Soichi Sunami

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Soichi Sunami
Born (1885-02-18)February 18, 1885
Okayama Prefecture, Japan
Died November 12, 1971(1971-11-12) (aged 86)
New York City, USA
Nationality American
Occupation Photographer
Spouse(s) Suyeko Matsushima Sunami (married 1945–1971)
Children John Soichi Sunami and Reiko Sunami Kopelson

Soichi Sunami was a modernist photographer, influenced by the pictorialist movement, and best known for his portraits of early modern dancers, including Ruth St Denis, Agnes De Mille, Helen Tamiris and Martha Graham, with whom he maintained an extended artistic collaboration.[1] Born in Okayama Prefecture, Japan, on February 18, 1885,[2] he emigrated to the United States in 1905. In 1907 he arrived in Seattle, where he worked for photographer Ella E. McBride,[3] who was a fellow member of the Seattle Camera Club (an association largely made up of Japanese-American immigrant photographers) and won three times an award from an art salon hosted by local department store Frederick & Nelson.[2] By 1922, he had moved to New York City, where he briefly worked for photographer Nickolas Muray before enrolling at the Art Students League, alongside classmate Alexander Calder, under the primary tutelage of Ashcan painter John Sloan[2] (after whom he would later name his son).

For nearly forty years (from 1930 until 1968)[4] he was the official staff photographer at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City,[2] a position that helped him avoid internment during World War II. His influential friends and admirers included artist Natalie Hays Hammond and MoMA founder Abby Aldrich Rockefeller.[2] He became an American citizen on August 5, 1957, and died on November 12, 1971.[2] Several members of his family followed him into the arts, including son John Sunami (a public artist, and pioneer in the field of digital art),[5] son-in-law Robert Kopelson (pianist),[6] granddaughter Julia Kopelson (photographer),[7] granddaughter Jennifer Sunami (graphic design), grandson Christopher Sunami (organizer of the Columbus Invitational Arts Competition[8]), and granddaughter-in-law April Sunami (painter).[9]


Starting on October 11, 2018, Cascadia Art Museum of Edmonds, Washington, is staging "Invocation of Beauty: The Life and Photography of Soichi Sunami," one of the first major retrospectives of Sunami's work since his death. It will be accompanied by a new book by art historian David F. Martin. [10]. The following month, starting on November 30th, a second retrospective will take place of Sunami's work at the Cultural Arts Center in Columbus, Ohio, as part of "Generations of Art: The Sunami Family," a group show also featuring work by John Sunami, Jennifer Sunami and April Sunami, as well as music by Christopher Sunami.[11] The opening reception will also feature a rare, authorized recreation of an original Graham dance, Heretic, as performed by Columbus Modern Dance Company.


  1. ^ "The Arts - 'Shadows of a Fleeting World' reveals a hidden chapter in Seattle's cultural history - Seattle Times Newspaper". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 6 January 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Seattle Camera Club from Kathy Muir". Retrieved 31 December 2014. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Seattle Camera Club from Kathy Muir". Retrieved 31 December 2014. 
  5. ^ "Artist Profile: John Sunami". Broad and High. Retrieved 31 December 2014. 
  6. ^ "Our Artists". Retrieved 31 December 2014. 
  7. ^ "ArtSlant - Julia Kopelson". ArtSlant. Retrieved 31 December 2014. 
  8. ^ Michael Grossberg. "200 Columbus Invitational: Performance, music and more to be showcased". The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved 6 January 2015. 
  9. ^ "Artist Profile: April Sunami & the Psychewelic Exhibit". Broad and High. Retrieved 31 December 2014. 
  10. ^ "Invocation of Beauty: The Life and Photography of Soichi Sunami". Retrieved 5 September 2018. 
  11. ^ "Gallery Schedule". Retrieved 5 September 2018.