International Symposium: Photography in Asia 1839–1939

Date of event:   30/09/2021 − 02/10/2021

Format: online
Symposium duration: 30 September – 2 October 2021
Organized by: Academy of Performing Arts (APA), Prague, Czech Republic; European Association for Asian Art and Archaeology

The discovery of photography played a key role in the growth of learning about remote areas, as it allowed for the capture and faithful interpretation of reality. Articles and news in periodicals and book publications of travelogues were suddenly completed with shots whose authenticity could not be disputed. Photography, one of the most important inventions of the 19th century, became an important milestone in the knowledge of new regions and their inhabitants, culture and lifestyle. Only a few years after the creation of the first daguerreotypes, the first attempts at their recreation were made in the Far East. At the same time, European and American photographers made their way there thanks to the so-called “open ports” and set up their own photographic studios, where their assistants familiarized themselves better with the technology of photography. This transfer of knowledge gave rise to a new generation of domestic photographers that was very familiar with the technological possibilities of photography and the contemporary technological methods, but also brought new inspiration into their photographic work which followed up on the domestic art tradition.

Photography and visual documentation soon became essential sources of information about Asian countries, the different nations there, and a contemporary testimony about historical events. Photography made it possible to learn about new worlds and find out more about remote regions from the comfort of one’s home. Thanks to travellers, diplomats, merchants, correspondents for European or American periodicals, sailors at commercial ships or warships, or simply just adventurers, the medium of photography gradually made its way to other places around the world, as part of memories of distant journeys or as part of the newly emerging collection fonds. Nevertheless, these activities did not only take place within the colonial powers such as England or France, but they also started to be undertaken more frequently in what were more or less peripheries, such as Central and Eastern Europe, Germany, Italy or Austria-Hungary.

Keynote speakers: Terry Bennett, Luke Gartlan, Burglind Jungmann, Filip Suchomel

Organizers: Filip Suchomel, Olga Lomová
Support: Eliška Dušková, Laura Maternová, Jáchym Suchomel


Please note that all times are Prague local time (CEST/GMT+2)


  • DAY ONE (Thursday, 30 September 2021)

Registration – Welcome – Introduction


Keynote speech I
LUKE GARTLAN: Trading Places: Business and the Materials of Meiji Photography


Panel I: Archetypes – Stereotypes – Genres – Variability – Identity
Chair: Burglind Jungmann

BING WANG: Street Cries in China from British Photographers’ Lens: Inheritance and Evolution
MIRJAM DÉNES: Photography and the Changing ‘Image’ of Japan in the Early Illustrated Press
MIO WAKITA: The Vision of Modern Visual Technologies and the Image of Femininity in Meiji Japan
SEBASTIAN DOBSON: Felice Beato and the Carte-de-visite Photograph in Japan, 1863–1868
FRANK FELTENS: Towards the Future: Between Photographs and Prints in Meiji Era Japan


Keynote speech II
FILIP SUCHOMEL: …When writing a travelogue, I only record my general impressions, and most of all I buy photographs… – The Creation of the First Photographic Collections from Asia in 19th-Century Central Europe



  • DAY TWO (Friday, 1 October 2021)

Keynote speech III
BURGLIND JUNGMANN: Chosŏn Entering the International Arena: Three Witnesses


Panel II: Photographic Collections–Curators, Collectors, Travellers and their Admirers
Chair: Filip Suchomel


STEFANO TURINA: “Da una fotografia”. Picturing Japan in the Official Account of the First Italian Diplomatic Mission to Japan and China (1875)
REBECA GÓMEZ MORILLA: Ambiguous Encounters and Colonial Imaginations – A Swiss Diplomat between Japanese Imperialism, Korean Independence and Swiss Economic Interests
HELENA ČAPKOVÁ: In the land where only the abstract qualities are permanent – Photographic Collection of Bedřich Feuerstein
MICHÈLE GALDEMAR: The Noblot Collection, French Indochina 1927–1937. A Private Contribution to Colonial Iconography


Panel III: Uniqueness – Visuality – Transformation
Chair: Luke Gartlan


AYELET ZOHAR: Hazy Moon, Eclipsed Sun: Between Art and Science. The Aesthetics of Astronomical Photography and Celestial painting in Meiji Japan
GIULIA PRA FLORIANI: Crafting China through Photographs. Francis E. Stafford’s Vision of the Commercial Press and the 1911 Revolution
YUPIN CHUNG: Stillness and Time: “Shanghai of Today”.



  • DAY THREE (Saturday, 2 October 2021)


Keynote Speech IV
TERRY BENNETT: Photography and the Taiping Rebellion


Panel IV: New Views – Unknown vs. Famous in Asian Photography
Chair: Terry Bennett


OLIVER MOORE: The Photographic Image in China: More than One Life, More than One History
FREYA SCHWACHENWALD: Ornamental Streets and Ambivalent Subjects: Historiographical Reflections on Photographs and Artworks between East Asian and European Archives
CELIO BARRETO: The Syasin Makie of Mizuno Hanbeh: Unique Reproductions or Something Else?
EKATERINA B. TOLMACHEVA AND POLINA RUD: …Sometimes I get tired, but I think the cause of tiredness is my years — my 55 years are already over – The Far East Through the Eyes of Agnia Diness
XAVIER ORTELLS-NICOLAU: Traveling Photographic Collections: The Case of Juan Mencarini

Closing Remarks


For your active participation in the symposium please register via Email: If you just want to listen to the conference you can watch the video via this website, without any registration.

For more information, please visit the event website HERE.

Programme in PDF

CfP in PDF


Image: Chinese boy riding a donkey, 20th cent., unknown author; Slovene Ethnographic Museum.