A student of Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind, Yasuhiro Ishimoto is an important figure in the cross-pollination of photographic ideas and styles between American and Japanese photography. His portrait of a city, Chicago, Chicago, published as a book (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. The documentary photographer is forced to be part of the time and place of his subject, a fact of the medium that is simultaneously restrictive and beneficial. Moving through Chicago as both citizen and visitor, Yasuhiro Ishimoto was able to create documents that speak eloquently for the culture of the city in the 1950s and 60s. His photographs present highly original visual spaces, which nonetheless suggest the politics, mentality, and history of the city. Another untitled image from this series shows Ishimoto’s strict sense of form and distinctive vision that can absorb such obvious urban phenomena as a plethora of advertisements.
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 under Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind, earning a BS in 1952. He returned to Japan in 1953, where he has kept residence except for a period spent in Chicago from 1959 to 1961 on a fellowship from the Minolta Corporation. His work was exhibited in “The Family of Man” show at the Museum of Modern Art in 1955, and in numerous one-person international exhibitions thereafter. The Art Institute of Chicago presented his career retrospective in 1999. Ishimoto became a Japanese citizen in 1969; he lives and works in Japan. In 1983 the government of Japan awarded Ishimoto the Medal of Honor with Purple Ribbon and in1996 named him a “Person of Cultural Merit.” (bio)