"In 1870, 29-year-old Thomas Child packed his camera and traveled to Peking (now known as Beijing) for a five-year contract as a gas engineer with the Imperial Maritime Customs Service, leaving behind a wife and three children in England. Before 1861, the city was almost entirely closed to foreigners, and by the time Child arrived, there were still only around 100 foreigners living there. The city was rarely photographed.
Over the course of two decades in the Chinese capital, Child managed an incredible feat, taking nearly 200 photographs—the earliest comprehensive survey of Peking and its surroundings—in his free time. The photos show shops and crowds, important architectural features, trade and commerce, and marriage and funeral rituals. Images from the Stephan Loewentheil Historical Collection of China Photography, which includes the finest collection of Child’s Peking photographs, are on display in the exhibit “Qing Dynasty Peking: Thomas Child’s Photographs” at London’s China Exchange from Nov. 10–15.
“Clearly Child was an explorer, and it is obvious he wanted to share his understanding of Chinese culture,” Stacey Lambrow, the show’s curator, said via email."
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