Horace Bristol - the photographer of Japanese tattoo in the 40s

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Horace Bristol (1908-1997) was a prominent American photographer, best known for his images for "Life" magazine. There were many other magazines that featured his images such as "Times", "Fortune", "Sunset" and "National Geographic".

During World War II, he was called upon to photograph US military battles. His stay in Japan gave him the opportunity to take many pictures of the daily life in Tokyo. One of the aspects of his work was recording traditional Japanese tattoos. In his collection we comes across rare photographs, but unfortunately only part of them survived after he destroyed most of his photographic archive after the death of his first wife in 1956, when he also ended his career as a photographer. Undoubtedly, his images are part of the history of tattooing in Japan, as well as of worldwide tattoo.

A Japanese tattoo artist works on the shoulder of a Yakuza gang member in Tokyo, Japan, in 1946. Images by © Horace Bristol.

A Japanese tattoo artist works on the back of a woman in Tokyo, Japan in 1946. Image by © Horace Bristol.

Tattooed Bathers at a Public Bath in Tokyo, Japan, in 1946.

A Japanese tattoo artist works on the leg of a Yakuza gang member in Tokyo, Japan in 1946. Image by © Horace Bristol.

A Japanese tattoo artist works on the back of a woman in Tokyo, Japan in 1946. Image by © Horace Bristol.

A Japanese tattoo artist works on the shoulder of a Yakuza gang member in Tokyo, Japan, in 1946. Images by © Horace Bristol

A Japanese tattoo artist works on the shoulder of a Yakuza gang member in Tokyo, Japan in 1946. Image by © Horace Bristol.

A Japanese tattoo artist works on the shoulder of a Yakuza gang member in Tokyo, Japan in 1946. Image by © Horace Bristol.

Tattoos cover the skins of Japanese cadavers that were donated for research and preservation in Tokyo, Japan, in 1946. Image by © Horace Bristol.

Tattoos cover the skins of Japanese cadavers that were donated for research and preservation in Tokyo, Japan, in 1946. Image by © Horace Bristol.

Tattooed Men at Public Bath in Tokyo, Japan, in 1946. Image by © Horace Bristol.

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