Unidentified Photographer

"Hop Scotch"

Tinted albumen print, circa 1880

A traditional Japanese children's game, ishikeri-asobi, is similar to hopscotch games found in other cultures.

The unknown photographer has achieved something magical in this photograph. Most Japanese genre scenes of the time are carefully-staged tableaux in which the people are arranged in studio settings like so many porcelain dolls. This image, however, is taken in a real village and has qualities we now associate with photojournalism. The crowd appears lively and spontaneous, and the boy who is at the center of the composition is poised to make a jump -- anticipating by half a century the "decisive moment" photographs of the great Henri Cartier-Bresson.

 

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