Baron von Stillfried

Austrian photographer and painter, active in Japan. He was a member of an aristocratic Austrian family. Although an experienced painter, he is known chiefly as a photographer, whose studio in Yokohama was immensely successful during the last quarter of the 19th century. Information on his formal training and his formative development as a photographer is sparse. He served as an officer, diplomat and reporter for the Austro‐Hungarian Empire, and it is known that his travels to Asia, notably Siam (now Thailand) and China, were the staging‐grounds for his first successful efforts in photography.

 

It is probable that in these places he began to discern an interest by Europeans in Orientalia and realized the commercial potential of photographic representations of Asian ʹtypesʹ and genre scenes of the region. Subsequently settling in Yokohama, he purchased the studio of the well‐known photographer Felice Beato in 1877, and worked almost exclusively as a studio portrait photographer, producing thousands of images of the working classes, actors in the theatre, geishas and craftsmen, primarily for tourists visiting the city.

 

He is perhaps best known for his photographic album book Views and Costumes of Japan (Yokohama) and has been credited with apprenticing several Japanese photographers, of whom the most successful and well‐known is undoubtedly Kimbei Kusakabe. He operated under the trade names Stillfried & Co., the Yokohama Library, the Japan Photographic Association and Stillfried & Anderson. He later sold his thriving enterprise to Kusakabe when he left Japan permanently in 1885, returning to Austria. Perhaps his greatest legacy is the photographs taken in the 1870s of samurai in their traditional dress, documented shortly after the Japanese imperial edict forbidding them from wearing topknots and bearing swords. Most of his photographs are the property of the Society de Geographie and are housed at the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris.