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Front cover of Minamata, a collection of Kuwabara's photographs of the effects of mercury poisoning.

Shisei Kuwabara (桑原 史成, Kuwabara Shisei, born 7 October 1936) is a photojournalist best known for his depiction of the effects of mercury poisoning on people in and near Minamata over a period of some forty years.

Kuwabara was born — as Fumiaki Kuwabara (桑原史成, Kuwabara Fumiaki) — in the village of Kibe (now part of Tsuwano), Shimane Prefecture, Japan.[1] In 1960 he graduated from the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Tokyo Photo School (later Tokyo College of Photography).

In the same year Kuwabara started work as a freelance photographer. With a letter of introduction from a journalist with Shūkan Asahi magazine, he visited the director of Minamata Municipal Hospital, Dr Noboru Ōhashi, in July, to ask for permission to photograph. Ōhashi gave him permission for long-term coverage.[2]

Kuwabara's photographs of Minamata were shown in his first solo exhibition, Minamata-byō (Minamata disease), at the Fuji Photo Salon in Tokyo in September 1962. This won the newcomers' award of the Japan Photo Critics Association.[3]

Kuwabara's works have also won an award from Kodansha in 1965, the Photographic Society of Japan's Annual Award in 1971, and the Ina Nobuo Award in 1982.[4]

Since 1997, Tsuwano has had a gallery largely devoted to Kuwabara's work. Until March 2004, this was called the Tsuwano Documentary Photograph Gallery; it was then renamed the Shisei Kuwabara Photographics Museum.



  1. ^ Birthday: Works by 25 Photographers in their 20s (catalogue of an exhibition held at Kiyosato Museum of Photographic Arts in 1995), p. 89. Place of birth and original name: ‹See Tfd›(in Japanese) CV Archived 2004-10-23 at Much other information below comes from one or other of these sources.
  2. ^ Start at Minamata: Works by 25 Photographers, pp. 82–3. This catalogue also presents examples of his early work in Minamata, and a potted CV.
  3. ^ JPCA award: 25 Photographers, p. 89.
  4. ^ Kōdansha award: ‹See Tfd›(in Japanese) 講談社出版文化賞【写真賞】 (過去の受賞者一覧) Archived 2010-04-18 at the Wayback Machine (list of award winners). PSJ award: ‹See Tfd›(in Japanese) 日本写真協会 過去の受賞者一覧 (PSJ, list of past award-winners). Ina Nobuo Award: ‹See Tfd›(in Japanese) 7回(1982年)伊奈信男賞 (announcement of the 7th Ina Nobuo Award to Shinzō Hanabusa and Kuwabara).

Books by KuwabaraEdit

  • Shashin-shū Minamata-byō (写真集 水俣病) / Minamata Desease [sic]. Tokyo: San'ichi Shobō, 1965.
  • Shashin-kiroku Minamata-byō 1960–1970 (写真記録 水俣病 1960–1970, "Documentary: Minamata disease"). Tokyo: Asahi Shinbun, 1970.
  • Seikatsusha gunzō (生活者群像, "Collage of living people"). Tokyo: San'ichi Shobō, 1980.
  • Minamata Kankoku Betonamu (水俣・韓国・ベトナム). Tokyo: Banseisha, 1982.
  • Tōji no sato Kōrai, Richō (陶磁の里 高麗・李朝). Tokyo: Iwanami, 1984.
  • Kōrai, Richō gendai tōjisen (高麗・李朝現代陶磁撰). Tokyo: Mainichi Shinbun, 1985.
  • Kankoku genkei (韓国原影, "Korea's original scenes"). Tokyo: San'ichi Shobō, 1986.
  • Minamata (水俣, "Minamata"). Komichi Shobō, 1986.
  • Hōdōshashinka (報道写真家, "Documentary photographer"). Tokyo: Iwanami, 1989.
  • Kankoku shinjō toro (韓国真情吐露, "Expressing genuine sentiments about Korea"). Tokyo: Ōtsuki, 1990. ISBN 4-272-62013-4
  • Yameru taikoku Roshia (病める大国 ロシア, "Russia, a sick great nation"). Tokyo: Heibonsha, 1995. ISBN 4-582-27731-4
  • Kuwabara Shisei / Minamata (桑原史成/水俣). Tokyo: Nihon Tosho Sentā, 1996. ISBN 4-8205-7297-0 Black and white photographs, in one volume (sold separately) of a multivolume set about pollution in Japan. In Japanese only.
  • Kuwabara Shisei shashin zenshū (桑原史成写真全集, The Complete Works of Kuwabara, Shinsei.) Tokyo: Kusa-no-Ne. Each of these four volumes contains explanatory text in English as well as Japanese.
  • Imujin-gan: Kaima-mita Kita Chōsen (イムジンガン:垣間見た北朝鮮, "Imjin-gang: Glimpses of North Korea"). Tokyo: Kusa-no-Ne, 2003. ISBN 4-87648-189-X Black and white photographs of North Korea. In Japanese only.

Other books with works by KuwabaraEdit

  • Nihon shashin no tenkan: 1960 nendai no hyōgen (日本写真の転換:1960時代の表現) / Innovation in Japanese Photography in the 1960s. Tokyo: Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, 1991. Exhibition catalogue, text in Japanese and English. Pp. 104–113 are devoted to Kuwabara's photographs of Minamata.

External linksEdit