Ekai Kawaguchi 1866-1945

Born Sakai, Japan


Ben-Yusuf’s photography was not limited to subjects she captured in her New York studio. When she traveled to Japan and China in 1903, she brought three cameras. As in New York, photography permitted her access to individuals of note, and despite being in a foreign land, she was not reluctant to pursue new subjects. Most significantly, Ben-Yusuf created this portrait of the famous Buddhist scholar Ekai Kawaguchi. Few individuals were as celebrated in Japan as Kawaguchi in the summer of 1903. In May, he arrived back in Kobe after six years abroad, during which time he became the first Japanese to enter Nepal and Tibet, both then closed to outsiders. His safe return and the story of his journey prompted celebrations throughout Japan. Ben-Yusuf’s portrait conveys a sense of respect that she surely felt in meeting and photographing him.

Platinum print, 1903
Philadelphia Museum of Art; purchased with the Lola Downin Peck Fund, the Alice Newton Osborn Fund, and with funds contributed by the Judith Rothschild Foundation, in honor of the 125th anniversary of the Museum, 2002