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A critical reconsideration of the history of photography that explores how commerce and conflict fueled its practice in nineteenth-century China.
Photography’s development as a new form of art and technology coincided with profound changes in the way China engaged with the world in the nineteenth century. The medium evolved in response to war, trade, travel, and a desire for knowledge about an unfamiliar place. Power and Perspective provides a rich account of the exchanges among photographers, artists, patrons, and subjects in the treaty port cities that connected China and the West. Drawing primarily from the Peabody Essex Museum’s historic and largely unpublished collection of photographs, this generously illustrated volume examines the confrontations and collaborations that shaped the adoption and practice of photography in China. Offering an original reassessment of the colonial legacy of the medium, Power and Perspective addresses photography’s representations of racial hierarchy and its entanglement with histories of European imperialism in nineteenth-century China.