As the “Trans” in Trans Asia Photography Review implies, movement across boundaries has been central to the work of this journal from the beginning. It is fitting, then, that the spring 2018 issue has as its theme “Voyages” — in this case, voyages undertaken primarily by photographers traveling to, from, and within Asia.
The journeys featured in this issue are made partly by choice, partly by chance, and often take surprising twists and turns. For example, a soldier from the United States found himself stationed in India during World War II and made a set of photographs in Bengal. These photos were found decades later in Chicago by artists/curators Alan Teller and Jerri Zbiral, who brought them back to Bengal and asked contemporary Indian artists to respond to them, with richly informative results.
During this same wartime period, the Japanese photographer Horino Masao was hired to make photographs in Japan’s colonial territories. Shota T. Ogawa demonstrates how Horino’s images used the properties of photographic modernism in the service of legitimizing Japanese expansion into Korea and Manchuria.
Juliane Noth examines the use of photographs to promote leisure travel a little earlier, in Republican (1930s) China, when hints of war were present. Her examination of the popular travel book Dongnan Lansheng shows how landscape photographs were used, in conjunction with poetry, to construct a representation of the traditional beauty of China that was, in fact, politically charged.
And, again during the 1940s, Jin Shisheng, a Chinese engineer and serious amateur photographer, traveled to Germany for overseas study and became stranded by war. There he made photographs that reverted to a romantic, pictorial style. Qiuzi Guo discusses how these photographs, different from his prior modernist work, communicated Jin’s longing for home.
It was chance that brought these articles — each articulating a distinct photographic response to twentieth-century wartime voyages — to the TAP Review, where they could be juxtaposed with one another, in addition to being appreciated for their individual merits.
But closer to the present day and responding to current global problems, we are also very pleased to publish Jean Loh’s presentation of the photographer Lu Guang’s tough-minded project on Chinese logging in Africa. Lu voyaged from China to Africa to document the exploitative harvesting of “blood wood,” which is then then sent to Chinese markets. His courageous work highlights the connection of environmental issues to specific questions of profit and power.
Even more immediate in time, Abby Robinson offers a profile of a brand-new collective for contemporary women’s photography, Thuma, based in Yangon, Myanmar. The work of the artists in the collective is visually compelling, and challenges the viewer to engage with social issues in personal terms. It is inspiring to see the energy, determination, and talent that have gone into the making of these images.
In addition to the articles and curatorial projects in this issue, we feature reviews of two important recent books, both of which significantly add to world knowledge of photography in Asia. These books are Zhuang Wubin’s Photography in Southeast Asia: A Survey, reviewed by Carlos Quijon Jr., and Tong Bingxue’s History of Photo Studios in China, 1859–1956 中国照相馆史, reviewed by Wu Yao.
We are delighted to welcome Christine Ho to the TAP Review editorial board. Christine’s research on modern and contemporary Chinese art includes a substantial engagement with photography.
I hope you find the images and texts in this issue useful, stimulating, even enlightening. And please don’t forget to follow the Trans Asia Photography Review on Facebook and Instagram.
With all good wishes,
Editor, Trans Asia Photography Review