In 1908 German-born American Arnold Genthe (1869-1942) went on a 6-month visit to Japan. Already a famous celebrity photographer based in San Francisco, Genthe took hundreds of photographs of the Asian country during what was called the Meiji era. A period of Japanese history lasting from 1868 to 1912 and a time of profound change when the country moved quickly from an isolated feudal society to a relatively modern and industrialised nation.
Only two years earlier, Genthe’s studio in San Francisco, which he had opened in 1896, was destroyed in the huge earthquake and fire of 1906. Genthe, who surveyed the ruins with the actress Sarah Bernhard, had luckily kept the majority of his photographs in a bank vault which meant that they survived the carnage. After rebuilding his studio he made his trip out east.