Shanghai Century: Shanghai Spirit

Source: The Guardian (11/1/21)
Shanghai Century: Shanghai Spirit – in pictures

Young people in a park in Shanghai, 1981. Photograph: 陆杰/Lu Jie

A new exhibition captures the changing face of Shanghai through the past two centuries and the development of the past 30 years, from street photography to fashion shoots, from the intimacy of the lilongs to the grandeur of public facades. The exhibition is presented by Porsche in collaboration with the Shanghai Centre of Photography: Shanghai Century: Shanghai Spirit is on display at Photofairs Shanghai from 3 November Continue reading

Miroir Project

Source: SupChina (10/22/21)
Miroir Project
Celebrating female photographers in China
By Neocha

From At Home with Family by photographer Liu Sidan, which took first prize at the inaugural Miroir Project photography competition.

This article was originally published on Neocha and is republished with permission.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a feminist movement was underway in the Western world. Dubbed as “first-wave feminism,” this initial fight centered on suffrage and other political rights. Since then, society has made further strides towards gender equality, yet many issues remain. Throughout the fight, art and literature have served as indispensable tools in amplifying the voice of women. Take, for example, British author Virginia Woolf’s essay, A Room of One’s Room, which spoke out against social injustices that female writers have long faced.

Inspired by Woolf, Miroir Project is a platform with similar aspirations of empowering female creativity, though instead of female authors, their focus is on female photographers. The team behind the project believes that photography is a particularly fitting medium for the expression of feminity and that their platform offers a way for like-minded women photographers to meet, share ideas, and explore matters of identity together. These beliefs are the main impetus behind the project.

Lao Yan, the nickname of one of Miroir Project’s cofounders, says, “As I got older, I realized the importance of facilitating a space where like-minded individuals can meet others like them. Finding common ground with someone is like looking into a mirror, and if you look closely enough, you can gain a clearer picture of who you yourself are.” Continue reading

Wayfaring: Photography in 1970s-80s Taiwan

Journeys of self and society at the end of martial law
Australian Centre on China in the World, ANU
Curated by Dr Shuxia Chen and Dr Olivier Krischer

As Taiwanese society was coming to terms with a new political reality in the 1970s and 1980s, many artists and intellectuals addressed issues of locality, history and cultural identity. Despite the pressure on civil society, Taiwan’s visual culture flourished, with photography playing a key role as a visual medium that intersected many creative practices and platforms. Pioneering photographers produced groundbreaking works across these decades, from experimental art to photojournalism and much in between.

The exhibition adopts the concept of ‘wayfaring’ from the phrase ‘找路’, used by the seminal figure Chang Chao-Tang 張照堂 to discuss his work in these decades. Here, the term lyrically evokes both the actual journeys that artists undertook, searching for the real-life experiences and sentiments of their subjects, as well as their personal, introspective searches for a way forward, a new path, through creative experimentation with the photographic medium.

Drawn from the collection of the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, with some additional works loaned directly from the artists, this broad selection of photographs reflects the diversity and shifting experiences of Taiwanese society and culture at this pivotal time. Wayfaring features 35 still images by 12 artists, including Chang Chao-Tang 張照堂, Chien Yun-Ping 簡永彬, Chuang Ling 莊靈, Ho Ching-Tai 何經泰, Hou Tsung-Hui 侯聰慧, Hsieh Chun-Te 謝春德, Hsieh San-Tai 謝三泰, Juan I-Jong 阮義忠, Kao Chung-Li 高重黎, Lien Hui-Ling 連慧玲, Wang Hsin 王信, Yeh Ching-Fang 葉清芳.

Exhibition info:…/wayfaring-photography-1970s-80s… Continue reading

Yang Xiao photographs

Source: NeoCha (7/6/21)
A Shot in the Dark
Contributor:  David Yen
Chinese Translation: Olivia Li

Beneath an intricate entanglement of metal, the lone figure at the bottom of the frame stands meekly in its shadows, barely visible against the looming structure. Further above, stars streak across the night sky, and on the distant horizon, the sun peeks through with the first rays of morning light.

In a separate image, a similarly silhouetted figure stands in front of an alien megalith. A bright, unseen light source radiates from beneath the sculpture. Overhead, the stars appear to be in motion, a stark contrast to the stillness of the field beneath. These aren’t scenes from an upcoming sci-fi blockbuster. They’re shots taken by Chinese photographer Yang Xiao, who depicts real-life locations in an otherworldly light. Continue reading

Trans Asia Photography–cfp

Hello everyone,

Trans Asia Photography invites submissions for a general issue, Volume 12, no. 2 (Fall 2022). The journal examines all aspects of photographic history, theory and practice by centering images in or of Asia, conceived as a territory, network, and cultural imaginary. The journal welcomes articles (5000-7000 words) that broadens understanding of Asian photography in transnational contexts. The journal also publishes shorter pieces (1000-2000 words) in formats that include interviews, curatorial or visual essays, and portfolios.

