

Among the Western photographers who were active in Japan in the first decade of the Meiji era, the Austrian photographer Michael Moser stands out for several reasons. Barely seventeen years old when he embarked on his photographic career in Yokohama in the summer of 1870, he was certainly the youngest foreign practitioner of photography in Japan at that time. The contrasts do not end here. Whereas Moser’s elders and contemporaries on the emerging photographic scene in Yokohama could draw upon their social standing, education and financial resources to varying degrees when establishing themselves – one need only think of Moser’s compatriot, Raimund Baron von Stillfried – the salt miner’s son and former cabin boy was distinctly lacking in these advantages.

Yet after several years as a roving photographer and occasional employee of the Japanese government, Moser was able to return to his homeland in 1877 with the means to establish a photographic studio that he operated successfully until his death in 1912.

The story of Moser’s success was later celebrated in his native Styria as an example of a local boy who had made his way in the world, but in many ways this journey of a self-made man from literal rags to relative riches was also a tale of ‘lofty ambition’ typical of Meiji-era Japan. As this lecture will attempt to show, it is Moser’s engagement with Japan in the 1870s, as much as the obstacles he overcame, that separates him most from his contemporaries.

Sebastian Dobson is an independent scholar of the history of photography and Japan’s foreign relations in the Bakumatsu and Meiji eras. His most recent publications include Unter den Augen des Preußen-Adlers (Iudicum, 2011), which he co-edited with Professor Sven Saaler, and a contribution to Bakumatsu no shashinshi – Ueno Hikoma no sekai (Yamakawa Shuppansha, 2012).