About Michael

MICHAEL K. YAMAOKA was born in Japan, and studied at Waseda University in Tokyo. He was the first Japanese student to receive a photography degree from Art Center College of Design in California, and came to New York in the late sixties to begin his career as a commercial photographer. He was on Staff at BBD&O before opening his own studio, where his client list included Campbell’s Soup, AT&T, General Electric, Burger King, Pepsico, Dean Witter, Book-of-the-Month Club, Pillsbury, Schaeffer Beer, FAO Schwartz, Time-Life, Sheraton Hotels, Toshiba, Pentax and many others. After closing his studio in the mid-eighties, Michael became a consultant acting as a liaison between Japanese and American companies in a variety of fields. Then, after a personal tragedy, the death of his son, Kenneth Kagetaka, in an automobile accident in 1997, he decided to concentrate on his personal photography, to publish a book, Odyssey, in memory of his son, and to establish a scholarship in his name. He has since exhibited in one-man shows in New York, Tokyo, Kyoto, and in many cities in Germany, to great critical acclaim, and also at the German Consulate in New York in 2007. In 2008, he was honored when I.M. Pei requested one of his photographs for his personal collection. Michael continues to exhibit his fine art photography in galleries and institutions in New York and worldwide.The book Odyssey is available for purchase, as are all photographs on the website. Please see the Ordering page for details.


In this collection of highlights from 50 years of Michael Yamaoka’s photography, there is a haunting sense of passing time, in images of unconventional beauty, that are at the same time a documentary of places and objects encountered in his journeys worldwide.


In this adventurous new body of work, Michael Yamaoka continues to explore his signature theme of walls that express the ravages of time and the timeless, adding a radically different visual element—a beautiful female figure portraying the idea of “Goddess” or “Muse.”