Archives, Databases and
This section of TransAsia Photography Review presents an annotated list of selected websites that relate to photography from Asia, along with profiles of particular archives of Asia photographs. Readers are encouraged to send information on new or updated sites, or suggestions of archives to profile to TAP Resources Editor Raymond Lum.
Click here to read abstracts and summaries of symposia, conferences, panels and workshops on topics related to photography from Asia
On this page:
Issued by an “electronic bookshop” in China, this is a long annotated list of books and published photo albums, all produced before the founding of the Peoples Republic of China. Each title is given with full citation, where available. The annotations for each item give physical dimensions, geographic areas of focus, topics not indicated by the titles, number of photographs, brief information on the photographer, and technical information (wet plate, photogravure, etc.). Some entries include extensive notes. Chinese characters are provided for titles in Chinese and for Chinese personal names.
The compiler of this 2011 list is not named. The list appears on the website of Tencent QQ, an instant messaging software service.
Established in China in 2006, Inter Art Center holds exhibitions, publishes photobooks, and collects and conserves both “classic” and contemporary photographs. It holds book launches, exhibitions, film screenings, seminars, and other public events, and serves as agent for some well-known Chinese photographers. The Center also publishes Pixel, a quarterly journal devoted to collecting photographs. The website has both Chinese and English versions.
The Center, founded in 2007 in Beijing’s flourishing art district, is dedicated to exhibiting photography and video arts, and publishing books and catalogs of exhibitions held at the Center. The Center also conducts photographic research and training through exhibitions, lectures, and workshops.
China Through the Eyes of CIM Missionaries: A Lantern Slide & Glass Plate Negative Collection
This project, based at Bristol University, documents the work and staff of the Chinese Maritime Customs Service, which was largely foreign-staffed and -administered for the Chinese polity. An adjunct of the project is links to digitized photographs of Customs staff and locales. Several discrete collections are included or linked, including the E. B. Drew Collection at Harvard and the Robert Hart Collection at Queen's University, Belfast. Other collections include images of the Shanghai Municipal Police, portraits of Customs staff, and the collection of G. Warren Swire of the East Asian trading company Butterfield & Swire.
John Van Antwerp MacMurray Photo and Film Collection
John van Antwerp MacMurray was a US Foreign Service Officer who served as Secretary of the American Legation in China (1913-1917) and as Minister to China (1925-1929), among other postings; he also was an enthusiastic photographer. His papers, held in the Princeton University Library’s Dept. of Rare Books and Special Collections, include 55 boxes of photographs, dating from 1849 to 1955 and taken or acquired by him. One box contains photos of China and other locales in Asia, including Thailand and the Philippines. Also in the collection are films MacMurray made in China, Korea, and the Philippines. The collection of papers and still and moving images is open for on-site research, but does not appear to have been digitized.
This site focuses on China's rapid transition from a rural to an urban society. The many contemporary photos are complemented by hundreds of historic photos and albums. Among the categories into which the images are arrayed are Tianjin developments and impressions; Tibetan lands; people and other creatures; China's farms; mountains and sites in China. The photographs at this site represent only a part of Hahn's archive, which he will search upon request.
This extensive bibliography was created by researchers at the J. Paul Getty Museum to coincide with the Museum's February to May 2011 exhibition "Brush & Shutter: Early Photography in China" and the accompanying catalog of the same name (ISBN 978-1-60606-054-4). Preliminary matter includes an introduction to the topic and the bibliography. The bibliography itself is divided into the following sections:
- • History of Photography, with sub-sections on surveys; photographers; missionaries; scientists, travelers, and amateurs; early publications; postcards; websites.
- • The Interpretation of History Through Photographs, with sub-sections on sites (cities and other places) and themes, defined here as books and articles that use photographs as primary visual resources for understanding themes that include portraiture, the practice and role of photography in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, wars, courtesan culture, commodities, and customs.
- • Published Collections
The bibliography was created by Shi Chen, Julia Grimes, Tiffany Lee, Jia Tan, and Linlin Wang, and edited by Jeffrey W. Cody and Frances Terpak, who are the curators of the exhibition. A wealth of information not specifically related to China photographs (such as Getty vocabularies for art and architecture, geographic names, collecting and provenance research) can be accessed through links on this site.
Terry Bennett's site includes historical information and full listings of the images in his collection of Chinese photographs from 1844-1911.
This blog, published by Marine Cabos with text in English, French and Chinese, introduces a range of historical and contemporary photographers who are working or have worked in China.
