Shōji Ueda

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Shōji Ueda (植田 正治, Ueda Shōji, 1913–2000) was a photographer of Tottori, Japan, who combined surrealist compositional elements with realistic depiction. Most of the work for which Ueda is widely known was photographed within a strip of about 350 km running from Igumi (on the border of Tottori and Hyōgo) to Hagi (Yamaguchi).[1]

Ueda was born on 27 March 1913 in Sakai (now Sakaiminato), Tottori. His father was a manufacturer and seller of geta; Shōji was the only child who survived infancy. The boy received a camera from his father in 1930 and quickly became very involved in photography, submitting his photographs to magazines; his photograph Child on the Beach (浜の子供), Hama no kodomo) appeared in the December issue of Camera.

In 1930 Ueda formed the photographic group Chūgoku Shashinka Shūdan (中国写真家集団) with Ryōsuke Ishizu, Kunio Masaoka, and Akira Nomura (野村秋良); from 1932 till 1937 the group exhibited its works four times at Konishiroku Hall (小西六ホール, Konishiroku Hōru) in Nihonbashi, Tokyo. Ueda studied at the Oriental School of Photography in Tokyo in 1932 and returned to Sakai, opening a studio, Ueda Shashinjō (植田写真場), when only nineteen.

Ueda married in 1935, and his wife helped him to run his photographic studio. His marriage was a happy one; his wife and their three children are recurring models in his works. Ueda was active as an amateur as well as a professional photographer, participating in various groups.

In 1941 Ueda gave up photography, not wanting to become a military photographer. (Toward the end of the war, he was forced to photograph the result of a fire.) He resumed shortly after the war, and in 1947 he joined the Tokyo-based group Ginryūsha.

Ueda found the sand dunes of Tottori excellent backdrops for single and group portraits, typically in square format and until relatively late all in black and white. In 1949, inspired by Kineo Kuwabara, then the editor of Camera, Ueda photographed the dunes with Ken Domon and Yōichi Midorikawa. Some of these have Domon as a model, far from his gruff image. The photographs were first published in the September and October 1949 issues of Camera and have been frequently anthologized. Ueda started photographing nudes on the dunes in 1951, and from 1970 he used them as the backdrop for fashion photography.

The postwar concentration on realism led by Domon, followed by the rejection of realism led by Shōmei Tōmatsu, sidelined Ueda's cool vision. Ueda participated in "Japanese Photography" at the New York Museum of Modern Art in 1960 and had solo exhibitions in Japan, but had to wait till a 1974 retrospective held in the Nikon Salon in Tokyo and Osaka before his return to popularity.

Ueda remained based in Tottori, opening a studio and camera shop in Yonago in 1965, and in 1972 moving to a new three-storey building in Yonago: Ueda Camera on the first floor, the Charanka (茶蘭花) coffee shop on the second, and Gallery U on the third. The building served as a base for local photographic life.

From 1975 until 1994, Ueda was a professor at Kyushu Sangyo University.

Critical and popular recognition came from the mid seventies. A succession of book-length collections of new and old appeared. Ueda weathered the death in 1983 of his wife, and continued working well into the 1990s. He died of a heart attack on 4 July 2000.

The Shoji Ueda Museum of Photography (植田正治写真美術館 Ueda Shōji Shashin Bijutsukan), devoted to his works, opened in Kishimoto (now Hōki, near Yonago) Tottori Prefecture in 1995.

In 2015, a retrospective was published featuring previously unseen works. The publishers were given access to 5000 unpublished photos and includes a short story by [Toshiyuki Horie].[2]

Books of Ueda's works[edit]

