On April 1, at 4:30 pm, Jerome Silbergeld, professor of Chinese art history at Princeton University, will present a talk, “Chinese Photography: Art and Documentation” that will provide a unique view into everyday life in China, both traditional and modern, as seen through the lens of documentary photography.  Held in Collins Cinema, the lecture is free and open to the public.
Chinese cinema rose to international prominence in the 1990s, its avant-garde painting and photography after 2000, and now Chinese documentary photography is arriving on the scene and just beginning to gain appreciation. In the West, documentary photography led the way to the artistic recognition and museum collecting of “art” photography.
Silbergeld will examine the contrasts between Chinese and Western documentary photography. Do Chinese and Western museums view this medium from different perspectives? Do Chinese photographers see China through a different lens than their Western counterparts? Finally, what does documentary photography—Chinese or otherwise—have to do with art and aesthetics?
Silbergeld’s lecture is based on the first American exhibition of Chinese documentary photography, Humanism in China: A Contemporary Record of Photography that offered a revealing glimpse of China never before seen in the U.S. The photographs in that exhibition, dating from 1951 though 2003, offered intimate portraits of rural and urban daily life in China, beyond the glossy veneer of the economic boom.  As part of his presentation, Silbergeld will show images from this groundbreaking exhibition.