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Toronto, Ontario, Canada
"To take a photograph is to align the head, the eye and the heart. It's a way of life." ~ Henri Cartier-Bresson

Monday, October 17, 2011

Photographer Iwase Yoshiyuki's Ama Divers ~ 1950's (and selected works)

Iwase Yoshiyuki was born in 1904 in Onjuku, a fishing village on the pacific side of the Chiba peninsula, which encloses Tokyo Bay on the east. After graduating from Meiji University Law School in 1924, he took up lifelong pursuits, heading the family sake distillery and documenting the receding traditions of coastal Japan. In the late 1920's Yoshiyuki received an early Kodak camera as a gift. Since the main livelihood of the town came from the sea he gravitated there, and soon found a passion for "the simple, even primitive beauty" of ama - girls and women who harvested seaweed, turban shells, oysters (which sometimes had pearls) and abalone from beneath the coastal waters. 

Ama divers went out three times a day, requiring extensive eating and warming at the fireside between runs. A good harvest required long, cold dives, up to four minutes of hard underwater work on a single lungful of air. As such, ama divers were paid enormous salaries, often making more a few week season than the men of the village made in a year. When Yoshiyuki began shooting in the late 1920s, there were several hundred ama divers active in the seven harbours of the Iwawada coast (Kohaduki, Oohaduki, Futamata, Konado, Tajiri, Koura and Nagahama). By the late 1960's this 2000 year old way of life had disappeared. Yoshiyuki's  images are the most comprehensive document of ama divers ever produced and a stunning visual testament to these fascinating iconic women.


 Iwase Yoshiyuki at "work"

 Iwase Yoshiyuki's Fine Art Nudes


  1. I followed the link from nessymessychic site to see who the incredible photographer is who filmed a part of Japan's cultural heritage so beautifully and thought I'd convey my appreciation and delight to you for an amazing collection of photographs. The times have changed and yet there are people like you who have kept history alive.
    THANK YOU Anthony Luke. Long live!
    I have a small little website www.lovelaughter.net and would love to display a few of your photographs there as well as the link to your site and some narration. Would it be ok for you to permit me to do so ...?
    Deepak Menon
    Dehradun, India
    demoninlove at yahoo

    1. Hello Deepak,
      many thanks for stopping by to take a look at the blog. I appreciate your kind words greatly.

      Please feel free to link and use any images you like with links to my post.


  2. Stunning photos in all their simplicity.
    Al Hutchison

  3. This is so Beautiful. Artistic. Sensuous. Authentic. Thank you...