  • (in Japanese) Den'en no utsushikata (田園の寫し方). Ars Shashin Bunko 42. Tokyo: Ars, 1940.
  • San'in no tabi (山陰の旅). Text by Shimomura Norio (下村章雄). Gendai Kyōyō Bunko. Tokyo: Shakai Shisō Kenkyūkai Shuppanbu, 1962.
  • Izumo no shinwa: Kamigami no furusato: Kamera no kikō (出雲の神話:神々のふるさと カメラ紀行). Text by Ueda Masaaki (上田正昭). Tokyo: Tankō Shinsha, 1965.
  • Oki: Hito to rekishi (隠岐:人と歴史). Text by Naramoto Tatsuya (奈良本辰也). Tankō Shinsha, 1967.
  • Dōreki (童歴) / Children the Year Around. Eizō no Gendai 3. Tokyo: Chūōkōronsha, 1971. Black and white photographs, many but not all of which show children, arranged by season. Texts in both Japanese and English.
  • Izumo jiryojō (出雲路旅情). Text by Ishizuka Takatoshi (石塚尊俊). Tokyo: Asahi Shinbunsha, 1971.
  • Shinwa no tabi: Izumo, Hyūga no furusato (神話の旅:出雲・日向のふるさと). Text by Ueda Masaaki (上田正昭) et al. Nihon no Furusato Shirīzu. Tokyo: Mainichi Shinbunsha, 1973.
  • Izumo (出雲). Tokyo: Mainichi Shinbunsha, 1974.
  • Ueda Shōji shōryokō shashinchō: Oto no nai kioku (植田正治小旅行写真帳:音のない記憶). Tokyo: Nippon Camera, 1974.
  • Izumo Taisha (出雲大社). Text by Tōno Yoshiaki (東野芳明). Heibonsha Gyararī 24. Tokyo: Heibonsha, 1974.
  • Sakyū / Kodomo no shiki (砂丘・子供の四季) / Sand Dunes / Seasons of the Children. Sonorama Shashin Sensho 11. Tokyo: Asahi Sonorama, 1978. With a summary in English in addition to the Japanese text.
  • Matsue: Sen kyūhyaku rokujū nen (松江:一九六〇年) / Matsue. Yonago: San'in Hōsō, 1978.
  • (in Japanese) Shin Izumo fudoki (新出雲風土記) / A New Topography of Izumo. Nihon no Bi: Gendai Nihon Shashin Zenshū 5. Tokyo: Shūeisha, 1980. A large-format collection of color photographs of Izumo. Despite the additional English title (provided inconspicuously within the colophon), this book has no captions or text in English.
  • Ueda Shōji besutan shashinchō: Shiroi kaze (植田正治ベス単写真帖・白い風) / Brilliant Scenes. Tokyo: Nippon Camera, 1981. ISBN 4-8179-2003-3.
  • (in Japanese) Ueda Shōji (植田正治). Shōwa Shashin Zen-shigoto 10. Tokyo: Asahi Shinbunsha. 1983.
  • Kidō kaiki (軌道回帰) / Shoji Ueda Polaroid 35m/m Photo Album. 3 vols. Self-published, 1986.
  • Sakyū: Ueda Shōji shashinshū (砂丘:植田正治写真集) / Dunes. Tokyo: Parco, 1986. ISBN 4-89194-129-4.
  • Shoji Ueda: Fotografien 1930–1986. Bremen: Forum Böttcherstrasse Bremen, Museum für Fotografie und Zeitkunst Bremen, 1987.
  • Umi kaze yama iro: Shashinshū (海風山色:写真集〈中国路〉) / The view of Chugokuji. Tokyo: Gyōsei, 1990.
  • Ueda Shōji sakuhinten: Sakyū gekijo (植田正治作品展:砂丘劇所). JCII Photo Salon Library 15. Tokyo: JCII Photo Salon, 1992. Catalogue of an exhibition.
  • (in Japanese) Ueda Shōji no shashin (植田正治の写真) / Shoji Ueda. Tokyo: Tokyo Station Gallery, 1993. Catalogue of an exhibition held at the Tokyo Station Gallery in July–August 1993. With a very little text in English and French, but captions and much other material in Japanese only.
  • Ueda Shōji shashinshū (植田正治写真集) / Shoji Ueda: Photographs. Tokyo: Takarajima-sha, 1995. ISBN 4-7966-1015-4.
  • Shoji Ueda Photographs: 1930's–1990's. Kishimoto, Tottori: Shoji Ueda Museum of Photography, 1995.
  • Ueda Shōji sakuhinshū (植田正治作品集). Text by Ikezawa Natsuki (池沢夏樹). Tokyo: Parco, 1995.
  • Stone Sculpture. Text by Nakaoka Shintarō (中岡慎太郎). Tokyo BeeBooks, 1996. ISBN 4-89615-837-7.
  • (in Japanese) "Oku no hosomichi" o yuku (「おくのほそ道」をゆく). Text by Kuroda Momoko (黒田杏子). Shotor Library. Tokyo: Shōgakkan, 1997. ISBN 4-09-343103-5. A lavishly illustrated retracing of the Oku no hosomichi of Matsuo Bashō.
  • (in Japanese) Ueda Shōji (植田正治). Nihon no Shashinka 20. Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1998. ISBN 4-00-008360-0.
  • Ueda Shōji shashin no sakuhō: Amachua shokun! (植田正治・写真の作法:アマチュア諸君!). Kyoto: Kōrinsha, 1999. ISBN 4-7713-0352-5.
  • Shoji Ueda. Collection l'Oiseau rare. Trezelan: Filigranes, 2000. ISBN 2-910682-72-2.
  • Ueda Shōji Watakushi no shashin sakuhō (植田正治私の写真作法). Tokyo: TBS Britannica, 2000. ISBN 4-484-00217-5.
  • Manazashi no kioku: Dareka no kataware de (まなざしの記憶:だれかの傍らで). Text by Washida Kiyokazu (鷲田清一). Tokyo: TBS Britannica, 2000. ISBN 4-484-00414-3.
  • Masaharu Fukuyama Portraits, Shoji Ueda Photographs. Kishimoto, Tottori: Shoji Ueda Museum of Photography, 2002. Catalogue of an exhibition held July–September 2002. Two volumes.
  • Une ligne subtile: Shoji Ueda, 1913–2000. Lausanne: Musée de l'Élysée; Paris: Maison européenne de la photographie, c2006. ISBN 2-88474-015-5.
  • Una Línia Subtil: Shoji Ueda 1913-2000. Barcelona: Fundació la Caixa, 2005. ISBN 978-84-7664-876-6. In Catalan and English.
  • Una Línea Sutil: Shoji Ueda 1913-2000. Barcelona: Fundació la Caixa, 2005. ISBN 978-84-7664-877-3. In Spanish and English.
  • (in Japanese) Ueda Shōji shashinshū: Fukinukeru kaze (植田正治写真集:吹き抜ける風). Tokyo: Kyūryūdō, 2006. ISBN 4-7630-0606-1
  • Ueda Shōji (植田正治) / Ueda Shoji. Hysteric 16. Tokyo: Hysteric Glamour, 2006. (Inconspicuously, Ueda Shōji "chiisai denki" (植田正治「小さい伝記」) / Ueda Shoji, "Small Biography".) A collection of Ueda's series "Small Biography" (小さい伝記, Chiisai denki), as it appeared in Camera Mainichi in the 1970s and 1980s.
  • (in Japanese) Boku no arubamu (僕のアルバム) / An Album: The Everlasting Story. Tokyo: Kyūryūdō, 2007. ISBN 978-4-7630-0729-2. Despite the alternative title in English, all in Japanese. Photographs circa 1935–50, for the most part previously unpublished, and from prints newly made from Ueda's negatives. Many are of Ueda's wife.
  • Ueda Shōji no sekai (植田正治の世界). Corona Books 136. Tokyo: Heibonsha, 2007. ISBN 978-4-582-63434-1.
  • (in Japanese) Ueda Shōji: Chiisai denki (植田正治 小さい伝記) / Small Biography. Hankyū Komyunikēshonzu, 2007. ISBN 978-4-484-07235-7. Only in Japanese, despite the alternative title.

