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Generated image of the artwork: (Ainu elders, Yezu, Hokkaido) (from 'Japan' album)

(Ainu elders, Yezu, Hokkaido) (from 'Japan' album) early 1870s

Austrian-born Baron Raimund von Stillfried-Ratenicz was a trained painter and had pursued varied careers before settling in Yokohama as a photographer. His technically and poetically accomplished compositions draw the viewer into an intimate engagement with the subject.

Stillfried-Ratenicz worked in both formal studio portraiture and documentary-style 'roadside' photography. Ainu elders, Yezu/Hokkaido is an example of the latter and refers to the fraught history of the Ainu people of Japan. During the Tokugawa period (1600-1868) the indigenous Ainu became increasingly involved in trade with the Japanese, who controlled the southern portion of the island now called Hokkaido. During the Meiji Restoration, the government enforced a policy of assimilation in which the Ainu were prohibited from observing daily customs and from practising their language and religion; a protracted resistance ensued.

Mellissa Kavenagh, 2010.