Art Inspired by Vintage Photos

The artworks on this page were inspired by vintage photographs of young women and girls. In his East Meets West series (, British artist Gavin Mitchell paints over old vintage monochrome Japanese photos of girls and young women, adding western cultural elements from different time periods.

Gavin Mitchell: Monster Book for Girls (Pigment print with hand applied acrylic UV varnish on paper, hand finished with gold leaf & metal leaf; Affordable Art Fair 2019; Turner Barnes Gallery)

In the above photo, for example, the artist has painted in a few books that girls in the mid-20th century England might have been reading. The book that gives the painting its title, The Monster Book for Young Girls, was a popular series of short story anthologies.

In his Aging 2017-2018 series (–Aging-Painting/B888339EF2D5523F), New York-based Japanese artist Takahiro Yamamoto uses photorealistic painting techniques to produce recreations of antique postcards and photographs.

Takahiro Yamamoto: Untitled, from the series Aging, 2017-2018 (Oil on canvas, Art Central 2019, Masahiro Maki Gallery)

In the portrait shown above, the folded edge of the paper at the top left corner is a kind of trompe-l’œil—that is, it is a painting of a damaged corner that is meant to give a 3D effect (and is not an actual damaged corner). Similarly, the artist is trying to recreate in his painting the fading caused by the passage of time and all the imperfections—the scratches, tears and folds—caused by the people who handled the photo.  

In his News from Nowhere series (, Japanese artist Satoru Aoyama adds his own drawing and embroidery to old newspaper photos. In the following artwork, the artist has taken an 1880 photo from the Illustrated London News and has used embroidery to colorize the clothing. He has also drawn over the print of the original, giving the woman in the portrait the face of modern-day actress Shailene Woodley.

Detail view: Satoru Aoyama: News from Nowhere (Shailene), 2017: Detail view (Embroidery and drawing on vintage print, gold leaf; Art Basel HK 2018; Mizuma Art Gallery)
Detail view

In another piece from the same series, the artist transforms a picture of three Japanese dancing girls from the London Times Supplement (1874) so that is now features the three lead singers of the Japanese heavy metal band BabyMetal.

Satoru Aoyama: News from Nowhere (Baby Metal), (2017 (Embroidery and drawing on vintage print, gold leaf; Art Basel HK 2018; Mizuma Art Gallery).

The three artists—David Mitchell, Takahiro Yamamoto , Satoru Aoyama—are all exploring themes related to time. David Mitchell juxtaposes images from different cultures and eras, Takahiro Yamamoto seeks to recreate the imperfections caused by the passage of of time and Satoru Aoyama updates vintage news photos with modern pop culture icons.

Photo Galleries

The photos are available in higher resolution (2048 x 1365) at:

Three Questions

  1. Which artwork on this page do you like best? Why?
  2. Gavin Mitchell adds Western props to Japanese portraits while Satoru Aoyama’s updates old photos by transforming the subjects in the pictures into modern pop icons. Do these changes emphasize how similar people from different cultures and time periods are or does it emphasize their differences?
  3. What do you think Takahiro Yamamoto’s purpose is in trying to recreate in his painting the exact look of vintage photos?

Art Challenge

Find an old photo or postcard and add your own changes to it.

~text, video and photos by


Return to Artjouer’s Gallery of Artists

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