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Architectural photography

Photographie d’architecture

Séminaire Japarchi

*  *  *

Published on Wednesday, June 12, 2024


La « photographie d’architecture (kenchiku shashin 建築写真) » est un sujet vaste et protéiforme, puisque cette notion sera envisagée différemment par les architectes, les urbanistes, les décorateurs d’intérieur, les promoteurs, les éditeurs, les photographes amateurs, les photographes professionnels commissionnés, ou encore les artistes photographes, pour ne citer que quelques profils. C’est justement cette confrontation des acceptions et des utilisations qui nous intéresse. En effet, alors que la photographie d’architecture fait preuve d’une monstration large et régulière depuis le XIXe siècle, par le biais d’albums, de magazines dédiés, de publications en série, d’ouvrages ponctuels, et d’expositions, il n’existe aujourd’hui aucune étude approfondie qui en permette une compréhension globale. Nous souhaitons donc poursuivre sur ce projet de recherche qui vise à définir cette notion en déployant toute sa complexité.


General Presentation

Echoing the 2023 Annual Seminar of Japarchi,[1] we are launching a new call for papers for the year 2024 on the Japanese notion of “architectural photography” or “kenchiku shashin 建築写真” which can be considered from a variety of perspectives including historical, heritage, artistic, economic, sociological, and more.

“Architectural photography (kenchiku shashin 建築写真)” is an expansive and multifaceted notion, approached differently by architects, urban planners, interior designers, developers, publishers, amateur photographers, commissioned professional photographers, or artists. This confrontation of meanings and uses is what interests us. Indeed, while architectural photography has been widely and regularly displayed since the 19th century, through albums, dedicated magazines, serial publications, photobooks, and exhibitions, there is currently no in-depth study that allows for a global understanding. Therefore, we want to pursue this seminar that aims to define this notion while encompassing all of its complexity.

Since the 19th century, photography and architecture have maintained a special relationship. The subject content of the world’s first photograph, Nicephore Niepce, View from the Window at Le Gras, 1827, which was taken in France, was architecture thanks to the intrinsic quality of immobility of the built structure that corresponded to the long pause necessary to take a photo in those times. In the case of Japan, photographic techniques and the Western concept of architecture were simultaneously adapted when the country reopened. Yet contrary to what happened in the West, in Japan photography did not suffer from a battle with fine arts – indeed fine arts were also imported into Japan at the that time—allowing photography to be embraced by Japanese as soon as it arrived. Photography quickly became considered a modern medium perfectly suited to record new architecture— a modern means of representation for a modern subject. Moreover, since the Japanese word shashin means “copy of reality”, photography was soon seen as a practical tool for informing Tokyo’s elite about the evolution of construction or the damage caused to the built environment by natural disasters or conflicts in remote territories, as well as for recording heritage treasures scattered throughout the country. It was also a popular tool for companies to keep track of the progress of their projects and to showcase them once they were completed. Furthermore, in the 20th century, when photography entered the realm of the arts, symbolic, imagined, or utopian representations were added to documented representations of the built environment.


1—June 15 2024

9h-11h (Paris time) / 16h-18h (Tokyo time)

Waseda University (Tokyo) / Zoom

# This first session of the 2024 Japarchi seminar will be conducted entirely in English.

Moderators: Cecile Laly (Kyoto Seika University, Sciencescope, Japarchi), Sylvie Brosseau, (Waseda University, Japarchi), and Catherine Grout (ENSAP de Lille, Japarchi)

  • 9:00-9:30 (France)/16:00-16:30 (Japan)Cecile Laly (Visual Culture, Kyoto Seika University)Introduction to the Annual Seminar
  • 9:30-10:30 (France)/16:30-17:30 (Japan)Pauline Beichen Yang (Contemporary Literary Studies, University of Tokyo)Reconstructing the Ruin: Photography, Novel, and Japanese Modernity in A True Novel (本格小, Honkaku Shōsetsu) by Mizumura Minae

Scattered throughout Mizumura Minae’s novel Honkaku shōsetsu (2002) are the captioned, page-sized, monochrome photographs by architect and photographer Horiguchi Toyota. Featuring the architecture and nature of Karuizawa, these depopulated pictures contribute to the nostalgic narrative of modern Japan as a construction bound to be devoured by the passage of time. Unlike the theme of ruins, the medium of photography itself becomes a register of past reality that appears to be faithful and enduring. This echoes and buttresses the novel’s ambition to overcome an allegedly irreversible trajectory of world history with fiction, especially with a genre that revives modern Japanese literature. The artistic preservation of an endangered landscape of modern Japan fundamentally points to the reconstruction of melancholic national subjectivity in the postmodern present. A comparison with the incorporation of photography in W. G. Sebald’s novel Austerlitz (2001) reveals that, besides the identity crisis they share, Sebald’s work nonetheless suggests the opacity of photography, the elusive truth of history, and the viewers’ agency in remembering as imagining.


  • Cecile Laly is a Specially Appointed Lecturer at Kyoto Seika University. Speciallized in the history of Japanese photography, she is researching the representation of architecture in the work of Japanese photographers. Among other texts, she published Photobooks dedicated to Gunkanjima: Random Personal Memories or Strategical Publications? (2020), and Photography. A new way of presenting Japanese architecture in the nineteenth century (2022).
  • Pauline Beichen Yang is a research student at the Department of Contemporary Literary Studies, University of Tokyo, currently studying the post-Cold War afterlives of modern(ist) literature. Her master’s dissertations at Cambridge and Oxford looked respectively at Hayashi Fumiko’s travelogues in the 1930s and photography in Sebald and Mizumura’s novels.

2—Janvier 2025

(date to be fixed)

  • GOLANI SOLOMON Erez (University of Chicago, Visiting Professor) « Photographing Post Growth — The Japanese Empty House »
  • SASAKI Atsuko (University of Toronto, Professor) « Trajectories of the Gaze and Body within Architecture and without: Takashi Homma’s Looking Through: Le Corbusier Windows and Risaku Suzuki’s Aomori Museum of Art »

3—Février 2025 

(date to be fixed)

  • BARTOCCI, Romina (INALCO, Doctorante IFRAE) « La photographie dans la documentation archéologique de grands tumulus funéraires du IIIe au VIIe siècle au Japon »
  • SALEEBY, Oliver (université de Strasbourg, école d’art MJM, chargé de cours) « Le passage du temps dans la photographie d’architecture de Ryūji Miyamoto »

4—Février 2025

(date to be fixed)

  • MATSUGI, Hiromi (université d’Ehime, Maitre de conférences) « Autour de la photographie de Kenzo Tange »
  • BONNIN, Philippe (CNRS) « Dans les pas du photographe »

[1] The list of the presentations made in 2023 can be found on this link: https://japarchi.fr/seminaire-2023


  • Building 3, 6F, room 604 - Waseda University, School of Political Science and Economics, Nishi-Waseda 1-6-1, Shinjuku-ku,
    Tokyo, Japan (169-8050)

Event attendance modalities

Hybrid event (on site and online)


  • Saturday, June 15, 2024


  • architecture, Japon, photographie


  • Sylvie Brosseau
    courriel : japarchi [at] gmail [dot] com

Reference Urls

Information source

  • Catherine Grout
    courriel : c-grout [at] lille [dot] archi [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Architectural photography », Seminar, Calenda, Published on Wednesday, June 12, 2024, https://doi.org/10.58079/11svg

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