Japanese Widelife Photographer – Mitsuaki Iwago

September 21, 2011 Juju Kurihara Arts, Photography Tags: 1 Comment

neko loverWhen I first started assisting a photographer, he told me to decide one thing you like and take many of them. So, I walked around Tokyo with a half-framed camera, which was my very first camera and started taking photos of street cats. Everyday, stopped by the bookshop in front of my station and looked at photo books one by one.

One day, I picked one of those. It was a cat book somewhere in the Mediterranean, it must´ve been in Greece, white houses and old women in black, then cats in the every scene. I turned the book back to the front to see the name of the photographer. It was Mitusaki Iwago (岩合光昭).


national geo

Mitsuaki Iwago is a Japanese wildlife photographer and as far as I can see, he is a huge cat lover. Do you know how great he is? He is the first Japanese photographer whose photo was on the front page of the National Geographic, not even once but twice. Some might´ve seen this photo somewhere.



He is unlikely to his family name, Iwago (Iwa means Rock and Gou is to match or to fit), he takes very gentle photos that give you some sort of warm feeling.

worry-nsHow many of you actually smiled as you saw this photo? I bet you just had the same face as this seal.





Even the wild animals like polar bear, in Iwago´s hand, it looks like a dreamy girl.

Don´t get me wrong. I do like animal photos that show the harshness and merciless wildlife. They are thrilling and have strong impact. I do love them. And I´m not intend to fantasize the wildlife as if it´s a children´s fairy tale. But his photos make me think that the animals do have their own character and thought.


I admire Iwago as a photographer. He used to accompany the TV crew when they go to Africa. He may be doing now too. And I remember one scene from one of those trip.

The crew were sleeping in the camp in the middle of the wildlife national park, and one morning a massive tension ran through the crew. One grumpy elephant was coming towards the camp. All the TV staff left the camp and evacuated in the cars but filming.

Our Mr. Iwago was still in the camp with a towel around his waist because he was taking a shower or something. And now he was about to shave his beard.

The angry elephant was coming closer, roaring with his ears flapping.

Wow… it´s dangerous. That was what we all thought.

Then the photographer came out of the shed where the water sinks were and stood in front of the elephant only with his towel around the waist. Shaving form was on his face. 

He shouted at this giant animal.

I don´t remember what exactly her said at that time but something like "Shut up and go away! Uaaaaaa!!".

Suddenly the elephant stopped roaring, turned around and left the camp. I´m not kidding, it happened. Iwago just scolded the 5 tons of wildlife animal as if it was a house dog. And it worked. I was amazed, just amazed.

iwago & neko

When he´s not educating the wild animals, he´s chasing the cats. Or perhaps, he doesn´t need to chase them, they just come to him.

Take a peek of his photo books.

1 Comment

  1. Dr. Andreas Boedecker, Berlin 5 years Reply

    Dear Sirs,

    could you possibly do me a favour? My father and me, both dedicated wildlife photagraphers, have met Musuaki Iwago in Alaska in 1976. Unforntunately we lost contact. Could you eventually give me the personal e-mail adress of Mitsuaki Iwago?

    Thank you very much in advance!

    Yours sincerely
    Dr. Andreas Boedecker
    Kronberger Str. 20
    14193 Berlin / Germany
    mail: andreas@boedecker-berlin.de

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