RAS Art Focus Group

Li Room at the Radisson Blu Xingguo Hotel

A Critical View of the History of Chinese Photography

Speaker: Jean Loh

September 8th through 11th marks the 3rd edition of Photo Shanghai, a global art fair dedicated to photographic works of art. To expand our knowledge of photography as an art form that took hold in China, RAS is pleased to invite Jean Loh as our special Art Focus speaker in September.

Contemporaneous with the invention of photography came the outbreak of the First Opium War, along with foreign concessions and settlements in Canton and Shanghai. The 19th Century saw the arrival of photography in China. In the early 20th Century Chinese photography was essentially viewed through the eyes of Westerners: missionaries, archeologists, botanists, and diplomats. Chinese photography proper started in the 1920s – 1930s, during the Republic (Min Guo) period but few documents remain. From the 1950s onward photography’s purpose was to serve the people. Documentary photography only resumed with the launch of Deng Xiaoping’s Reform and Opening. This talk is a subjective retracing of the evolution of documentary photography in China over three decades, from the 1980s and the 1990s, to the early 2000s and today, with selected examples and a questioning of the meaning of documentary in a context of generalised commercial pursuit.


Jean Loh is a graduate of Paris Sciences-Po, with a master degree in the History of Ideas from Sorbonne Pairs-IV. He is the curator and art director of Beaugeste Photo Gallery in Shanghai.

RSVP: artgroup@royalasiaticsociety.org.cn