Astonishingly few early photographs of China survived the upheavals of the last century – decades of political ferment, wars and Mao Zedong’s destructive Cultural Revolution saw to that. Of those that did, some are the only records of buildings and sites that were later altered or destroyed.
Qing Dynasty Peking: Thomas Child’s Photographs, now showing at New York’s Mishkin gallery until October 25, is an exhibition of some of the finest images of late imperial China in existence. Curated from the Stephan Loewentheil Historical Photography of China Collection by Stacey Lambrow, it features a selection of 40 original 19th Century albumen silver prints by Child.
An Englishman who worked in Beijing as a gas engineer, Child’s images date from 1871-1889 and constitute the earliest comprehensive photographic survey of the ancient city and its environs. They depict the architecture, monuments, people and culture of “Peking” during the early years of photography and offer a unique glimpse into China’s rich cultural past.
The New York exhibition is the first time these images, which survived because they were taken out of China and later turned up in auctions, have been shown publicly in the United States. Here we present a selection of Child’s pictures.
Bride and Bridegroom
Stone Figures at the Ming Tombs
Marble Pailou at the Ming Tombs
Mud Idol, Peking
Last Lock of the Grand Canal
Moat, Imperial City
Porcelain Pailou, Hall of Classics
Tsung Li Yamen (Foreign Office)
Jade Belt Bridge
“Wan-Shou-Shan,” Summer Palace
Qing Dynasty Peking: Thomas Child’s Photographs is at the Sydney Mishkin Gallery on 135 East 22 Street, New York City, until October 25