Curated by Martin Parr and WassinkLundgren, this exhibition explores the cultural history of China through examples of photographic albums.
Often overlooked by scholars, the photobook has only recently come to be recognised as a valuable historical resource. Its usage in China particularly, has remained unexplored – which was the motivation for this project spearheaded by Parr and the Dutch artist collective with contributions from researchers and historians.
Spanning a period between 1900-2014, early albums chart the nation's transformation from a regal empire to the communist People's Republic of China. Further books reveal how the medium was used to express opposition to the Sino-Japanese war in the 1930-40s, as well as its significant impact as a tool of propaganda in the Mao era – promoting his status as 'the saviour of modern China'.
Meanwhile, contemporary albums provide insight into how self-publishing provided new opportunities of expression following the government's oppressive restrictions on printed material. Examples from foreign photographers are also used to provide perspectives of China that exist beyond the state-sanctioned ideologies seen in official publications.