October 24, 2009
China Seen by the Chinese

Documentary Photography, 1951−2003

An international symposium in conjunction with the exhibition “Humanism in China: A Contemporary Record of Photography” on view at the China Institute, New York, from 24 September−13 December 2009.

9 00 am
5 00 pm
McCosh 50
Organized by the P.Y. and Kinmay W. Tang Center for East Asian Art and the Princeton University Art Museum

Western photographers have been showing China to Westerners for 150 years, and photography has been a major medium in Western museums since the 1950s. It was not until 2003, however, that the Guangdong Museum of Art exhibited the first permanent collection of works by Chinese documentary photographers ever assembled by a Chinese museum. The Guangdong Museum’s collection was selected by a curatorial committee of photographers who spent two years touring more than 20 provinces, viewing 100,000 photographs, and selecting 600 works by 248 photographers. Beginning on 24 September 2009, the China Institute Gallery in New York will have the privilege of holding the first exhibition of this collection in America, featuring a selection of 100 of these photographs. In association with this event, the Tang Center for East Asian Art will host a symposium, “China Seen by the Chinese: Documentary Photography, 1951−2003,” at Princeton University on 24 October 2009. Presentations will consider historical and cross-cultural perspectives, critical and theoretical approaches to the subject, and the problem of defining “documentary” photography.


Symposium Program

Registration and coffee
8:30–9:30 am

Welcome and Introduction

Jerome Silbergeld

Princeton University

“Humanism in China”: The China Institute Exhibition

Sara Judge McCalpin

China Institute

Morning Session

Chair: Jerome Silbergeld, Princeton University

China Seen by the Chinese: Documentary Photography, 1951–2003

Jerome Silbergeld

Princeton University

Documentary Photography Projects: Some Observations

James Elkins

School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Sha Fei and the Beginning of Chinese Social Documentary Photography

Eliza Ho

Ohio State University

Afternoon Session

Chair: Dora C.Y. Ching, Princeton University

Reclaiming Documentary Photography

Richard K. Kent

Franklin and Marshall College

Famine and Bare-Foot Children

David J. Clark

University of Bolton, UK, in cooperation with Dalian College of Image Art; Visual Journalism at Ateneo de Manila University, Philippines

Ecologies of Photographs

William Schaefer

University of California, Berkeley

Problems of Perspective in Chinese Documentary Photography

Bridget Alsdorf

Princeton University



Jerome Silbergeld

Princeton University