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Technologies — including photographic technologies — are never independent of human origins and human ends, though they can seem to have “lives” of their own.
For example, the camera, initially used as an instrument for colonial mapping and categorizing in Asia, has always offered itself, often subversively, for many other forms of exploration. Since the mid-nineteenth century, photographic practitioners in Asia have invented and adapted photo-related technologies to serve a wide variety of aesthetic and social purposes.
The spring 2017 issue of the Trans Asia Photography Review, entitled “Technologies,” investigates the uses of historical and contemporary photographic methods throughout Asia.
Beginning with the late nineteenth century, Kelly M. McCormick offers a thorough discussion of the uses of the half-tone photograph, as seen in the prolific work of Ogawa Kazumasa. She focuses on reportage from the first Sino-Japanese War (1894–95) and the Russo-Japanese War (1904–05), paying attention to the ways in which photographs were combined with text and drawing (the latter two being considered the more accurate sources of information).
Amandine Davre’s curatorial project looks at the use of a nineteenth-century photographic process — the daguerreotype — in the hands of the contemporary Japanese photographer Takashi Arai. Arai is interested in the poetic and mythical resonances of this early technology, which he uses to document sites of radioactive contamination.
Shahidul Alam, in an artist’s project, also explores the poetics of technology. He has collaborated with scientists to develop a kind of close-up forensic photography, which he then uses to imaginatively construct visual/tactile traces of crimes the Bangladeshi military is suspected of committing against indigenous activists.
Examining photography in the period of China’s Cultural Revolution (1966–76), Zhou Dengyan and Shi Zhimin open up a little-known aspect of Chinese photo history in their substantial article on “ranyin fa” — an expansion of the dye-transfer process, which enabled the colorization of black-and-white photos. Zhou and Shi reveal how this process was developed by Chinese scientists and applied to support the political objectives of the Cultural Revolution.
In a curatorial project, Monique Gross looks at urban survey photographs made using drone-mounted cameras in a dense neighborhood of Hanoi. Different in purpose from the “mapping” of colonial times, she shows that drone photography still evokes the power of visualizing space.
The technologies of photography have always traveled, and they continue to travel across national and cultural boundaries, shape-shifting as they go. In our current climate of rapid technological development, we have the illusion of easy global access, which makes it all the more important that we study the implications of technological mediations in very specific terms.
We are pleased, in this issue, to feature three book reviews covering important recent scholarship on topics and regions in need of fuller discussion. Amy Holmes-Tagchungdarpa reviews Clare Harris’s Photography and Tibet; Gael Newton reviews Mark Rice’s Dean Worcester’s Fantasy Islands: Photography, Film, and the Colonial Philippines; and Shireen Walton reviews Ali Behdad’s Camera Orientalis. Ali Behdad is on the TAP Review’s editorial board; we look forward also to publishing, in our fall 2017 issue, reviews of new books by TAP Review editorial-board members Wu Hung and Zhuang Wubin.
Russet Lederman and Jiayi Liu offer the second installment of their lively listing of new photo books from Japan and China, this time also providing some historic material.
And our TAP Review intern, Procheta Mukherjee Olson, has done a fine job of profiling the remarkable organization Asia Art Archive, and the uses of photographs within it as both documentation and art.
I am delighted to welcome two new members to the TAP Review editorial board: Gael Newton brings her expertise on photography from Southeast Asia and Yao Wu works with photography within the broader context of Asian art.
Please read, enjoy, and visit us on Facebook and Instagram! Many thanks to Jamie Maxtone-Graham and Procheta Mukherjee Olson for their assistance with social media, and to you, our readers, for your interest and support.
With all good wishes,
Editor, Trans Asia Photography Review