Visualising China is a JISC [Joint Information Systems Committee]-funded project to allow users to explore and enhance more than 8000 digitised images of photographs of China taken between 1850 and 1950. It allows access to many previously unseen albums, envelopes and private collections and also major collections such as Historical Photographs of China, the Sir Robert Hart Collection and Joseph Needham's Photographs of Wartime China. These have many sub-collections and albums… Visualising China builds on recent digitisation work undertaken by the Department of Historical Studies at the University of Bristol culminating in the presence of a large, growing collection of historical photographs of China from a variety of sources - academic, commercial and private collections, as well as many small neglected albums found in attics and trunks. Approximately 15,000 digital images were created in total, an increasing number of which are searchable and browsable via Visualising China.
Based in Tokyo, PH supports emerging Japanese photography, primarily through the sale of photobooks and its participation in art book fairs.
This site promotes the study of both old and newer Japanese photography through the sale of books and the free viewing of digital books via an app for the iPad and the reproduction of photobooks and prints.
Alfred Hussey Collection: Japan’s Constitution Photo Album
“This album commemorates the enactment of Japan's constitution…It was produced by The Society for the Popularization for the Constitution [Kenpō Fukyū Kai]. Kenpō Fukyū Kai was founded on December 1, 1946, as a result of pressure from occupation officials to ‘thoroughly popularize the spirit of the new Constitution through activities to raise awareness of it so as to touch every aspect of the lives of the citizens [from the website].” The society continued to carry out its tasks for a year or so after the 1947 promulgation of the constitution.” Hussey was a lawyer and part of Gen. MacArthur’s team to devise a post-War constitution for Japan.
The Life and Camera work of T. Enami
The Japanese photographer Nobukuni Enami (1859-1929) preferred to be known professionally as "T. Enami." This extensive but intentionally chaotic website on Enami and his ouvre contains some 300 of Enami’s photographs and several of his advertisements and price lists. This site includes information on and links to Enami photographs in various collections, most of them viewable online. Pending publication of Oechsle’s book on Enami, this site will remain the definitive but somewhat disorganized source on the photographer.
Currents in modern Japanese photography are accessible at this site, "a personal introduction to Japanese photography." Book reviews, photographer profiles, and new books for sale make up the bulk of the site.
This blog about "Japanese Photography, Seen from Abroad" lists current exhibitions and has links to individual photographers, not all of them Japan-centered. Covers from books in the library of the site's creator are shown as images.
More than 760 images from two separate collections are made available for research here. One collection, which includes 195 colored transparencies, was formed by Dr. Donald Kupfer, who was a US naval officer in Okinawa in 1945 and 1946. The other collection was made in 1968 by the U.S. Civil Administration of the Ryukyu Islands.
This site, developed by Guven Peter Witteveen, is based on the Asian collections of the Library of Congress. The site is designed for use in teaching and features numerous approaches to viewing and use of the images.
Developed by Guven Peter Witteveen, this site is based on the Asian collections of the Library of Congress. It is designed for use in teaching and features numerous approaches to viewing and use of the images, all of which are explained and illustrated.
Carter Holton Film Collection (Digital Himalaya)
The Rev. Carter Holton (1901-1973) was a missionary to Tibetans and Muslims in Western China from 1923to 1949. This video, held by the Christian and Missionary Alliance, which had sent Holton and his wife to China, has been digitized by the Digital Himalaya project at Cambridge University. The voice-over narration was added in 1995 by Robert Carlson, whose father was Holton’s friend and fellow missionary. It appears that the film was spliced together from several short films made by Holton. The Harvard-Yenching Library also holds a copy of the original film and, in addition, has most of Holton’s original photographs and his 34mm Ektachrome slides. The Library has digitized the photos and slides and will eventually make them available online.
Frederick Williamson Collection on Sikkim, Bhutan, and Tibet
Williamson was a British Political Officer in Sikkim, Bhutan, and Tibet in the 1930s. His approximately 1700 photographs and twenty-three reels of movies are held in the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at Cambridge University. Twenty-two of the photographs and all of the films have been digitized and can be viewed online. This is part of the Digital Himalaya website, which is digitizing archival collections containing ethnographic information on the Himalayan region.
More than 6000 old photographs of Tibet can be viewed here. “The majority of these photographs were taken by an elite group of men who visited Tibet as civil servants representing the British Government… The photographs featured in this site therefore reflect the topography of the routes used by the British to reach the capital of Tibet (Lhasa) from the Indian side of the Himalayas and are concentrated in south and central Tibet. In many ways these photographs are the product of a particularly British engagement with Tibet at the height of colonialism.” The images are searchable by subject and can be zoomed for more detail. The site allows viewers to create their own albums of selected photos, and it links to interactive maps of Tibet, to full texts of selected diaries and documents, and to three photo albums: Hugh Richardson's photograph album from the Lhasa Mission 1936-1937; Harry Staunton’s undated album; and Evan Nepean’s album. Also contains the photographs of Rabden Lepcha, Charles Bell, and Spencer Chapman; the British Museum’s Hopkinson Collection, and Richardson’s color transparencies, and photographs from expeditions. Includes a link to the Tibetan and Himalayan Digital Library and an extensive bibliography of publications in English. The site can be searched by dates, people, places, collections, and photographers. From the collections of the Pitt Rivers Museum and the British Museum.
