Felice Beato's style was greatly inspired by Japanese aesthetic conventions, particularly the hand-colouring techniques, composition and imagery of ukiyo-e. In his photographs, colour in soft tones is precisely applied to animate fine detail, such as facial features or the motifs on a robe, which give the subjects a more life-like and multi-dimensional appearance. Buddhist priests illustrates how Beato worked with optically intriguing scenic backdrops to create a sense of depth while also striving for realness, a sense of 'Japanese-ness' in his image-making.
Many of Beato's images are staged representations, carefully arranged in studio settings with props and backdrops to create context and atmosphere. This attempt at contextualisation and the theatricality of presentation is a strong thread throughout Beato's studio portraits, and places these works within the broader tradition of documenting cultures at the time.
Mellissa Kavenagh, 2010.