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'Picturing China' images showcased by AHRC

Self-portrait of Jack Ephgrave, 1931; Ephgrave collection, EP01-201

Self-portrait of Jack Ephgrave, 1931; Ephgrave collection, EP01-201 ©2013 Adrienne Livesey, Elaine Ryder and Irene Brien

Press release issued: 2 August 2013

Photographs taken by Jack Ephgrave, a member of the large British expatriate community in Shanghai in the early years of the twentieth century, are featured in the second exhibition on the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)’s new Image Gallery, launched today.

The images were collected as part of the 'Historical Photographs of China' project, led by Professor Robert Bickers of the University of Bristol, which has digitised thousands of historical photographs of China taken between the 1860s and 1940s.

Born in Shanghai in 1914, Jack Ephgrave began experimenting with photography around the aged of 15 and captured a great deal of Chinese life: work, leisure, politics, technology, street life and much more.  His photographs, mostly taken between 1929-34, give a fascinating and at times beautiful insight into a country on the brink of momentous change.

They provide wonderful views of the printing and design operation he worked within, which contributed powerfully to the dynamic visual and commercial culture of 1930s Shanghai.  They also show Shanghai from the air in 1927, labour struggles, and life on Shanghai’s bustling streets.

The photos came in two large albums containing almost a thousand prints, which will all be uploaded to the project's website Visualising China over the coming months.

Thanks to funding from the AHRC, the British Academy and a number of other organisations, ‘Historical Photographs of China’ has located and archived photographs from the substantial holdings of images of China held mostly in private hands overseas.  These are often of even greater historic interest than might ordinarily be the case, as the destruction of materials inside China in war and revolution in the twentieth century, and especially during the 1966-69 Cultural Revolution, means that there is a relative dearth today of accessible photographic records in China itself.

Professor Bickers said: "Preparing these photos for display has been a great opportunity to research further into the collection, and we have learned a lot on the way.  Jack's family are also thrilled, and it’s a great way to show them, very quickly, of the wider interest of such family photographs."

The AHRC Image Gallery showcases the range of digital images generated either as by-products or as outputs of research projects in the arts and humanities as a means of highlighting the richness and diversity of images created and used within the arts and humanities and to showcase the talents of those who create them, including those of doctoral students and early career researchers.

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