In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

ix Perhaps counterintuitively, this book has its origins in a six-year project on Chinese biographies/autobiographies and portraits/self-portraits that I led while serving as Patricia and Rowland Rebele Endowed Chair in the History of Art and Visual Culture at the University of California, Santa Cruz. It seemed to me that many of the issues I encountered as I engaged with Chinese photographic traditions might be constructively pursued with African materials as well, or set against those traditions to create a productive tension. To this end, Elisabeth Cameron, a valued department colleague, generously agreed to co-organize a conference on portrait photography in Africa. We were fortunate also that John Peffer was able to spend a year with us teaching at UCSC; Elisabeth and John were responsible for selecting and inviting the many Africanists who joined us in Santa Cruz for the conference in February 2006. Although we had expected to divide the volume’s editorial work among the three of us, and I also planned to write a more formal research paper based on my conference presentation, illness required that I step back from the scene. I am glad now to be able to return with this brief foreword. Elisabeth and John deserve extraordinary credit, as well as my very considerable appreciation, for doing far more work than reasonably anticipated in order to see the volume through to publication. It also is a great pleasure to recognize with gratitude that the long-term project, including this segment, was made possible by the kind generosity of Patricia and Rowland Rebele, who created the endowed chair in our department. A few words on portraiture and portrait photography in China may provide a sense of some of the issues animating the organization of the conference, which was the starting point for this volume. Until recently, the vast bulk of portraiture in China was created specifically for memorial purposes. Many of these portrait paintings were created by local F O R E W O R D RAOUL BIRNBAUM Foreword x specialists after the death of the subject; sometimes it was simply a matter of filling in the facial features of the specific individual to complete a prepainted design . That face often was produced according to descriptions given by family members (sometimes using the Chinese craftsman’s equivalent of the identikit commonly used by U.S. police departments to construct drawings of crime suspects ). Representations in some cases were formulaic, but the likenesses were considered sufficient for ritual purposes. The introduction of photographic technologies , and increasing access to them in urban areas by the last quarter of the nineteenth century, made “accurate” representations possible, and so these images produced by new technologies rapidly became favored for this very traditional function. Photography also created a new range of possibilities for the relatively easy production of family pictures, records of public gatherings, and the like. Importantly, photographic technologies provided new opportunities for self-examinationofstablerepresentationsofone ’sownimage.Suchportraitphotographs became significant objects of exchange as well. There is much that could be said about the immense changes in the production and dissemination of photographic images—largely portraiture, of one kind or another—that have occurred over these past few decades in China (and in many other places as well). What had been the province mainly of professionals— either studio-based or semi-itinerant—and a few skilled hobbyists now is within reach of anyone with a reasonably equipped mobile phone. Family images that once were only mounted in shrine-like fashion on domestic walls or kept in treasured photo albums now may be toted around as electronic data in a laptop or in that same mobile phone, and readily transmitted to friends as well, without need for negatives and processing. In Tolstoy’s War and Peace (to jump to a context very far from either Africa or China for a moment), one may be struck by the way that the early nineteenth-century Russian nobility depicted there—even generals strategizing at battlefields—frequently take out their snuffboxes and gaze for moment at the inset ivory-painted miniature portraits of a spouse or child. In comparison to a world where portrait images were precious and rare, now in many places including China they are ubiquitous. That does not mean, though, that such images have no power, even if they are reproduced again and again. To take one small slice of Chinese photographic traditions, we might look to the worlds of Buddhist practitioners, especially as set in monasteries. (This...

pdf

Additional Information

ISBN
9780253008725
Related ISBN
9780253008602
MARC Record
OCLC
847949587
Pages
472
Launched on MUSE
2013-10-21
Language
English
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.