The hidden history of China in photos

Photography is flourishing as an art form in China but a collection of rare early photographs reveal the country's long history with the medium.

Daguerreotypes and photographs from the period between 1840 and 1911, which up till recently have not been widely collected or displayed, show a country undergoing vast change, caught between its ancient traditions and modernization.

But they are not only historical documents of a changing land: the delicate, sepia-toned images that exist are now being assessed for their art historical value as well and show Chinese photographers of the time interpreting the medium according to centuries-old artistic traditions.

Frances Terpak is the curator of photographs at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles. She looks after the organization's growing collection of 19th-century Chinese photography.

According to Terpak, photography was brought to China in the 1840s by Western diplomats, missionaries and travelers but was soon adopted by the Chinese in their own specific way....

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