China Seminar | 14 December 2006

Chinese Wartime Photography

Shana J. Brown Shana J. Brown

Perhaps without knowing who took the images, you have probably already seen some of the famous photographs produced by Shafei (1912-1950), a CCP photographer during the Sino-Japanese war. Born in Guangzhou, Shafei was a self-taught artist who shot to fame after producing some acclaimed images of an ailing Lu Xun, China’s legendary modernist writer. During the wartime period, his depictions of heroic CCP troops, peasants enthusiastically embracing land reform, and Japanese atrocities sealed his legend as the most well-known and admired Communist documentary photographer. He is one of the founding fathers of the “Xinhua style” (named after the PRC press agency), and one of the most influential modern photographers in Asia. What are the qualities of his images that helped make them so influential and affecting? How do we understand the development of Chinese documentary photography during the wartime period?

Shana J. Brown is a specialist in modern China in the Department of History at the University of Hawaii. Her interests include visual culture and intellectual change in modern China. She is just completing a book manuscript on the importance of art collecting practices and visual culture to modern Chinese historical studies.