Photography and Autobiography:
Zhang Ailing’s Looking at Each Other

By Laikwan Pang

Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, vol. 13, no. 1, pp.73-106

This paper offers a close reading of Zhang Ailing’s (Eileen Chang, 1919-1995) autobiography Duizhao ji (Looking at each other), which is composed of a dexterous blending of text and photographs, in relation to her life and some of her other works. The autobiography echoes and orchestrates some of the most persistent concerns and emotions that can be found in many of her earlier writings, and it also shows her acute awareness and lifelong obsession with the power of “image.” This paper uses two different concepts of look, “circulation of looks” and “the productivity of the look,” to demonstrate how Zhang develops her identity in reference to herself and to those women dear to her. In spite of the circulation of imaging that might never bring her identity into focus, this autobiography witnesses Zhang’s courageous confrontation with history, which realizes a process of self-healing.