The album of photographs of Japan assembled by Russell Sturgis begins in the traditional arrival point in the country at the harbor of Yokohama and travels westward toward Nagasaki, tracing the typical tourist route outlined in period guidebooks, travelogues, and journalistic narratives. The photographs are the work of multiple studios. One spread juxtaposes views of the Dainichi-do Garden in Nikko by Kusakabe Kimbei and the Yōmeimon Gate of Tōshōgū Shrine, also in Nikko, by an unidentified photographer. The photographs feature asymmetrical compositions typical of Japanese aesthetics, yet Sturgis subtly mirrors elements across the gutter, imposing a sense of balance and symmetry through the juxtaposition that is more characteristic of Western classical design. The screen of branches in the top left corner of the garden photograph echoes the shadowy wedge in the upper right corner of the temple photograph. The buildings in the pictures reflect each other, each facing inward at three-quarter view. Although there is no evidence that Sturgis ever traveled to Japan, he took an early interest in Japanese art and culture, writing in 1868, “The Europeans and Americans who have visited Japan have done us good service by bringing away the beautiful things they have brought.”
Kusakabe Kimbei (Japanese, 1841–1934), Dainichi-do, Nikko, n.d.; and Unknown, Temple Gateway, Nikko, n.d. Hand-colored, mounted albumen prints, Japan, vol. 8. Russell Sturgis Photograph Collection, Kranzberg Art & Architecture Library, Washington University in St. Louis.