Born in Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan, I graduated from the Department of Photography of Nihon University in 1975. I moved to Los Angeles, where I worked as a production coordinator for Japanese television commercials and later co-founded a Japanese coordination services company. I obtained an MBA from the UCLA Anderson Business School in 1993. Two years later, however, my earlier interest in photography revived, and I started to travel worldwide, extensively photographing what I found intriguing at each moment and place. As of 2000, I have worked full-time at photography.

After I produced five self-published books, my first collection to be published conventionally was I See Angels Every Day, monochrome portraits of patients and scenes from San Lázaro psychiatric hospital in Quito, Ecuador. This work won Japan’s 2007 Photo City Sagamihara Award for professional photographers.

In 2006, I won a Critical Mass Award from Photolucida, Portland, OR, resulting in publication of my monograph Findings in 2007.

In 2006 and 2007, I traveled to North Korea, and my book documenting the experience, titled Ideology of Paradise, was published in Japan. With that work I won First Prize in the Santa Fe Center Project Competition in 2008.

In 2009 I received a commission from the San Jose (California) Museum of Art to document from an artist’s perspective subjects of my choice relating to the city’s Japantown. I decided to photograph artifacts from the Japanese internment camps established during the Second World War. All images from this project were purchased by the museum and exhibited in 2011.

In 2010 I was chosen as one of fourteen artists invited to photograph Venice, Italy, for a project called Real Venice, a major art initiative to raise funds for Venice. The artists were commissioned to visit the city and create a portfolio of images with total artistic freedom. The result, the Real Venice exhibition, was shown during the 54th Venice Biennale at San Giorgio Maggiore Abbey and later at the Somerset House in London (May 31 to September 30 and October 10 to December 11, 2011, respectively).

In 2013 I was invited to participate in Bull City Summer in Durham, North Carolina, a project inspired by the 25th anniversary of the movie Bull Durham. Ten nationally and internationally acclaimed photographers documented the 2013 season at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, home of the legendary minor league baseball team. The exhibit was shown at the North Carolina Museum of Art (February 23 to August 31, 2014).

From April 4 to July 21, 2014, my photographs of artifacts from the Tule Lake Japanese internment camps were the centerpiece exhibit in The Art of Survival: Enduring the Turmoil of Tule Lake, at the Favell Museum in Klamath Falls, Oregon. The exhibition is currently on tour in the US.

In 2016 I received a grant from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation.  www.pkf.org

Books (Monographs)

  • Veiled Observations and Reflections (self-published), 2002
  • FACES (a self-published series of portrait projects), 2003–2005:
    1. San Lázaro Psychiatric Hospital, 2003

    2. Kabuki Players, 2004
    3. Ena Bunraku, 2004
    4. Noh Masks of Naito Clan, 2005
  •  I See Angels Every Day, Mado-sha, Tokyo, 2007
  • Findings, Photolucida, Portland, OR, 2007
  • Ideology in Paradise, Mado-sha, Tokyo, 2008
  • Suo Sarumawashi, photo-eye, Santa Fe, NM, 2009
  • Love Point, Toseisha, Tokyo, 2010
  • Love Point, Nazraeli Press, Portland, OR, 2010
  • The Day the Dam Collapses, Daylight Books, Hillsborough, NC, 2014

Wikipedia Hiroshi Watanabe (Photographer)


2000 London Photographic Awards
2002 Print Center
2002 Center for Photographic Art
2002 Photo Review
2003 International Photography Awards
2003 Photo Review
2004 Black & White Spider Awards
2005 Photo Review
2005 Black & White Spider Awards
2006 Aperture Portfolio Pick
2006 Photography Now
2006 Photolucida Critical Mass Book Award
2007 Photo City Sagamihara Awards
2008 Center Project Competition First Prize
2009 Hearst 8x10 Photography Biennial



His work is in the permanent collections of following art museums:

Philadelphia Museum of Art
Santa Monica Pier 2000

Houston Museum of Fine Arts
Ellis Island 2, New York 1999
White Terns, Midway Atoll 1999
El Arbolito Park, Quito, Ecuador 2002
Patient ES, Schizophrenia, San Lazaro Psychiatric Hospital 2002
Chikako Suga, Matsuo Kabuki 2003
Yuki Nonaka, Matsuo Kabuki 2003
Musume's Head, Ena Bunraku 2004
Yoroboshi, Naito Clan 2004

George Eastman House
Vietnam War Memorial, Washington D.C. 1999
Church, San Lazaro Psychiatric Hospital 2002

Santa Barbara Museum of Art
El Arbolito Park, Quito, Ecuador. 2002
Vietnam War Memorial, Washington D.C. 1999
Edison Pastillo, Ecuador. 2000

J. Paul Getty Museum
DPRK001 (Li Min Gyong, Pyongyang Schoolchildren's Palace, North Korea) 
DPRK145 (Songdowon International Children’s Camp, North Korea)
DPRK194 (Li Yu Kil, Pyongyang Schoolchildren's Palace, North Korea)
DPRK130 (Singers, Mangyondae Schoolchildren’s Palace, North Korea)

San Jose Museum of Art
Pipe-cleaner Flower Arrangement in Mayonnaise jar, Tule Lake, California
Shell Flower Arrangement in Gallon jug, Tule Lake, California
Pipe-cleaner Flower Arrangement in Gallon jug, Tule Lake, California 1
Pipe-cleaner Flower Arrangement in Gallon jug, Tule Lake, California 2
Deer carved by Tokushige, Heart Mountain, Wyoming
Carved Bird on Tree Branch
Carved Bird dressed with Shell Beads, Tule Lake, California
Japanese Doll made with old Kimono Fabric in Basket
Walking Cane made from Natural Wood by H. Esaki, Jerome, Arkansas
Major Walter Tanaka’s cap
Pipe-cleaner Doll with Painted Face on Shell 1
Flower Brooch made with Shells 1
Pipe-cleaner Doll with Painted Face on Shell 2
Carved Bird Pin (verso) in box
Flower Brooch made with Shells, Topaz, Utah 1
Pipe-cleaner Doll with Painted Face on Shell 3
Flower Brooch made with Shells 2
Flower Brooch made with Shells, Topaz, Utah 2
Flower brooch made with shells, Topaz, Utah 3

New Mexico Museum of Art
Choromatsu 2, Suo Sarumawashi

North Carolina Museum of Art
From "Bull City Summer" Project
Craig Abernaz's (Cather) Leg Protector
Baseball Nets
Trainer's Tools

Sir Elton John Collection
Battery Park, New York

Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
A Brick Factory in Udaipur
Street Barber, Agra, India
Sardar Market, Jodhpur, India
Jogdish Temple, Udaipur, India

Power Station of Art, Shanghai
Zouonna, Noh Masks of Naito Clan
Doji, Noh Masks of Naito Clan
Chujo, Noh Masks of Naito Clan