|Poor design and lighting, and lack of captions for 'Tom Hutchins: A New Zealander in China 1956' exhibition at PhotoBeijing 2018. (Photograph by John B Turner: JBT©20181020-047)|
|Poor design and lighting, and lack of captions for 'Tom Hutchins: A New Zealander in China 1956' exhibition at PhotoBeijing 2018. (Photograph by John B Turner: JBT©20181021-113)|
"I admire the intentions and scope, and the sheer ambition of this important showcase of world photography, but despite all my efforts and those of the staff who have helped me, the poor display of the carefully made modern prints of Hutchins photographs made in the summer of 1956 has changed the exhibition from a celebration to a virtual insult to the world-class photographer who died before he knew how much experts in Chinese photography and history appreciated his work," Turner, who curated the exhibition of 30 pictures especially for PhotoBeijing said.
"It has taken nearly 30 years to make Hutchins photographs available for exhibition, publication and sale - thousands of hours of unpaid work - Auckland university research grants from New Zealand, and the moral support of many photographers, editors and academics in China and the international art community to bring this exhibition to fruition", Turner says. Turner taught photography in New Zealand for 40 years before retiring and coming to live in Beijing to further his research and promotion of his former colleague and mentor's China essay which was almost lost until he rediscovered it in ruins in 1979.
"Tom's photographs need to be seen in China," Turner says, "because they are of and about China at a unique period of China's turbulent history. If he had been a Chinese photographer, it is not likely that his work would have been destroyed during the Cultural Revolution when many of the contacts and friends he made in 1956 were badly treated."
"I could have just shown Tom's work in New Zealand and left it at that", the curator, who is also a co-editor of PhotoForum magazine, pointed out. "But that would be like having an outstanding Chinese photographer work in New Zealand at an important time of change, but never showing those pictures to New Zealanders."
Tom Hutchins was also a pioneer in photographic education and started teaching photography at the University of Auckland in 1965 - the first academic courses in photography and film in the British Commonwealth, and that aspect of his career is the subject of Turner's lecture as part of the Silk Road Youth Photography Forum at Sanlitun Primary School, Chaoyang District on 22 October, organised by Zhongyi Online Education for PhotoBeijing.
"I will continue my mission to share Tom's outstanding photographs of China because they deserve recognition, no matter how late, besides the work of famous foreign photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Mark Riboud, Brian Brake (another New Zealander), Rene Burri, Eve Arnold and others who visited China in the 1950s and 1960s. But following the international debut of his work at the Pingyao photography festival in 2016, it is extremely disappointing to see his work presented so poorly and hidden in the dungeon at the fabulous China Millenial Monument on this occasion."
"Sadly, his is not the only work ruined by inadequate lighting or misguided design. Even worse, it is a blot on the magnificent work done by a long list of expert advisors and the hardworking staff and volunteers at PhotoBeijing who are doing so much to bring China's successes to international notice."
"That hurts", Turner says, "because it gives the wrong impression that China doesn't care about serious art research and quality - when the opposite is true."
"China has thousands of world-class photographers and knows that it still has much to do in the areas of public and private collecting, quality control and preservation of historical photography. These are among the admirable and necessary aims of PhotoBeijing, but quality control must be expended on every aspect with respect for the intrinsic value utmost. It saddens me to see this lost opportunity but despite my criticism, some of the foreign curators have indicated that they would like to showcase Tom Hutchins' China photographs in their countries. I can't complain about that."
|Unidentified photographer©Tom Hutchins on Great Wall of China, Peking, China 1956 (detail)|
|Tom Hutchins©Kids on rooftop No.5 Middle School, Peking skyline, China 1956|
|Tom Hutchins©Laying railway tracks, Gobi Desert, Kansu, China 1956|
|Tom Hutchins©Junks under the new Yangtze River Bridge at Hankow (Hangzhou), China 1956|
|Tom Hutchins©_Musician's wife in her garden, Peking, China 1956|