East Asia (Multi-National)
East Asia Image Collection, Lafayette College
Links to online photo collections on Imperial Japan, Manchuria, Taiwan, Korea, and Karafuto (a Japanese prefecture from 1907 to 1945 and now a part of Russia) are provided in this site. Many of the links are to the collections of Japan’s National Diet Library and are in Japanese. A separate link is to the open-access East Asian Image Collection (photographs, stereocards, picture books, postcards, negatives, slides) of Imperial Japan and its empire, plus Indonesia, held in nineteen named collections in the Skillman Library at Lafayette College. ”Each record in the East Asia Image Collection has been assigned subject headings, hyper-linked metadata, and, to the fullest extent possible, historiographical, bibliographical and technical data.” Several essays and blog posts relate to East Asian images, primarily postcards, including photo postcards. An extensive bibliography of publications in East Asian and Western language leads to additional resources and interpretations. Also given is a list of important links to “Digital Photograph Archives (abbreviated).” A separate category of links leads to archives of moving images, a number of which either include or focus on East Asia.
Contemporary photographs from Bangladesh are presented on the Drik (Sanskrit for "Vision") site. Drik's picture library was established in 1989 "...with the vision that photographers and writers from the developing world would be given a chance to portray their people..." As a photo agency for South Asia, Drik is both an archive and a source of stock images. The images in its picture library are not viewable on its website except for a limited number of sample images.
The Alkazi Foundation for the Arts, a privately owned archive based in New Delhi, holds some 90,000 photographs made primarily in South Asia. The collections document "the progress of socio-political life in the sub-continent, through the inter-disciplinary fields of architecture, anthropology, topography, and archaeology, starting from the 1840s and leading up the rise of modern India and the Independence Movement of the 1920s, 30s & 40s." Four of the individual collections can be viewed on the site, but most cannot.
Visual South Asia is an area of research for anthropologist Christopher Pinney of University College, London, particularly the history of photography and chromolithography. His website features downloadable images, including a large number of 19th century studio photographic portraits showing both the recto and verso of the images.
Held at the University of Southern California, the archive “…offers historical images from Protestant and Catholic missionary collections in Britain, Norway, Germany, and the United States. The photographs, which range in time from the middle of the nineteenth to the middle of the twentieth century, offer a visual record of missionary activities and experiences in Africa, China, Madagascar, India, Papua-New Guinea, and the Caribbean. The photographs reveal the physical influence of missions, visible in mission compounds, churches, and school buildings, as well as the cultural impact of mission teaching, religious practices, and Western technology and fashions. Indigenous peoples' responses to missions and the emergence of indigenous churches are represented, as are views of landscapes, cities, and towns before and in the early stages of modern development.” The Archive is part of the University’s Center for Religion and Civic Culture.
The photographs in the Archive appear not to be available online yet, but a press release states that a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in March 2012 will allow the Archive to catalog, digitize, and post online its collection of photographs.
A Street-Level View of Kuala Lumpur
An online article on the photographs of Che’ Ahmad Azhar taken on the streets of Kuala Lumpur, capital of Malaysia. The photographer teaches photography at Malaysia’s Multimedia University. This site features sixteen of his photographs.
The American Baptist church worked not only in the U.S. but also in missions abroad in Asia and Africa. Judson 200 (www.judson200.org) is part of the church’s website that contains numerous photographs of missions in Burma, in separate files of missions to the Karen, to the Chin, to the Kachin, and to the Burmese. Included are several letters sent by Adoniram Judson, one of the earliest missionaries to Burma (early 19th century). From the Archives website: “Adoniram Judson (1788-1850) was the premier figure of his generation among Baptists in America. He was the first foreign missionary commissioned in the United States (by a Congregationalist/Presbyterian board) and he was the role model for scores of successors from many denominations. Upon his arrival in India in 1812, he and his spouse, Ann Hasseltine, became convinced of Baptist principles and so became the catalyst for Baptist missionary organization in America. In 1813 the Judsons moved to Burma, where they introduced the Christian faith. Though often ill and unjustly imprisoned, Adoniram produced a translation of the Bible and several major Burmese-English language books, as well as winning many to Christ. While he only returned to the States once before his death at sea in 1850, his letters and journal shaped early ideas of overseas missionary endeavour.” Also at the site are articles from Morning Star, a monthly periodical published for a century, from 1842, in the Sgaw Karen language by the American Baptist Mission Press in Burma.