Trans Asia Photography is an international, refereed open-access journal based at the University of Toronto. It provides a venue for the interdisciplinary exploration of photography and Asia. Guidance for authors on submissions can be found here:

For more information, contact the editors:

Deadline for research articles and shorter pieces: October 31, 2021.


Jennifer Orpana
Editorial Assistant – Trans Asia Photography

Trans Asia Photography new website, new issue

New Website & New Issue

We are thrilled to announce the launch of the new Trans Asia Photography website (formerly the Trans Asia Photography Review) and the release of the Spring 2021 issue under the co-editorship of Deepali Dewan, Yi Gu, and Thy Phu.

TAP Special Issue Trailer (Eunha Koo, 2021)


“Trans”: An Introduction
Thy Phu

Transpacific Rizalistas: Portrait Photography and the Filipino Becoming-Subject
Adrian de Leon

Transnational Family Photographs and Adoptions from Asia
Lili Johnson

Field Notes, Fluidities, and Fictional Archives: Transmedial  Photography and Singapore’s Altered Coastlines
Joanne Leow, ila, Juria Toramae, and Robert Zhao Renhui

Photographic Rehearsal: A Still-Unfolding Narrative
Charan Singh

Photography at the 2020 Dhaka Art Summit: A Review
Akshaya Tanka Continue reading

How Beijing faced the outbreak

To view the slideshow of photos, click the title link below.–Kirk

Source: China File (2/4/21)
Running on Empty: How Beijing Faced the Outbreak
By Summer Sun, photographed by Dong Lin
Dong Lin photographed this project with support from the Abigail Cohen Fellowship in Documentary Photography. The fellowship is a joint initiative of Asia Society’s ChinaFile and Magnum Foundation.

A People’s Armed Police officer stands guard outside the entrance to the Forbidden City, in Tiananmen Square, January 24, 2020.

A People’s Armed Police officer stands guard outside the entrance to the Forbidden City, in Tiananmen Square, January 24, 2020.

Afew days before the Lunar New Year last year, I called my mother for some urgent advice. Since I live in Europe and was not traveling home for the celebration, I decided to host a dinner party at my apartment. My invitation list soon grew out of hand, ending up with 15 guests. There were vegetarians, vegans, and non-pork eaters, a difficult endeavor for any Chinese chef, let alone a novice. My mother helped me decide on some easy-to-make and filling recipes. Before hanging up, we briefly discussed the mysterious, pneumonia-like disease sickening people in central China, far away from where my parents live. Around that time, Zhong Nanshan, a prominent Chinese pulmonologist well-respected for his work during the SARS outbreak in 2003, publicly confirmed that the virus that would come to be known as COVID-19 spread from human to human. Still, given how little information the government had yielded on the extent of transmission, the outbreak remained obscure, if alarming. “Are you guys wearing masks?” I asked my mother. “I’ve started to, but your dad hasn’t. We still have some masks that he bought on Taobao years ago,” she said. “Who knows if they’re still good—you know your dad always buys whatever’s the cheapest.” Continue reading

Remembering and Forgetting the Traumatic Past

My essay, “Remembering and Forgetting the Traumatic Past,” which reviews Lingchei Letty Chen’s The Great Leap Backward: Forgetting and Representing the Mao Years and Margaret Hillenbrand’s Negative Exposures: Knowing What Not to Know in Contemporary China, has been published by the MCLC Resource Center. The review appears below and at its online home: My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, our literary studies book review editor, for his editorial interventions.

Kirk Denton, editor

Remembering and Forgetting the Traumatic Past:
A Review Essay

The Great Leap Backward: Forgetting and Representing the Mao Years, by Lingchei Letty Chen
Negative Exposures: Knowing What Not to Know in Contemporary China, by Margaret Hillenbrand

Reviewed by Kirk A. Denton
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright January, 2021)

Margaret Hillenbrand, Negative Exposures: Knowing What Not to Know in Contemporary China Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2020. 292 pp. ISBN: 978-1-4780-0800-2 (paper); ISBN: 978-1-4780-0619-0 (cloth)

Lingchei Letty Chen, The Great Leap Backward: Forgetting and Representing the Mao Years Amherst, NY: Cambria Press, 2020. 304pp. ISBN 9781604979923 (cloth)

