The Chinese Photobook

Edited by Martin Parr and WassinkLundgren

Texts by: Gu Zheng, Raymond Lum, Ruben Lundgren,

Stephanie H. Tung, and Gerry Badger

Published by: Aperture, New York

Hardcover, 348 pages

June 2015

In the last decade there has been a major reappraisal of the role and status of the photobook within the history of photography. Newly revised histories of photography as recorded via the photobook have added enormously to our understanding of the medium's culture, particularly in places that are often marginalized, such as Latin America and Africa.

 

However, until now, only a handful of Chinese books have made it onto historians' short lists. Yet China has a fascinating history of photobook publishing, and The Chinese Photobook will reveal for the first time the richness and diversity of this heritage. This volume is based on a collection compiled by Martin Parr and Beijing- and London-based Dutch photographer team WassinkLundgren. And while the collection was inspired initially by Parr's interest in propaganda books and in finding key works of socialist realist photography from the early days of the Communist Party and the Cultural Revolution era, the selection of books includes key volumes published as early as 1900, as well as contemporary volumes by emerging Chinese photographers.

 

Each featured photobook offers a new perspective on the complicated history of China from the twentieth century onward. The Chinese Photobook embodies an unprecedented amount of research and scholarship in this area, and includes accompanying texts and individual title descriptions by Gu Zheng, Raymond Lum, Ruben Lundgren, Stephanie H. Tung and Gerry Badger.

The Chinese Photobook is an eye-opening archive, an invaluable resource for the emerging field of studies of photography in China. In its presentation of samples of photobooks produced by Chinese and non-Chinese photographers from the beginning of the twentieth century to today, this massive publication intersects with similarly formatted histories one of its editors, the British Magnum photographer Martin Parr, has coedited for Phaidon, and the growing series of histories organized by nation or by continent (such as photobooks of Japan or of Latin America) produced by Aperture. It is enriched by a series of brief but illuminating texts by, among others, the late Raymond Lum, of the TAP Review, and the most distinguished scholar, historian, and curator of contemporary photography in China, Gu Zheng.

Introduction from a review of the book by William Schaefer in Trans Asia Photographic Review

The depth of research which Martin Parr, Thijs groot Wassink and Ruben Lundgren have undertaken - and the resulting scope of the photobooks on display here - opens a multitude of windows into a region still not particularly well understood by Western audiences. There is a level of access here which does much to vindicate the curators’ interest in the photobook as a kind of mediated medium that provokes further consideration of what this kind of publication might reveal about other territories. These publications are a visual map not just in terms of the images they present but the context that they frame them in, and as you leave the exhibition, it’s interesting to consider what another ten years might look like.

From a review of the exhibition by Will Gresson on eyecontactsite.com

© 2019 Ruben Lundgren

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