Born and raised in Tokyo, Hiroshi Hamaya (1915-1999) is one of the most eminent Japanese documentary photographers of the 20th century. Working as an aeronautical photographer and a freelance contributor to magazines during the 1930s, Hamaya began his career documenting his hometown from the sky and the streets.
An assignment in 1939 gave Hamaya the opportunity to travel to the rural coast of the Sea of Japan, where he became interested in documenting the traditional customs of its people and the austere climate of the region. Over the next two decades he recorded life in remote coastal prefectures, developing a more humanist, ethnographic approach toward photography. In the early 1950s Hamaya settled in the seaside town of Ōiso, where he begun to review his body of work and put together his first photobooks.
Later in his career, Hamaya would return to the sprawling urban labyrinth of his youth, to chronicle Tokyo’s massive demonstrations against the renewal of the US-Japan Security in 1960. The resultant photobook, Record of Anger and Grief (1960), would become one of the most famous exemplars of Japan’s post-war visual culture of protest.
Aside from his political reportage photography, Hamaya completed a series of landscapes, travelling within 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."
Hamaya was the first Japanese photographer to join Magnum, and his work was amongst the only Japanese contributions to Edward Steichen’s groundbreaking photography exhibition, The Family of Man (1955). His accolades include the Master of Photography Award from the International Centre of Photography, New York (1986) and the 1987 Hasselblad Award.
Hamaya's works are included in renowned private and public collections worldwide, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the British Museum, London. He was honoured with a two-man show at the J. Paul Getty Museum (2012), and has also been the subject of a major solo retrospective at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography (1993).