In The Fat Years (盛世), a novel by Koonchung Chan 陳冠中, a character named He Dongsheng tries to explain to his captors—it’s too complex to explain here—why the Chinese people have forgotten an entire month: “What I want to tell you is that, definitely, the Central Propaganda organs did do their work, but they were only pushing along a boat that was already on the move. If the Chinese people had not already wanted to forget, we could not have forced them to do so. The Chinese people voluntarily gave themselves a large dose of amnesia medicine.”[1]

Much has been made of efforts by the state in the People’s Republic of China (PRC)—famously referred to by Louisa Lim as the “People’s Republic of Amnesia”[2]—to repress memories that do not fit the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) politically-driven historical narrative, which emphasizes its central and singular role in driving the revolutionary past and modernizing the  present. It propagates this narrative through museums, party historiography, state-sponsored “main melody” films, textbooks, mainstream news media, etc. And it suppresses other forms of history that seek to recover memories of the Anti-Rightist Campaign, the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, the 1989 Tiananmen protest movement, and the plight of migrant workers in more recent times. Continue reading

Photo Poetics review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announced publication of Jiangtao Gu’s review of Photo Poetics: Chinese Lyricism and Modern Media Culture, by Shengqing Wu. The review appears below and at its online home: My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, our literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk A. Denton, editor

Photo Poetics:
Chinese Lyricism and Modern Media Culture

By Shengqing Wu

Reviewed by Jiangtao Gu

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright January, 2021)

Shengqing Wu, Photo Poetics: Chinese Lyricism and Modern Media Culture New York: Columbia University Press, 2020. 384 pp. ISBN: 9780231192217 (paper); ISBN: 9780231192200 (cloth); ISBN: 9780231549714 (e-book)

Reading Shengqing Wu’s new book Photo Poetics: Chinese Lyricism and Modern Media Culture, is like looking into a kaleidoscope of texts and images drawn from the late Qing and early Republican periods. The reading experience can be disorientating at times, but ultimately pleasurable and enriching, especially considering our otherwise barren knowledge of photo practices in China during this period.

Distinct from dominant discourses on the topic, which often privilege photography’s relationship with progressive and revolutionary cultures, Wu’s book is uniquely focused on the Chinese literati tradition and its engagement with the then-nascent medium. Counter to many May Fourth intellectuals’ disparagement of the tradition’s obsolescence and decay, Wu insists that the literati practice of lyricism was by no means “an ossified or dead entity” (27). Front-loaded with this argument, the book then asks us to consider the literati’s absorption of photography as evidence of the tradition’s longevity and vitality despite rapidly changing technological and social conditions. Continue reading

Photo Poetics

New Publication: Photo Poetics: Chinese Lyricism and Modern Media Culture
By Shengqing Wu
Columbia University Press, Dec. 2020

Chinese poetry has a long history of interaction with the visual arts. Classical aesthetic thought held that painting, calligraphy, and poetry were cross-fertilizing and mutually enriching. What happened when the Chinese poetic tradition encountered photography, a transformative technology and presumably realistic medium that reshaped seeing and representing the world?

Shengqing Wu explores how the new medium of photography was transformed by Chinese aesthetic culture. She details the complex negotiations between poetry and photography in the late Qing and early Republican eras, examining the ways traditional textual forms collaborated with the new visual culture. Drawing on extensive archival research into illustrated magazines, poetry collections, and vintage photographs, Photo Poetics analyzes a wide range of practices and genres, including self-representation in portrait photography; gifts of inscribed photographs; mass-media circulation of images of beautiful women; and photography of ghosts, immortals, and imagined landscapes. Wu argues that the Chinese lyrical tradition provided rich resources for artistic creativity, self-expression, and embodied experience in the face of an increasingly technological and image-oriented society. An interdisciplinary study spanning literary studies, visual culture, and media history, Photo Poetics is an original account of media culture in early twentieth-century China and the formation of Chinese literary and visual modernities.

