Precious photos offer glimpse into old Beijing

Updated: 2013-06-19 10:28


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After carefully studying the routes Gamble traveled when he visited China, Zhou managed to match some old names from Gamble's images with current places.

She also made some interesting discoveries. For example, in a photo showing a crowd of people gathering around a newspaper billboard, Gamble, in the caption, mistook the billboard for an old-fashioned door with a lintel.

Though Zhou and her colleagues have made great efforts to trace the stories behind each photo, they have decided not to present concise historical and biographical information about the photos in the exhibit. Only titles will be provided.

"We want to emphasize the relationship among the photographer, the photographed objects and the viewers," said Hong Guo-juin, another curator of the exhibit and associate professor of Chinese literature and culture at Duke University.

Both curators believe that with no background information, audiences can interpret Gamble's pictures in their own way.

"They have to dig into the photos' messages by themselves. It's a more vivid way to meet history," Hong said.

"Gamble In Chair" is one of many photos that the curators particularly enjoy. Gamble, sitting in a sedan chair, is shown surrounded by smiling chair carriers.

"They are smiling despite leading a hard life. Actually, there are many smiling faces in Gamble's photos, from teenagers in the poor boys' prison to children at a congee distribution area," Zhou said. "It's the moods expressed through the lens that are most fascinating."

The exhibition is a joint project between Duke University and the Capital Library of China. It is being held as part of several activities designed to commemorate the 100th founding anniversary of the library.

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