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The Spring 2012 issue of the Trans-Asia Photography Review, entitled “Women’s Camera Work: Asia” features the contributions of women—as photographers—to photography in all regions of Asia. Although women certainly were enlisted as the subjects of photographs as soon as the camera arrived, they have much less frequently succeeded in becoming photographers themselves, particularly in the publically recognized domains of art, journalism and commercial photography. Their early work most often took place in the private settings of family albums or, if it was more public, tended to be specifically directed towards women’s concerns. In this issue, Suryanandini Narain’s discussion of Nishtha Jain’s film Family Album deals with historic photograph albums from prominent Calcutta families and the roles women played within them.
In more public forums, a complex set of factors, including personal determination, family situation, social class and cultural mobility, have enabled individual women to succeed as photographers. We are delighted, in this issue, to feature the groundbreaking work of photojournalist Homai Vyarawalla in India, independent documentarian Hedda Hammer Morrison in China, abstract photographer Eiko Yamazawa in Japan, and Lady Erb Bunnag in Siam (now Thailand). Sabeena Gadihoke presents a little-known set of photographs of young women made by Vyarawalla early in her career, in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s in Bombay. Claire Roberts reflects on the images made by Hedda Hammer Morrison in Beijing during approximately the same time period, making some of her historic work available for the first time. Mihoko Yamagata brings to light the unique modernist work of Eiko Yamazawa, whose life spanned almost the entire 20th century. And Leslie Woodhouse, in a fascinating and extensive article, discusses the photographs made by Lady Erb, a concubine in the Siamese court of King Chulalongkorn, in the early years of the 20th century.
While remarkable individual women were occasionally able to produce important photographic work in Asia throughout the 20th century, a noticeable shift occurred beginning in the 1980’s, as educated young women began to take up photography. This flowering of work by women photographers throughout Asia is continuing today. We are very pleased to represent here the work of contemporary women photographers from Korea, China and Japan, in curatorial projects organized, respectively, by curators Yang Eunhee, Jean Loh and Mika Kobayashi. The photographers they have chosen—Kim Oksun, Shin Eunkyang, Lee Sun-min, Bek Jisoon, Yi Shen, Wang Lin, Zhe Chen, Akiko Ikeda, Yuko Tada, Emi Fukuyama, and Hitomi Kakimoto—address a range of social, visual and conceptual issues, each in her own way.
The list of women photographers whose work is featured in this issue is certainly far from comprehensive; there are, of course, many others whose work needs to be better known. The phrase “Women’s Camera Work” was originally coined by Judith Fryer Davidov as the title of a groundbreaking book in which she rewrote the history of photography in the U.S. around key female photographers. By titling this issue “Women’s Camera Work: Asia”, we are expressing the hope that the contributions of women to photography in Asia, now and in the past, will achieve the recognition they deserve.
We are introducing two new formats in this issue. Raymond Lum has launched a series of articles about collections of “Asia photographs” to be found in photography archives around the world. He has written the first article, an introduction to the Asia photographs stored in the archives of Harvard University’s libraries. We hope this feature will be useful to researchers, and plan to publish introductions to other archives in future issues of the TAP Review. Please send suggestions directly to Dr. Lum at email@example.com. In addition, Ayelet Zohar has contributed a substantial commentary on recent exhibitions in Japan of the work of Mao Ishikawa; we welcome future exhibition commentaries as well. We also continue to publish book reviews written by knowledgeable scholars, an annotated list of recent publications by Reviews and Resources Editor Raymond Lum, an updated listing of websites pertaining to photography in Asia, and abstracts of scholarly symposia.
Our next issue, forthcoming in Fall 2012, will be guest edited by Young Min Moon on the theme “The After-Effects of War”. Professor Moon is an artist, curator and writer who has done extensive research on this topic in the context of Korean photography. He will be building on this knowledge base and reaching out to include other regions. Please contact him directly with proposals at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We hope that in addition to bringing the work of many excellent photographers “into focus”, Women’s Camera Work: Asia will stimulate further, much needed research on the contributions of women to photography in Asia. As always, we welcome your feedback on this present issue or on past issues of the TAP Review, all of which are available by clicking on “Archive”. Please feel free to contact us at email@example.com.
With best wishes,
Editor, Trans-Asia Photography Review