Yasuhiro Wakabayashi

By Rebekah Lazear


Hiro, full name Yasuhiro Wakabayashi, is a celebrated fashion photographer from Japan. He moved to America to become a photographer, finding mentors in Richard Avedon and Alexey Brodovitch, (“Hiro”). His unique photographs are known for his originality and are often called surreal. From his career beginnings to today, he is a celebrated artist whose works include fashion, advertising, landscapes, portraits, and children (“Hiro”). His interest in photography stemmed from an unexpected place.

Born in 1930 to Japanese parents in Shanghai, (Hay). Hiro moved to Japan after the Second World War. While working at an American hotel, he picked up the magazines guests threw out to study the images (Hay). In 1954, Hiro moved to New York City to study at the School of Modern Photography. Finding the school unsatisfactory, he decided to become a photographic apprentice instead.

His work for the famous photographer Richard Avedon earned him an introduction to Harper’s Bazaar art director Alexey Brodovitch, (“Hiro (2)”). Hiro held a position as staff photographer for Harper’s Bazaar from 1956-1966 and continued to contribute work independently for the following 10 years. He worked with innumerable designers including Pierre Cardin, Elsa Peretti, Halston, and Harry Winston (for whom he produced an iconic image of a necklace on a bovine hoof). In 1969, the American Society of Magazine Photographers named him Photographer of the Year, (“Hiro”). In 1982, trade publication American Photographer devoted an entire issue to the question, “Is this Man America’s Greatest Photographer?” (Hay). Now 88- years-old, Hiro works from his Central Park West, New York City studio, maintaining his signature style of surrealist meets commercial photography.

Hiro’s style is unique, unexpected, and elegant. The image of the Harry Winston necklace on a hoof is an example of his signature juxtaposition of differing elements, (“Hiro”). His photographs are known for technical innovation in the use of bold color and light, (“Hiro (2)”). He is also recognized for precision and distinction, often using directness and simplicity to shock, (Feeney). His aesthetic fit the boldness of the 1960’s, a decade in which he explored his own style of graphic elegance. Bold colors, an exquisite sense of form, and an unmistakable signature style define Hiro’s stamp on the world of fashion photography.

Article References Feeney, Mark. “Hiro and Kenneth Paul Block at the MFA.” Boston Globe. Boston Globe Media Partners, LLC, 16 Dec. 2015. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

Hay, Ellie. “A Lifetime in Fashion Photography: Honouring Hiro.” AnOther. AnOther Publishing Ltd., 19 Jan 2016. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

“Hiro.” Home. Joseph M. Cohen, n.d. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

“Hiro(2).” Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 12 Dec. 2015. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

Amanda Harth