Old Asia Photography

Book: History of Photography in China: Western Photographers 1861–1879

Author: Terry Bennett

Published by Bernard Quaritch Ltd., London, December 2010
230 x 238 mm, 419 pages, over 400 illustrations, most of which are reproductions from original photographs

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

Profusely illustrated with reproductions of several hundred original photographs, this is the most extensive general survey in any language of Western photographers working in China in the 1860s and 1870s. Over eighty different photographers – from well-known professionals to little-known amateurs – are discussed, with a mass of biographical information, much previously unpublished. Numerous images are attributed to particular photographers for the first time and several hitherto unknown photographers are identified.

Prominent among the photographers included are John Thomson, a consummate professional whose travels of several thousand miles produced the most extensive photographic record of China in the nineteenth century; William Floyd, who pursued a long and successful career as a photographer in Hong Kong; David Griffith, one of the most technically adept photographers in China during these years and a writer on photographic matters who worked for a while with the Chinese photographer Lai Afong; Thomas Child and John Dudgeon, an engineer and a missionary doctor respectively in Peking who were also talented photographers; William Saunders and Henry Cammidge, both professionals based in Shanghai; and the controversial St Julian Edwards in Amoy, who combined photography with a multitude of other activities, legal and illegal. Several Russian photographers are considered, providing an important introduction to an often overlooked and distinctive aspect of photography in China in this period.

The book is divided into chapters on the Hong Kong Studios, Photography in Peking (Beijing), Photography in the Treaty Ports (including Shanghai, Canton and Tientsin), Roving Photographers, The Ruins of the European Palaces in the Yuanmingyuan, and Photographic Periodicals. There follows a valuable series of documentary appendices listing the work of various photographers and printing extensive extracts from contemporary reviews and other writings on photography in China in the 1860s and 1870s. It concludes with a bibliography, general and regional chronologies, and a biographical index.

‘…The quantity of research is truly impressive, evidence of years spent searching libraries and archives and collecting images, all brought together into one coherent and organized overview...this labor of love and dedication is a work of lasting importance. Its scope and clarity, staggering amount of new research and reproduction of magnificent images, so many previously unknown, are a true gift to an area of study still in its early stages and, simply put, make this information and these images accessible for the first time. Together with its companion volume and the anticipated final volume, this is a series that offers an unprecedented guide to early China photography.’

Roberta Wue,
Assistant Professor of Art History, School of Humanities, University of California, Irvin,
Trans-Asia Photography Review, vol. 1, no.2, Spring 2011.

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