Gordon Gahan (1945-1984) began what would become his career while still a middle school student at Phillips Exeter Academy. His twenty-year career saw him work as a photojournalist for United Press International, the United States Army, and the National Geographic Society. This collection holds, inter alia, 180 gelatin silver prints and contact sheets, 3200 black-and-white negatives, and some 70,000 color slides. Included are some 3000 images made by Gahan during the Vietnam War. “A searchable database allows visitors to explore Gahan’s photographs, and short descriptive essays provide information on diﬀerent parts of the collection. A selection of representative images accompanies each essay. Also included are general resources related to photojournalism and combat photography, the two areas of Gahan’s work represented in the Art Museums’ collections.”
Joel M. Halpern Laotian Slide Collection
Some 3000 b&w and colored slides taken in Laos by anthropologist Joel Halpern are organized in this vast site by categories: Buddhist monks, celebrations, ethnic groups, Hmong, Mekong River, nobility, and temples. The images also can be viewed as a complete group without categorization. Each image is annotated with information on place and date and a description of contents.
NewWriting Photography|se asia
This is a group writing blog where people can post reviews and comments on photographic practices as they relate to Southeast Asia. Currently, there is an extensive review of Bandung Photo Showcase, 2015 and a list of Indonesian photobooks from 2014. The blog is maintained by the photographer/critic Zhuang Wubin, whose earlier extensive blog on Southeast Asian photography is at https://seafoto.wordpress.com/category/photography-in-asia/ and contains numerous notices of little-known photobooks and exhibitions.
Zhuang Wubin - photographer, independent researcher and member of the TAP Review editorial board - posts a substantial array of short writings on photography from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, The Philippines and Vietnam on this informative blog. His own photographic projects and activities can also be viewed here.
The Smithsonian Institution’s Freer and Sackler Galleries hold over a thousand prints and glass plate negatives of Persia dating from the late 19th century and the early decades of the 20th. The images were made by Antonin Sevruguin and other Persian photographers and form the largest collection of Sevruguin’s photographs outside of Iran. This site features essays on Sevruguin and photographer Abdullah Mirza Qajar, and albums by other photographers. Illustrated essays on the site are devoted to an introduction to photography in Iran; photographic manipulation techniques employed by Sevruguin; a record of how Myron Bement Smith, an Islamic specialist, founded the Islamic Archives as “ a depository of primarily photographic materials for scholars and government agencies operating in Islamic countries” and how he acquired Sevruguin’s photographs (some of the photos on this site are from other collectors); and a list of further readings in English, Persian, and French. The Galleries request that anyone with more information on the identification of the images contact them.
Since its founding in 2000, the Asian Art Archive has been recording the state of contemporary art, including photography, throughout Asia, with a view to encouraging study and dialogue. The Archive maintains a free collection of physical and digital objects and promotes the study and collecting of contemporary Asian art through residencies, lectures, exhibitions, and symposia. “Newly accessible [online] resources include scanned images, correspondences, and artists’ personal documents, as well as streaming audio and video of performance art, artist talks, lectures, and other art events.”
International Mission Photography Archive (IMPA)
“The historical images in the International Mission Photography Archive come from Protestant and Catholic missionary collections held at a number of centers in Britain, Europe, and North America. The photographs record missionary endeavors and reflect the missionaries’ experience of communities and environments abroad. There are examples of the physical influence the mission presence brought –seen in churches and their surrounding settlements-- as well as examples of the cultural impact of mission teaching and Western influence, including schools, hospitals, training programs, Christian practices, and Western technology and fashions. The pictures document indigenous peoples' responses to missions and the history of indigenous churches which are often now a major force in society. They also offer views of traditional culture, landscapes, cities, and towns before and in the early stages of modern development.”
Africa and Asia are the regions most represented in the Archive, which draws on the holdings of thirteen mission archives and libraries and was assembled in a project at the University of California, San Diego. The collections are searchable, limited to those photographs that have been digitized. Each of the photographs is fully identified, providing information not immediately ascertainable from the image itself.
“Zen Foto aims to be a bridge between Japan and China and a platform for the best of classic and contemporary photography from both countries.” Zen publishes books of contemporary photography and also sells rare, used books of Japanese photography. The site also includes a blog about current photographers represented by the gallery.
