Ueno Hikoma

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Ueno Hikoma (October 15, 1838 – May 22, 1904) was a pioneer Japanese photographer, born in Nagasaki. He is noted for his fine portraits, often of important Japanese and foreign figures, and for his excellent landscapes, particularly of Nagasaki and its surroundings. Ueno was a major figure in nineteenth-century Japanese photography as a commercially and artistically successful photographer and as an instructor.

Ueno was an intrepid student, constructing his own cameras from old telescope lenses and experimenting with various ways to make photographic chemicals, which were not yet readily available. In 1859 Ueno learned collodion wet-plate photography from the Swiss photographer Pierre Rossier, sent to Nagasaki by the London firm Negretti and Zambra. In 1862 Ueno published Seimikyoku hikkei (Chemist’s Handbook), co-authored with Horie Kuwajirø. It included an appendix describing collodion wet-plate photography, Japan’s first manual on the process. Later that year, Ueno opened a studio in Nagasaki, one of Japan’s first, and he also began importing cameras and photographic supplies. Ueno became well known for both landscape and portrait photography. He photographed a number of important nineteenth-century figures, including former U.S. president Ulysses S. Grant. Other highlights of his career included assisting a team of Americans who came to Nagasaki in 1874 to photograph the transit of Venus across the sun, and photographing the battlefield during the Satsuma Rebellion in 1877. Ueno was one of Japan’s most successful early photographers, later opening branch studios in Vladistock, Shanghai, and Hong Kong in 1890 and 1891. He died in Nagasaki in 1904 [1].