Photography and Culture Volume 15, 2022 - Issue 3: Theorizing New Photographies in China
Pages 303-312 | Received 08 Nov 2022, Accepted 17 Nov 2022, Published online: 12 Dec 2022
This essay investigates a certain type of archival photographs – photographic records of music and performing scenes – included in The Complete Works of Zhuang Xueben, published by Zhonghua Book Company in 2009. Born in 1909 and died in 1984, Zhuang has widely been recognized as a pioneering figure of documentary photography and visual anthropology in China, whose photographic and written records of indigenous groups in Xikang (now parts of Tibet Autonomous Region and Sichuan Province) have won him significant reputation throughout the Republic of China and the People’s Republic of China eras. The Complete Works contains more than 3,200 photographs he took during his several ethnological fieldworks between 1934 to the 1950s, involving indigenous people belonging to Tibetan, Qiang, Hui and Tu ethnicities. The purpose of sorting out and re-organizing the music-themed photographs in The Complete Works is to respond to recent debates among Chinese academics over Zhuang Xueben’s photography. It uses music iconography as its method of analysis, guiding the reader to grasp the “rhythms” embedded in these “musical images”.
Keywords: Zhuang Xueben, ethnographic photography, music iconography, musical images
Yang Qiao is a postdoctoral researcher of the School of Arts, Peking University. He obtained a PhD degree in electronic music composition and music history. His research interests include Chinese electronic music theory and history, and has created several musical works inspired by Tibetan music and culture.