KOJIMA Ichiro[1924-1964]

KOJIMA Ichiro was born in 1924 in the Omachi (now Honcho) neighborhood of Aomori City as the firstborn son of a toy and photographic supply store owner. After graduating from Aomori Prefectural Commercial School (now Aomori Commercial High School), he served in World War II and began to pursue photography in earnest around 1954 following the turmoil of the postwar period.
Transforming ordinary subjects such as the garden of a Tsugaru farmhouse or a single road in a snowy field into extraordinary images, Kojima’s outstanding artistic sensibilities and precise technique won him the regard of NATORI Yonosuke, a pioneer of Japanese photojournalism. With Natori’s backing, Kojima held his first solo exhibition “Tsugaru” at the Konishiroku Gallery in Tokyo in 1958. The exhibition caused a stir and gave Kojima the momentum to move to Tokyo in 1961 in the hopes of becoming a professional photographer. In that same year, his series “The Rough Seas of Shimokita” depicting the Shimokita region of Aomori Prefecture was published in the photography magazine “Camera Art.” It also won him the Camera Art New Photographer Award, raising expectations for Kojima’ future work. He held his second solo exhibition “Freezing Cold” (Fuji Photo Salon, Tokyo), also featuring his Shimokita series, in 1962. In the following year, the anthology “Tsugaru in Poems, Writing, and Photographs” compiling Kojima’s most emblematic photographs of Tsugaru together with works by fellow Aomori-born novelist ISHIZAKA Yojiro and poet TAKAGI Kyozo was released by Shinchosha Publishing Company. It is the only collection of Kojima’s work produced during his lifetime. However, Kojima, who was most in his element when photographing his native Aomori, struggled to produce work in the new and unfamiliar environment of Tokyo. Amid a growing sense of frustration and in an attempt to break out of his creative slump in Tokyo, he decided to photograph the seasons of Hokkaido. He arrived there in the winter of 1963, but shooting did not go well. He fell ill due to repeated shooting expeditions in harsh conditions and returned to Aomori without having achieved his desired results. He died suddenly in July 1964 at the young age of 39.
From farmers working the autumn fields of the Tsugaru plain all day long to a fisherman desperately raising his boat while cold winds batter the Shimokita coast, a deep empathy for the inhabitants of his native Aomori is powerfully captured in Kojima’s photographs as if etched into the paper itself, using techniques such as dodging, burning, and reduplication. Even after his untimely death, his work was featured in exhibitions and photography magazines and has continued to draw growing acclaim in recent years. The retrospective exhibition “Ichiro Kojima: To the North, from the North” was held at the Izu Photo Museum (Shizuoka) to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of his death in 2014, and a reprinted edition of “Tsugaru in Poems, Writing, and Photographs” was published to coincide with this.
In 2009, the Aomori Museum of Art held the exhibition “KOJIMA Ichiro: Capturing the North,” the first large-scale retrospective to showcase the full scope of Kojima’s career, featuring about 300 works and other materials from among original prints, albums, and film that he left to his surviving family, including many unreleased works. Through this exhibition, numerous original prints and other materials related to Kojima entered the museum’s collection thanks to generous donations by his surviving family members.


Around Inagaki, Tsugaru
Gelatin silver print


Oma, Shimokita
Gelatin silver print


Kizukuri, Tsugaru
Gelatin silver print