Wednesday, June 20, 2007

China through the eyes of Hedda Morrison

Sometimes, surfing the web, you just get lucky.

The day I stumbled into this website, must have been such a lucky day.

Hedda Hammer (Morrison) was born in Stuttgart, Germany in 1908. From an early age she had an interest in photography. In 1929 she enrolled at the Bavarian State Institute for Photography in Munich where she studied for three years. Two years after graduation Hedda, like many German artists and intellectuals, made plans to leave Germany which was coming increasingly under Nazi control. She answered an advertisement in a German photographic journal and secured a job as manager of the Hartung’s Photo Shop in Peking. From 1933 Hedda Morrison managed the German-owned commercial photographic studio in the Legation quarter which had a well-established clientele of customers including diplomats and resident foreigners. After her contract expired in 1938, she continued to work in Peking as a freelance photographer.

During her thirteen years in Peking, Hedda Morrison took thousands of photographs that document architecture and streetscapes, craftspeople at work, street vendors, and religious or folk customs. She was particularly interested in traditional crafts and took many series of photographs that record processes of making. Being a long-term resident of Peking she had an established network of contacts that provided her with unique access to people and places.

When you get to see pictures like this, you can not but be amazed how far China has come in such a short time, while at the same time regret how much of the scenery has disappeared under the relentless sledgehammer of the construction boom. With some of the pictures however, you'll feel amazed how some things never seem to change at all

Having added Howard French's " A Glimpse of the World" to my blogroll just yesterday, it may be a good idea to have these scenes from pre-liberation China contrast with his photographic impressions of contemporary China. (Btw, French just put up a new, photography only, website called "Glimpse"

Be sure to check out the pictures on display on this well designed website of the Powerhouse Museum. The pictures are in Flash, which allows you to view them in stunning detail. And for those of you that crave to see more, just continue on to these pages of the Harvard University Library for almost 5000 pictures of this amazing German woman photographer. 

1 comment:

BiBi said...

Wonderful photos! Thx for sharing.