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泰康空间 Taikang Space
2015.03.19 Thu - 2015.05.19 Tue
Opening Exhibition
03/19/2015 16:00
北京市 朝阳区 崔各庄乡 草场地艺术区 红一号院 B2 Red No.1-B2, Caochangdi, Cuigezhuang,Chaoyang District, Beijing, CHINA
+86 10-5127 3173
Opening Hours
Thursday - Saturday, 10am-530pm

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At China: Early Photography and Photographic Technique
[Press Release]

At China: Early Photography and Photographic Technique

Duration: March 19, 2015 - May 19, 2015
Opening: 16:00, March 19, 2015 (Thursday)
Venue: Taikang Space (Red No.1-B2, Caochangdi, Cuigezhuang, Chaoyang District, Beijing)

Curator: Ge Lei
Art director: Tang Xin

Part I: Photography at China: 1845-1895
(Courtesy of Ge Lei)

Part II: A View from West towards East
(Courtesy of Ge Lei)

Part III: Early Photographic Technique
(Artists: Liu Baokui, Zhang Yajun, Sun Nuo, Lu Di, Yan Siwen, Sun Weiwei)

Tel: +86-10-5127 3130
Information: info@taikangspace.com
Website: www.taikangpace.com

Taikang’s first exhibition in 2015 will take the visitors on a tour of early photography in China in the 19th century. In those days of conflict between the Eastern civilization and its Western counterpart, photography, one of the most ingenious inventions then, played an incredible role in Chinese culture since its introduction into China. It was regarded as a practical technology, but more importantly, a “magic art” beyond social life and sensory experience. As photographic technology became more available, China saw its first native photo studios and first native photographers. The perspective that had been dominated by Western photographers has since then changed, and the view and the perception of “the other” culture therefore became bidirectional by virtue of photography. This process, however, was closely related to the improvement and development in photographic technology. Archaic as those techniques and methods may seem to most of us today, they still afford food for thought, particularly when we take a closer look at these faded photos impregnated with historical connotations.

1. 辉来影相,香港,1860-1870年代,手工上色名片格式蛋白照片 W.P.Floyd, Hongkong,1860s-1870s, Handcoloured albumenprint carte de visite

1. 辉来影相,香港,1860-1870年代,手工上色名片格式蛋白照片
W.P.Floyd, Hongkong,1860s-1870s, Handcoloured albumenprint carte de visite

3. W.G.托德照相馆,汉口,1860年代,名片格式蛋白照片 W.G.Todd, Hankow, 1860s, Albumenprint carte de visite

3. W.G.托德照相馆,汉口,1860年代,名片格式蛋白照片
W.G.Todd, Hankow, 1860s, Albumenprint carte de visite

This exhibition, titled “At China: Early Photography and Photographic Technique”, consists of three parts. The first part, “Photography at China: 1845-1895”, following the clue of the early diffusion of photography in China, offers a rich and invaluable collection of over 200 CDVs (carte de visite) and cabinet cards by almost all the important Western photographers and their Chinese colleagues in the 19th century, showcasing how this technology was introduced into China by the early colonizers and how it was accepted and spread in this country. The second part, “A View from West towards East”, referring to over 40 paintings and photos about the 19th century when photography was first invented, provides a China in a totally Western perspective, that is, optionally viewed by Westerners in their imagination. The third part, “Early Photographic Technique”, deals with the history and the reality of more than 10 major techniques in photography, stretching from the early days to the application of gelatin silver print. Our sincere thanks should go to the six photographers here who are still keen on photographic technology: Liu Baokui (Daguerreotype), Zhang Yajun (Cyanotype, Vandyke Process, Kallitype), Sun Nuo (Wet Collodion Process, Ambrotype, Albumen print), Lu Di (Platinum print), Yan Siwen (Carbon print), Sun Weiwei (Gum Bichromate Process). Their photographs in this digital age become an embodiment of the beauty of photography as a technology, as well as their persistence in photographic art.
7. 巴黎世博会上的中国茶女,巴黎博涛照相馆,1867年,名片格式蛋白照片 Bertall

7. 巴黎世博会上的中国茶女,巴黎博涛照相馆,1867年,名片格式蛋白照片

6. 西方人想象中的中国宫廷生活,佚名摄影师,1850-1860年代,蛋白立体照片 Albumenprintstereoview

6. 西方人想象中的中国宫廷生活,佚名摄影师,1850-1860年代,蛋白立体照片

Deep Linking
Prior to the 20th century, photography was one of the inventions that saw the most rapid diffusion in the world. On a joint session of the French Academies of Science and Fine Arts on August 19, 1839, Francois Arago, a noted French scientist, declared Louis Daguerre, inventor of the daguerreotype, patent owner of photography. It did not took more than a month for photography to be introduced into the United States, improved and put into commercial use there. March 1840 saw the first photo studio of its kind in New York, jointly run by Alexander S. Wolcott and John Johnson, soon followed by another one in Philadelphia. Photography, when commercialized, advanced rapidly, effectively removing the barrier to its diffusion: exposure time became much shorter. Assisted by John Johnson, Richard Beard set up a photo studio in Regent Street, London, the first in Europe. By the mid 1840s, photo studios and itinerant photographers had become very common in almost all the big cities in Europe and America, where people flocked to try this new technology.

