A Studio Portrait, 1962

This portrait looks quite old fashioned, but it was made in the early 1960s by the Ninomayo Photography Studio in Los Angeles.  Located in Los Angeles’s Japan Town, this Japanese American business began in the 1920s and shut down during the forced incarceration of Japanese Americans in World War Two.  It started up again after the war and continued into the 1980s. A treasure trove of studio photographs was recently discovered and is being digitized by the California State University, Dominguez Hills.  Read about it here.

Most of the portraits made by the studio were of the Japanese American residents of Los Angeles.  Going by the last name “Tom” and the clothing of the woman, however, this couple is most likely of Chinese origin.  How very interesting that she wears pants with her tunic, a dress style abandoned by many Chinese American women as they adapted to American fashions.  Obviously this older woman didn’t need to wait until the 1970s to make her turn to pants.

I would love to know more about where the picture was taken.  None of the other studio backdrops I have seen portrayed this imagined Asian theme.  Perhaps it was taken in a cultural center.  Doesn’t the man’s suit, even though out of style, contrast sharply with the woman’s work-a-day look? But perhaps there are elegant details in her outfit that I can’t see.

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2 Responses to A Studio Portrait, 1962

  1. Bob Moeller says:

    Could there be a gendered split, the ‘traditional woman’ and the ‘modern man’? And why wouldn’t this be in the photograper’s studio? Could the photographer simply have been anticipating the wishes of Asian American clients?

  2. Davrie says:

    It is interesting to see her wear this particular garment.

    The qipao/cheongsam would be the most popular form of dress for Chinese women at this point. (Generally, those who were middle class, but by the 60s was the time when the qipao/cheongsam was worn by the widest range of people.)

    The clothing that the woman is wearing looks very much what working-class women wore for most of the 20th century.

    Some Chinese people say that this garment is still actually worn as everyday wear in some rural provinces in China ( though please do your own research to clarify

    1Here is a picture dated from 1959 and you may see that the older woman is wearing a qipao

    (Link for the photo: https://i.pinimg.com/originals/fd/18/b8/fd18b8ecd0589511cc9a2b04a0b0d213.jpg)

    You may compare the qipao that the older woman is wearing to those in the link below.

    Which showed what was the fashionable qipao for the 1960s ( The qipao of the 1950s and the 60s are similar. Except for the fact that the length went from being calf-length to knee-length)


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