These photographs of Northeast Asia from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries give people today a window on the economic, environmental, and geopolitical context of the time. This essay introduces some of the early photographs from Japan, Korea, and adjacent lands—scenes that families in the US viewed with the aid of the right-eye, left-eye lenses of the viewstand, or stereograph, so they could enjoy a vivid 3-D experience—to learn about lands that were then unknown to them.
Thanks to the Florence Tan Moeson Fellowship at the Library of Congress Asian Reading Room, I was able to spend a week browsing and copying early photos from Japan, Korea, and Manchuria in the Prints and Photographs room. Much of this is online in various file sizes at loc.gov/pictures, but the majority are not yet digitized. Selected images are reprinted here with permission, but complete photosets may be seen online at http://old-japanphotos.wikispaces.com and http://old-koreaphotos.wikispaces.com. Most of these images come from the thousands of stereographs in the Prints and Photographs collection.