Photography and China
Reaktion Books (NewSouth), $49.99 pb, 200 pp, 9781861899118
China’s extraordinary economic and cultural ascent during the past two decades has generated significant international interest in Chinese contemporary art, especially in photography now widely promoted in the West as ‘Chinese new art’. Since it was first introduced to China in the 1840s, photography has languished somewhat, overshadowed by the traditional arts of brush painting, calligraphy, and ceramics, which have for centuries defined ‘Chinese art’. Historically, photography (and film) in China have been relegated to the status of reportage or propaganda, used by the state to instruct, indoctrinate, and unify its people.