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      Past Exhibition

      Power and Perspective: Early Photography in China

      On view September 24, 2022 to April 2, 2023

      Today's hours:

      10 am–5 pm

      Monday

      10 am–5 pm

      Tuesday

      Closed

      Wednesday

      Closed

      Thursday

      10 am–5 pm

      Friday

      10 am–5 pm

      Saturday

      10 am–5 pm

      Sunday

      10 am–5 pm

      Monday

      10 am–5 pm

      Tuesday

      Closed

      Wednesday

      Closed

      Thursday

      10 am–5 pm

      Friday

      10 am–5 pm

      Saturday

      10 am–5 pm

      Sunday

      10 am–5 pm

      Power and Perspective: Early Photography in China explores how the camera transformed the way we imagine China.

      Photography’s development as a new form of art and technology in the 19th century coincided with profound changes in the way China engaged with the world. The medium evolved in response to war, trade, travel, and a desire for knowledge about an unfamiliar place.

      The exhibition features 130 photographs in dialogue with paintings, decorative arts, and prints drawn largely from PEM’s outstanding collections with select loans from public and private collections. Power and Perspective provides a rich account of the exchanges between photographers, artists, patrons and subjects in treaty port China, offering a vital reassessment of the colonial legacy of the medium. By calling attention to the power dynamics at play, the exhibition sheds light on photography as an inherently social medium that continues to shape our perspectives today.

      A major publication, distributed by Yale University Press, accompanies the exhibition.

      Power and Perspective: Early Photography in China is organized by the Peabody Essex Museum. The exhibition is made possible by the generosity of Dr. Edward G. Tiedemann Jr., the Richard C. von Hess Foundation, and the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation. Additional generous support was provided by Stephan Loewentheil, Henry Birdseye Weil and Ann Uppington, Xiaohua Zhang and Quan Zhou, the Lee and Juliet Folger Fund, the Blakemore Foundation, Robert and Bobbie Falk and two anonymous donors. Thank you to PEM supporters Carolyn and Peter S. Lynch and The Lynch Foundation and the individuals who support the Exhibition Incubation Fund: Jennifer and Andrew Borggaard, James B. and Mary Lou Hawkes, Kate and Ford O'Neil, and Henry and Callie Brauer. We also recognize the generosity of the East India Marine Associates of the Peabody Essex Museum.

      TOP IMAGE: Photographer in China, Steamer Hankow at Hong Kong (detail), 1861. Albumen print. Peabody Essex Museum. Gift of Howard Corning, Augustine Heard & Company Collection, before 1956. PH5.24. Photo by Allison White/PEM.

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      John Thomson, Portrait of a Woman, 1868–72. Albumen print. Peabody Essex Museum. Gift of George J. Harrington Jr., 1993. PH27.34.

      John Thomson, Portrait of a Woman, 1868–72. Albumen print. Peabody Essex Museum. Gift of George J. Harrington Jr., 1993. PH27.34.

      Felice Beato, Treasury Street, Canton, April 1860. Albumen print. Gift of Howard Corning, Albert Farley Heard Collection, before 1956. PH2.83.

      Felice Beato, Treasury Street, Canton, April 1860. Albumen print. Gift of Howard Corning, Albert Farley Heard Collection, before 1956. PH2.83.

      Lorenzo F. Fisler, Li Hongzhang, about 1876. Albumen print. Peabody Essex Museum. Museum purchase, made possible by the Frederick Townsend Ward Memorial Fund. PH22.65.

      Lorenzo F. Fisler, Li Hongzhang, about 1876. Albumen print. Peabody Essex Museum. Museum purchase, made possible by the Frederick Townsend Ward Memorial Fund. PH22.65.

      John Thomson, [Portrait of a Woman], 1868–72. Hand-colored albumen print. Peabody Essex Museum. Gift of George J. Harrington Jr., 1993. PH27.42.

      John Thomson, Portrait of a Woman, 1868–72. Hand-colored albumen print. Peabody Essex Museum. Gift of George J. Harrington Jr., 1993. PH27.42.

      John Thomson, A Reach of the Min, 1868-72. From Foochow and the River Min, 1873. Carbon print. Peabody Essex Museum. Museum purchase, made possible by the Frederick Townsend Ward Memorial Fund. PH25.68.

      John Thomson, A Reach of the Min, 1868-72. From Foochow and the River Min, 1873. Carbon print. Peabody Essex Museum. Museum purchase, made possible by the Frederick Townsend Ward Memorial Fund. PH25.68.

      Artists in China, Fan with a view of the Praya Grande in Macau, mid to late 1800s. Wood, lacquer, paper, paint, and gold. Peabody Essex Museum. Museum purchase, made possible by an anonymous donor, 1984. E80064.A-D.

      Artists in China, Fan with a view of the Praya Grande in Macau, mid to late 1800s. Wood, lacquer, paper, paint, and gold. Peabody Essex Museum. Museum purchase, made possible by an anonymous donor, 1984. E80064.A-D.

      Sunqua, View of the Foreign Settlement in Guangzhou, 1855–60. Oil on canvas. Peabody Essex Museum. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, 1983. M20567.A.

      Sunqua, View of the Foreign Settlement in Guangzhou, 1855–60. Oil on canvas. Peabody Essex Museum. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, 1983. M20567.A.

      Follow along on social media using #PEMPerspective.

      Curator Interview

      PEM curators discuss behind the scenes of Power and Perspective: Early Photography in China.

      Power and Perspective: Early Photography in China Book cover

      Featured Publication

      Drawing primarily from the Peabody Essex Museum’s historic and largely unpublished collection of photographs, this generously illustrated volume examines the confrontations and collaborations that shaped the adoption and practice of photography in China.

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