Exploring the science behind photography

Xu Qin
In an era where everyone creates digital images, a group of professional photographers are looking back 100 years to rediscover original photographic techniques.
Xu Qin
Exploring the science behind photography
Courtesy of Shen Zhonghai

“Shanghai’s Tea House at the City God Temple,” albumen paper print, by British photographer William Saunders in 1870

In an era where everyone creates digital images, a group of professional photographers are looking back 100 years to rediscover original photographic techniques.

The exhibition, “The Light Runner,” underway on the 38th floor of the Shanghai Tower, offers a systematic review of the development of photographic technology.

It starts in 1891 when French-Luxembourg physicist Gabriel Lippmann reproduced color photographically based on the phenomenon of interference. He went on to win the Nobel Prize in 1908.

Photography then progressed from the daguerreotype, ambrotype, tintype, to the gelatin silver print, salt print and Platinum prints.

“Photography is a combination of science and technology and art,” said Wang Hua, director of the Shanghai Camera History Museum.

“The development of photography has always been hand in hand with the progress of science and technology.

“Through this exhibition I hope that the soul of photography can be perfectly presented and sublimated.”

A total of 60 classic works dating back to the mid-19th century are on display.

They are either recreated the traditional way, or carefully sourced by collectors. They include one of the oldest pictures of “Shanghai’s Tea House at the City God Temple” by British photographer William Saunders in 1870.

“For image collectors, understanding the history of photographic technology plays an important role in image identification,” said veteran collector Shen Zhonghai. “It is asking what photography is, and can we further explore the value and future of photography in the world.”

Exploring the science behind photography
Courtesy of Wang Junhua

“Then and Now Series: The Chamber of Commerce Shanghai," 2008 (left) and 2019 (right), using spray paint technology

Exhibition info

Date: Through September 29, 10am-6pm
Venue: 38/F, Shanghai Tower
Address: 501 Yincheng Rd M.


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