Photographies de Pékin : exposition Thomas Child à New York
September 23 – October 25, 2016
Rare early photographs of Peking (Beijing) by Thomas Child, from the Stephan Loewentheil Historical Photography of China Collection, will be exhibited for the first time in New York at the Mishkin Gallery at Baruch College.
Qing Dynasty Peking: Thomas Child’s Photographs, curated by Stacey Lambrow, features a selection of over 40 original nineteenth-century albumen silver prints. These views of Peking (Beijing), made in the 1870s and 1880s, are from the earliest comprehensive photographic survey of the ancient city. During his nearly two decades as a resident of Peking, Child produced the most extensive photographic documentation of the city and its environs. The images depict the architecture, monuments, people, and culture of Peking (Beijing) during the early years of photography in late imperial China. Child’s photographs offer a unique glimpse into the country’s rich cultural past.
Among the highlights of the show is a photograph of a Bride and Bridegroom (1870s) in traditional Chinese dress. It is one in a series of three images Child took pertaining to late Qing dynasty wedding customs. The woman in this photograph is the daughter of Zeng Goufan, a high-ranking official of the Han dynasty. Descendants of Zeng Goufan will attend the opening reception of the exhibition to see the photograph of their ancestor’s wedding for the first time.
The photographs included in the exhibition are often the only records of buildings and sites that were later altered or destroyed. Due to historical factors, a scarcity of scholarship, and the fact that very few of Child’s photographs have survived, there has never been an exhibition in New York devoted to the photographer’s work. Child was also a pioneering documentarian, producing printed labels with descriptive text to accompany his photographs. It is evident from his photographs and their labels that he took great care to understand the long history and culture of the Chinese people. Child learned to speak Chinese, and he spent time among Chinese residents while he was in Peking, sharing with them his knowledge of the art of photography.
The Stephan Loewentheil Historical Photography of China Collection, based in New York, is the largest holding of historical photographs of China in private hands.