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books List of China Photo Essays and Chinese Pictorials  

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Photography in China began very quickly after the invention of photography in 1838 with the arrival of European photographers in Macao. In the 1850s, western photographers set up studios in the coastal port cities, but soon their Chinese assistants and local competition spread to all regions. By the end of the nineteenth century, all major cities had photographic studios where middle class Chinese could have portraits taken for family occasions; western and Chinese photographers documented ordinary street life, major wars, and prominent figures; and affluent Chinese adopted photography as a hobby. Even the Empress Dowager Cixi had her portrait taken repeatedly. In the twentieth century, photography in China, as in other countries around the world, was used for recreation, record keeping, newspaper and magazine journalism, political propaganda, and fine art photography.

China: A Photohistory, 1937-1987 by W. J. F. Jenner

A collection of photos taken over fifty years by photographers from the Magnum Photo Agency. Magnum was the premier photo agency of the Twentieth Century. This book includes images by Eve Arnold, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capa.


In 1994, Chinese artist Liu Zheng conceived of an ambitious photographic project called The Chinese, which occupied him for seven years and carried him throughout China. Inspired by the examples of August Sander and Diane Arbus, he has captured a people and country in a unique time of great flux.

CHINA: Portrait of a People by Tom Carter

Over the course of 2 years and 35,000 miles, photojournalist Tom Carter captured it ALL on film. Carter's anthropological-like study of China stands apart in its genre, as it focuses expressly on the PEOPLE of China. In addition to documenting the everyday life of "ordinary" people, Carter also backpacked to the most remote areas of China to observe reclusive ethnic minorities.

City of Darkness: Life In Kowloon Walled City by Greg Girard

Girard and Lambot spent four years exploring the notorious Walled City of Kowloon (Hong Kong), before it's final clearance in 1992. With over 320 photographs, 32 extended interviews, and essays on the City's history and character.