Over 7000 photographs, held by the American Geographical Society Library and digitized by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Library, are available on this site. Each image is accompanied by full cataloging data.
Asian & Pacific Studies - Historical Photographs
Dr. Matthew Ciolek has built a database of links to more than 100 digital archives of historical photographs from Asia, searchable alphabetically by the name of the photographer or the name of the archive. While he no longer actively maintains it, most sites can still be accessed through his alphabetical list. The database includes links to the following collections, among many others:
- The ca. 5000 photographs made by Sidney Gamble from 1908 to 1932 include photographs of China, Korea and Japan. Gamble's photographs record northern China on the cusp of monumental change, following the founding of the Chinese Republic in 1912.
- The Hedda Morrison photos of China in 1933-1946 and those of the Rev. Claude Pickens record visually the handicrafts (Morrison) and religious observations (Morrison's photos of Taoist priests and Buddhist nuns, Pickens's of Muslims in western China) that have largely disappeared from China.
- The Dana and Vera Reynolds collection collection of over 100 photographs, made by Americans, documents the Great Kanto Earthquake in Japan in 1923.
- An earlier period of Japan's history is preserved visually in the ca. 6000 photos of the Bakumatsu-Meiji period (1860-1920) held by the Nagasaki Library.
- Pioneer Photography from the Dutch East Indies (today's Indonesia) is represented in a collection of 4,500 images from the 19th century. The same organization, Konjinklijk Institut voor de Tropen, also has created websites for its collection of photographs of the Dutch East Indies in Colonial World Fairs. In addition, the demise of the colonial presence and the founding of a modern state is documented in the 4500 photos and album pages in Indonesia Independent-Photographs 1945-1953 from the Netherlands Museum for Photography.
- Photos of India and Burma taken during Word War II by an American serviceman form the
Keagle Photograph Library, part of the Digital South Asia Library. The historical events of the movement to achieve Indian independence are more abundantly represented in the 15,000 photos and video footage of Mahatma Gandhi and India preserved by the GandhiServe
Foundation in Berlin.
This website includes an evolving online gallery of early photographs from a number of Asian countries, as well as a database of Asian magazine photographs and early photographic books from The National Gallery of Australia.
East and Southeast Asian photography are the focus of this blog created and maintained by Ch'ng Yaohong in Singapore. In addition to comments from bloggers, the site notes current exhibitions and features some of the images in those exhibitions; also included are calls for submissions and announcements of relevant festivals.
The Association records the locations of cemeteries and monuments of the some two million Europeans buried in the nations of South Asia and some locales in Southeast Asia, along with the inscriptions on headstones. The Association publishes cemetery and church records containing names, inscriptions, and biographical notes on individual tombs and gravestones and supports local people active in the restoration and conservation of European graveyards. Photographs of many of those graves, including those of British military personnel who died in service abroad, are found on this site. From the site's Links page, one can view, inter alia, the stone markers in the Old British Cemetery in Bencoolen, West Sumatra.
The Library of the School of Asian and African Studies, University of London, hosts this site, designed to enable users to access digital collections at universities and museums in the UK and in other European countries. SOAS provides no information on the contents of the site. To date, only photographs have been digitized, some of which can be viewed here.
The projects seek to digitize endangered archives around the world so as to both preserve them and make them available for research. The original materials remain in the nominating countries, with copies deposited at the British Library. Access to the materials varies. Among photographic archives digitized to date are several from Mongolia, Laos, and Nepal.
Invisible Ph t grapher Asia
“Invisible Photographer Asia (IPA) was founded in 2010, and since then has grown into a leading and influential platform for Photography and Arts in Asia. We participate vigorously in the movement of Photography in Asia through talent showcases, events and exhibitions, publishing, workshops and education, and community outreach. Since inauguration, IPA has partnered with organizations such as PLATFORM.SG, National Museum Of Singapore, The Angkor Photo Festival, KL Photo Awards, AO Photo Books (Hong Kong), SONY Electronics Asia Pacific, Leica Camera Asia Pacific, and Canon Asia to name a few. Our marquee programs include the Invisible Photographer Asia Awards, IPA Photo Books Show, and IPA Photo Camps & Workshops in Asia. We have produced photography and arts events and workshops in Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia. Invisible Ph t grapher Asia was founded in April 2010 by Kevin WY Lee [from the site’s homepage].” This rich site includes photo essays, a list of Asia’s “Top 20” photographers,” and information on workshops.
This site, developed by Esa Epstein, "is dedicated to showing a spectrum of modern and contemporary photography and video work from Asia." The site seeks to foster artist development through trade fairs, exhibitions, publications and festivals. The site includes news of exhibitions and significant new publications.