China Beat Archive



Jean Loh

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April 13, 2009 in the China Beat


Copyright April 13, 2009 Jean Loh. Used by permission.


A friend of the blog forwarded to us information about a current exhibition in Shanghai, “Beijing Sixty Six,” which features startling photographs of the Cultural Revolution by Solange Brand. The curator of the show, Jean Loh of Galerie Beaugeste, kindly agreed to write a piece for us about reactions to the exhibit, as well as allowing us to share a few of these recently-uncovered photographs. You can learn more about the exhibit at Facebook, City Weekend, or about Galerie Beaugeste (located on Taikang lu) at its website.

In 2002, the cofounder of the Pingyao International Photography Festival, Alain Jullien, invited an unknown amateur photographer to participate in the annual visual feast that went on to become the landmark of Chinese photography today. Solange Brand, then the Art Director of the newspaper Le Monde Diplomatique, mentioned in passing to Alain that she had been in China from 1966 to 1968, and had not set foot on the Mainland since. When Alain asked if she had taken any pictures of China; that innocent question turned out to be a major discovery: Her Agfa color slides and prints buried in a shoe box for all those years emerged to become an award-winning book.

That same year in Pingyao I was privileged to be in Solange’s hotel room where she first showed her sensational pictures on my laptop screen. Everyone in the room was awestruck. And I was captivated by the freshness of the images as if they were snapshots made just the day before. Later during the al fresco projection, many of the Chinese photographers were moved; all were fascinated by this very rare natural portrait of “Beijing ’66,” and in color! The projection was accompanied by revolutionary songs Solange has collected during her stay and a tape she made from the demonstration at the gate of the French Embassy. The commotion amongst the Chinese photographers was incredible: after the show some of them marched on the main street of Pingyao singing aloud the Red Sun Rising on the East and other vintage revolutionary hymns before settling down forbaijiu and huangjiu at the main tavern where Marc Riboud’s pictures were hanging on the wall.