Other books with works by Ueda[edit]

  • (in Japanese) Ueda Shōji to sono nakama-tachi: 1935–55 (植田正治とその仲間たち:1935~55, Shōji Ueda and his friends, 1935–55). Yonago, Tottori: Yonago City Museum of Art, 1992. Catalogue of an exhibition held in February–March 1992 in Yonago City Museum of Art, with reproductions of many of Ueda's works.
  • Suihen no kioku: San'yō San'in no shashinka-tachi: Ueda Shōji, Hayashi Tadahiko, Midorikawa Yōichi, Matsumoto Norihiko ten (水辺の記憶:山陽山陰の写真家たち「植田正治・林忠彦・緑川洋一・松本徳彦」展). Onomichi, Hiroshima: Onomichi City Museum of Art, 1999. Catalogue of an exhibition of the works of Ueda, Tadahiko Hayashi, Yōichi Midorikawa and Norihiko Matsumoto.
  • Midorikawa Yōichi to yukari no shashinka-tachi 1938–59 (緑川洋一とゆかりの写真家たち1938~59). Okayama: Okayama Prefectural Museum of Art, 2005.
  • Yamagishi, Shoji, ed. Japan, a Self-Portrait. New York: International Center of Photography, 1979. ISBN 0-933642-01-6 (hard), ISBN 0-933642-02-4 paper). Pages 105–110 are devoted to Ueda's work.
  • Self-Portrait. Hysteric 2. Tokyo: Hysteric Glamour, 1991.
  • (in Japanese) Sengo shashin / Saisei to tenkai (戦後写真・再生と展開) / Twelve Photographers in Japan, 1945–55. Yamaguchi: Yamaguchi Prefectural Museum of Art, 1990. Catalogue of an exhibition held in Yamaguchi Prefectural Museum of Art. Despite the alternative title in English, almost exclusively in Japanese (although each of the twelve has a potted chronology in English). Twenty-one of Ueda's photographs of people on the Tottori dunes appear on pp. 104–114.
  • Tachihara Michizō. Ushinawareta yoru ni: Tachihara Michizō shishū (失なわれた夜に:立原道造詩集). Tokyo: Sanrio, 1975. A poetry collection by Michizō Tachihara.


  1. ^ Shōji Yamagishi, afterword to Ueda, Dōreki / Children the Year Around.
  2. ^ Sean O'Hagan, Shōji Ueda: the most beautiful, surprising photobook of the year, The Guardian, 18 December 2015.


  • (in Japanese) Nihon no shashinka (日本の写真家) / Biographic Dictionary of Japanese Photography. Tokyo: Nichigai Associates, 2005. ISBN 4-8169-1948-1. Despite its alternative English title, in Japanese only.
  • (in Japanese) Nihon shashinka jiten (日本写真家事典) / 328 Outstanding Japanese Photographers. Kyoto: Tankōsha, 2000. ISBN 4-473-01750-8. Despite its alternative English title, in Japanese only.
  • Tucker, Anne Wilkes, et al. The History of Japanese Photography. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003. ISBN 0-300-09925-8.
  • (in Japanese) Ueda Shōji (植田正治). Nihon no Shashinka 20. Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1998. ISBN 4-00-008360-0. Particularly the chronology on pp. 68–9.

External links[edit]