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Brush and Shutter: Early Photography in Chinaby Jeffrey W. Cody
Synopses & Reviews
Photography was introduced to China in the 1840s through the West’s engagement in the Opium Wars and the subsequent reforms of Chinese statesmen. As a result, traditional modes of expression were dramatically transformed. Uncovered here is a captivating visual history of China during photography’s first century, from the late Qing period to Republican Shanghai and wartime Chongqing. Chinese export painters learned and adapted the medium of photography by grafting the new technology onto traditional artistic conventions—employing both brush and shutter. Ultimately, both Chinese and Western photographers were witnesses to and agents of dynamic cultural change.
The essays in this volume shed new light on the birth of a medium. Jeffrey Cody and Frances Terpak, together with Edwin Lai, discuss the medium’s evolution, commercialization, and dissemination; Wu Hung examines the invention of a portrait style through the lens of Milton Miller; Sarah Fraser investigates how this style shaped China’s national image; and Wen-hsin Yeh addresses the camera’s role in Republican Shanghai and wartime Chongqing. The catalogue accompanies an exhibition of the same name at the J. Paul Getty Museum from February 8 to May 1, 2011.
"In 1839, the year that the daguerreotype was invented, the West forcibly 'opened up' China in the First Opium War, a confluence of events that brought photography to the country. In the early years, some Chinese feared that clicking shutters would steal their spirits or that photographers would steal their children's eyes as part of the process of picture-taking, but the country soon embraced the new art form. Covering the years 1859 — 1911, the book includes work by both Chinese and Western photographers whose work can seem similar, save for a preference in the Western photographers for a mannered, heavily stylized effect, as well as an unmistakably imperialist bias manifested in stereotypical images that art historian Wu Hung, in one of the catalogue's six fine essays, describes as 'frozen in silent stillness.' Aside from a few images of nature, all the photos reveal a country in rapid flux from urbanization and Western influences, and are a valuable historical tool. This sumptuous volume, which could have benefitted from at least one map of China as well as from a glossary — who knows where Swatow Harbor is or what is meant by 'The Tao-Tai of Anching'? — is an eye-opening delight. (Feb.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
Accompanies an exhibition held at the J. Paul Getty Museum, beginning Feb. 8, 2011.
About the Author
Jeffrey W. Cody is a senior project specialist in the Education Department at the Getty Conservation Institute. He is the author of Building in China (The Chinese University Press, 2001) and Exporting American Architecture, 1870–2000 (Routledge, 2003) and coeditor of Chinese Architecture and the Beaux-Arts (University of Hawaii Press, 2011). Frances Terpak is curator of photographs at the Getty Research Institute and coauthor of the award-winning Devices of Wonder: From the World in a Box to Images on a Screen (Getty Publications, 2001).
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