Lhasa in the Cultural Revolution

Source: China Channel, LARB (11/13/20)
Lhasa in the Cultural Revolution: A Photo Essay
By  and 

Header: Crowd accusing Samding Dorje Phagmo in the courtyard of her house in Lhasa, 1966 (Tsering Dorje, courtesy of Tsering Woeser)

Tsering Woeser presents her father’s photographs of Tibetan struggle sessions

In her new book Forbidden Memory: Tibet During the Cultural Revolution, the Tibetan essayist and poet Tsering Woeser dissects the impact of China’s Cultural Revolution on Lhasa, her birthplace, five decades ago. This photo essay features 18 of the more than 300 photos in the book, accompanied by Woeser’s comments (translated by Susan Chen); these are based on her interviews with Tibetans and Chinese in Lhasa who lived through the events shown in the photos. All of the photos were taken by Woeser’s father, Tsering Dorje (1937-91), who was a PLA officer and photographer serving in Lhasa in the early 1960s. His photos, which came to light only after his death, are the only known visual records of the struggle sessions, humiliation parades, and mass rallies staged during the Cultural Revolution in Tibet. For our previously published interview with Tsering Woeser about her book and her father’s photographs, please read here. – Robbie Barnett

[see also Red Guards in Tibet] Continue reading

John Thompson photo exhibit

From July 18th to mid-October 2020, ShungYe Museum of Formosan Aborigines (順益台灣原住民博物館) in Taipei will exhibit fifty photos of Taiwan in April 1871 (and related 30 original woodcuts) by John Thomson, travelling with fellow Scotsman Dr James Laidlaw Maxwell — who established the first Presbyterian chapels in Taiwan and its first western style medical dispensary.

Practically no silver-based albumen prints of this series have survived. The fifty pigment-based digital prints exhibited are by Michael Gray, from his (film contact) high-resolution scans  of Thomson’s original glass-negatives preserved at Wellcome Library.

This exhibition is an updated version of a first one by Françoise Zylberberg and René Viénet in 2006  during Taipei International Book Exhibition, then in 2008 at National Taiwan University Library, with lectures by Richard Ovenden, John Falconer, William Schupbach, Barbara & Michael Gray —  together with the only known framed set of the original 96 collotypes plates (218 views) from Thomson’s “Illustrations of China and its people…Continue reading

Li Zhensheng dies at 79

Source: NYT (6/25/20)
Li Zhensheng, Photographer of China’s Cultural Revolution, Dies at 79
With his camera and red arm band, Mr. Li captured the dark side of Mao’s revolution at great personal risk.
By Amy Qin

Li Zhensheng in a risky self portrait taken during China’s Cultural Revolution on July 17, 1967, when people were expected to put party before self. His photographs offer a rare visual testament to that tumultuous period in Chinese history.  Credit…Li Zhensheng/Contact Press Images

Li Zhensheng, a photographer who at great personal risk documented the dark side of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution, producing powerful black-and-white images that remain a rare visual testament to the brutality of that tumultuous period, many of them not developed or seen for years, has died. He was 79.

His death was confirmed on Tuesday by Robert Pledge, a founder of Contact Press Images and editor of Mr. Li’s photo book “Red-Color News Soldier,” who said that Mr. Li had been hospitalized on Long Island. He lived in Queens. Further details, including the date of his death, were not released.

Mr. Li was a young photographer at a local newspaper in northeastern China when Mao started the Revolution in May 1966. Wearing a red arm band that said, “Red-Color News Soldier,” Mr. Li was given extraordinary access to official events. Continue reading

TAP spring 2020

The spring 2020 issue of the Trans Asia Photography Review is now available! This special expanded issue marks the tenth anniversary of the TAP Review. It features 20 commentaries, book reviews, curatorial projects and profiles of contemporary photographic platforms in Asia. It also includes information about the wonderful trio of new editors – Thy Phu, Yi Gu and Deepali Dewan – who will be shepherding the journal into its next decade. You can read and respond to their Call for Proposals in this new issue, which can be found at You may need to refresh your browser to see the updated contents:

Ten Years of the Trans Asia Photography Review / Notes from the Field Continue reading

Roundup of China’s best photojournalism from Wuhan

Source: China File (5/15/20)
‘A Letter to My Friend under Quarantine in Wuhan’: A Roundup of China’s Best Photojournalism
By Ye Ming, Yan Cong, Beimeng Fu

Wu Wei, The Paper

In this edition of Depth of Field, we highlight Chinese visual storytellers’ coverage of COVID-19 inside China. Some of these storytellers were on the ground documenting the experience of residents and medical workers in Wuhan, the city where the virus first emerged. Other storytellers were not able to travel to the outbreak’s epicenter because of Wuhan’s lockdown, which lasted from January 23 to April 8. But they found creative ways to cover the news from afar: photographing life under quarantine in other cities, stitching together social media footage, using publicly available information to explain the supply chain of medical masks. Their stories, told from diverse perspectives, depict pain, strength, and sacrifice amid the outbreak, and they leave us with lingering questions about what China—and the world—will look like, when they emerge from the crisis. Continue reading