In the 19th century in China, the spread of photography went almost hand in hand with Western colonization and modernization in cities in China. The first photo studio in China was opened in March 1845 in Hong Kong, run by George R. West, an American artist and daguerreotypist, a member of Minister Caleb Cushing’s delegation that came to negotiate “Treaty of Wanghia”. In the 10 years that followed, daguerreotype photo studios and itinerant photographers were occasionally seen in Macao, Guangzhou and Shanghai, but there was little communication among them, so it was no big trend, nor were there important photographs left. In the late 1850s, Wet Collodion Process and Albumen print gradually replaced the metal-textured photo with the paper one, making photography more convenient, inexpensive and replicable. There came the first group of studios in Hong Kong. The early photographers by trade were mostly from the West. Upon their arrival in China with the army, diplomats or business people, they found photography could bring them business opportunities. The fairly complicated procedure made it necessary to have assistants around: the first native apprentices in photography appeared in China. Mostly from Guangdong, they were to become the first generation of Chinese photographers. Most of them switched to photography from painting. For one thing, both trades involved images; for another, painting was facing big challenges from photography then. Besides photography, as a matter of fact, portrait and landscape painting were part of their business in the studios they later opened, as was often advertised on the back of the mounting cardboards.

Between the late 1850s and the early 1860s, the photographers, both native and
foreign, who had been very active in Hong Kong in the early days, began to leave and settle down in other places due to the increasing competition in this trade. Macao and Guangzhou, traditional trade centers in the economic exchange between the East and the West, became their first stops, followed by Fuzhou, Xiamen and Shanghai, commercial ports opened according to “Treaty of Nanjing”. Then between the mid 1860s and the early 1870s their business was expanded to Hankou, Jiujiang, Zhifu (present Yantai), Tianjing and other port cities included in “Treaty of Tianjing” and “Treaty of Beijing”, and more importantly, to Beijing, capital of the Qing Dynasty. Until the Sino-Japanese “Treaty of Shimonoseki” in 1895, according to which China was to cede to Japan in perpetuity and full sovereignty of Taiwan, the inland market had been widely open to the West. In the photo studios in China, as the newly invented gelatin dry plate and film were introduced, electricity put into used for lighting, photography became more convenient, stable and economical than ever before, therefore becoming a medium of democracy. Photo studios became common in most big and medium-sized cities, like Nanjing, Shenyang, Chongqing, Xi’an, etc.

Taikang Space’s Devotion to Photography
Since its establishment, Taikang Space has been specifically concerned with the development of photography as an art medium not only in terms of collection but also of projects. The exhibitions and related events it held were aimed to explore the unique qualities of artists and photography in different historical periods and under different conditions, as well as its relation to other media. In the light of “retrospection and motivation” as an academic clue, the projects did not confine themselves to the so-called “contemporary” category; rather, they traced the history of photography back to the early 20th century, and even to its origin. In the last few years, Taikang Space has successfully carried out a series photography-related research projects, “Retrospective Photography Exhibition Series of Wu Yinxian”, “In-Between: Photography by Han Lei”, “Rural North China 1947-1948”, “Poppy: Zhang Haier Photography”, among others. Some of them focused on a specific historical period in the evolution of photography; others featured a certain artist for case study. Taikang Space wishes to take advantage of its excellent platform and rich resources to make more contributions to the public by updating its research and reflection about photography.







About the Curator
Ge Lei, born in 1982 in Anhui, graduated from Photography Section, Sichuan Fine Arts Institute in 2006. He is now based in Beijing as an artist and researcher in photography history. As an artist, he has held a number of exhibitions, including “Truth: Work of Ge Lei and Man Yu” (Fei Contemporary Art Center, Shanghai), “Lighters”(H2 Art Space, Chongqing), “Walking in the Darkness in Heiqiao”, “Pessimism or Resistance?”, “ON|OFF: China’s Young Artists “Concepts and Practice”, ““Re-Experimentation: A Reaffirmation of Will and Enlightenment”, “Luxun Park Project Documenta”, “Refresh: Emerging Chinese Artists”, “The 3rd Guiyang Art Biennale”, “Pingyao International Photography Exhibition”, etc. Some of his works have been collected by native and overseas organizations. As one of the founders of Erlou, a publishing unit, he has organized and participated in lots of art events. He is also a photography editor for the magazine “Bishan”. As a researcher of photography history in China and photography collector, he has a substantial collection of photography works by almost all the major commercial photographers in China and abroad in the 19th century, one of the most comprehensive of its kind in China and even the world.