Born and raised in Tokyo, Hiroshi Hamaya (1915 - 1999) is considered to have been one of the most eminent Japanese documentary photographers of the 20th Century. He began his career documenting the city of Tokyo from the air and the street, working as both an aeronautical photographer and a freelance contributor to magazines. An assignment in 1939 took him to the rural coast of the Sea of Japan, where he became interested in documenting the traditional customs of its people and the austere environment of the region. Over the next two decades he recorded life on the back coast prefectures, developing a more humanist, ethnographic approach toward photography. In the early 1950s he settled in the seaside town of Ōiso, where he produced books based on earlier projects. Later in his career, Hamaya chronicled the massive demonstrations against the renewal of the US-Japan Security in Tokyo in 1960, and also made studies of landscapes found in Japan and abroad.
"I came to realize that natural features in Japan, like the nature of its people, were extremely diversified and complex. I intended to investigate this conclusion with my own eyes." - Hiroshi Hamaya, 'My Fifty Years of Photography', 1982
In 1959 the proposed ten-year renewal of the United States - Japan Security Treaty of 1952 meant the continuation of the presence of U.S. troops and the persistence of U.S. political and cultural influence. When Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, with the aid of the police, forced the Japanese parliament to ratify the treaty in May 1960, the public upheaval was immense. Hamaya, a pacifist living outside Tokyo, entered the fray with his camera, chronicling the demonstrations - resulting in works such as Grief and Anger (1960).
"I have gained some new insights into Man through having looked deeply at Nature."
- Hiroshi Hamaya
Hiroshi Hamaya was the first Japanese photographer to join Magnum photos as an associate member in 1960, and won the prestigious Hasselblad Award in 1987. His works are included in renowned private and public collections worldwide, and he was recently honoured with a two-man show at The Getty Museum, New York in 2013.