Invocation of Beauty
The Life and Photography of Soichi Sunami
- PUBLISHED: November 2018
- SUBJECT LISTING: Art / Photography, Pacific Northwest / Art and Culture
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 144 Pages, 8.5 x 11 in, 150 color photographs
- ISBN: 9780998911212
Invocation of Beauty accompanies the first full-scale exhibition of this important American photographer. Drawing almost exclusively from the family archives, the book includes many images that have been previously unpublished.
Soichi Sunami was born in Okayama, Japan in 1885 and immigrated to the United States at the age of twenty and arrived in Seattle in 1907. Initially aspiring to be a painter and sculptor, he studied with local artist Fokko Tadama and became part of the Seattle art community. During this time, he became seriously interested in photography and apprenticed with important local figures such as Wayne Albee and Frank Asakichi Kunishige. He soon found employment in the photography studio of Ella McBride, who became associated with Seattle’s Cornish School in its early years. Important modern dancers such as Anna Pavlova and Ted Shawn performed in Seattle and were photographed by the McBride Studio through Nellie Cornish's connections. Many were or became major figures of modern dance.
When Sunami moved to New York in 1922, he attended the Art Students League to advance his art training. He met numerous visual artists who posed in his studio and employed him to photograph their works. Retaining his interest in modern dance from his connections in Seattle, Sunami soon began a collaboration with Martha Graham, producing some of the most iconic images of her dance performances. In 1930, Mrs. John D. Rockefeller Jr. asked him to become staff photographer at the new Museum of Modern Art. During the next thirty-eight years he produced more than twenty thousand large-format negatives for the MOMA archive and independently created an important body of work in the field of modern dance photography.
The book includes Sunami's rare, early pictorialist images of the Northwest landscape and follows his journey to the east coast where he became internationally recognized for his brilliant studies of dancers and cultural figures of the era.
Authors & Contributors
David F. Martin is an independent art historian and curator in Seattle.