Old Asia Photography

Book: History of Photography in China 1842-1860


Ref: HOPIC1
Price: US$76
Author: Terry Bennett

Published by Bernard Quaritch Ltd., London, August 2009
230 x 238 mm, 242 pages, over 150 illustrations, most of which are reproductions from original photographs

The first comprehensive history of the earliest years of photography in China, combining previously unpublished research with over 150 photographs, many of which are attributed and published here for the first time.

Please click here to download a combined index of the entire History of Photography in China series.

Terry Bennett describes the way in which the discovery of photography in China was framed against the tumultuous backdrop of the Opium Wars, the Taiping Rebellion and the opening of numerous treaty ports to foreign trade. From 1842, when the use of a camera was first recorded in China, foreign and Chinese photographers captured the people, places and events of this unsettled period. They were professional portraitists, soldiers and pioneering amateurs, among them: Jules Itier; Pierre Rossier; Lo Yuanyou (the earliest-recorded Chinese commercial photographer); Felix Beato; and Milton Miller. The author, an acclaimed international authority on historical photographs from China, Japan and Korea, sheds new light on the unique historical value of these photographs.
The images are drawn from institutional and private collections from all over the world. The text includes extensive documentary notes, valuable listings of early stereoviews of China and biographies of more than forty photographers working in China up to 1860. It also introduces important new detail on the life of Felix Beato.

‘This volume by Terry Bennett is a welcome addition to the discussion of photography as both practice and collective artifact situated beyond the familiar metropolitan circuits of the West . . . . Bennett does his readers an unparalleled service in providing the dates, itineraries and career paths yielded through the biographical approach that he exercises for each subject of his enquiry. The amount that Bennett has collected from all his sources is unprecedented for its comprehension and in its varied levels of content and aesthetic standard. His illustrations reproduce photographs to a rarely rewarded degree of accuracy in terms of both tone and grain, enhanced in many cases by full-page reproductions and double openings for some of the panoramic views, whose unpopulated stillness, sometimes further emptied of clouds and moving water, projects the eerie beauty of fabric that has likewise long since vanished. These new images and what Bennett reveals concerning their authors’ careers comprise what will be a lasting and influential addition to the Chinese field of photography studies as well as nineteenth-century history.’

Oliver Moore,
Department of Chinese Studies, Leiden University,
Trans-Asia Photography Review, vol. 1, no. 1, Fall 2010.


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