SOAS University of London

Japan Research Centre

Trading Places: Photography and Anglo-Australian Merchants in Meiji Japan

Luke Gartlan
Luke Gartlan

Date: 25 October 2017Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 25 October 2017Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: KLT

Type of Event: Seminar

 Luke Gartlan Abstract
Suzuki Tōkoku, Untitled (Theophilus Alexander Singleton and Japanese man), carte de visite, on verso dated ‘June 1880’ with attached stamp ‘Sudzuki Toocoku, Asasi Dori, Yokohama’. State Library of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia.


In recent years scholars both in Japan and Australia have become increasingly concerned with the close ties between these two emerging nation-states in the nineteenth century. Whereas much of the scholarship on Japan’s international relations of the period has focused on the Euro-American ‘treaty port’ powers, this talk asserts the significance of merchants as transcultural mediators in the Asia-Pacific region. To do so, the analysis will focus on vernacular, often marginalised forms of visual culture such as family photograph albums, postcards, private art collections, and company adverts. Specifically, this talk will examine as case studies two business partners in Meiji Japan who shared strong personal ties to the Australian colony of Victoria: Samuel Cocking and Theophilus Alexander Singleton. Through their long-term careers spanning their entire adult lives in Japan, this talk aims to highlight the direct cultural ties between nineteenth-century Japan and Australia, and in so doing, to challenge those twentieth-century historical narratives that understood the two nations’ ties as mediated through the Euro-American metropolitan centres.

Speaker Biography

Luke Gartlan is Senior Lecturer in the School of Art History at the University of St Andrews. He is the author of A Career of Japan: Baron Raimund von Stillfried and Early Yokohama Photography (Brill, 2016), which recently received the Josef Kreiner Hosei University Award for International Japanese Studies. He has also co-edited two volumes of essays: with Roberta Wue, Portraiture and Early Studio Photography in China and Japan (Routledge, 2017) and, with Ali Behdad, Photography’s Orientalism: New Essays on Colonial Representation (Getty Research Institute, 2013). A former JSPS Fellow based at Nihon University, Luke also serves as editor-in-chief of the peer-reviewed quarterly journal History of Photography.


Organiser: Centres & Programmes Office & SOAS Japan Research Centre

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