Osamu Shiihara studied in the Western painting department at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts (now Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music). In 1932, after graduating, he moved to Kansai in western Japan, and opened a painting studio. Around that time, he took up photography, and became a member of the Tampei Photography Club, an avant-garde group interested in modernist, abstract, and Surrealist photography. His body of work from that period, which focused on the nude, manifests the use of experimental techniques characteristic of the period — photograms, solarization, and various combinations of painting and photography. His other photographs are typified by a direct, realistic gaze. In 1941, together with other group members, he created a series of photographs which documented, with a critical eye, Jews exiled from Europe in Japan awaiting visas to the United States and Latin America. After World War II he moved to Osaka, where he continued to pursue photography, while working in a textile dying company. In 1953 he was among the founders of the Spiegel Photographers Association.