This gallery displays pictures of an exhibition of historical photographs taken by Joseph Skarbek. Skarbek was a French railroad engineer overseeing the construction of the Bian-Luo (Kaifeng to Luoyang) railway line in Henan province between 1906 and 1909.
Without doubt this photographic heritage of ca. 500 images should be more widely known. One of my reasons for this statement is that we have here probably the earliest photographic documentation of some of China's most prominent and important architectural structures, captured on film (or, rather, glass) thirty years before Liang Sicheng 梁思成 and his group conducted their methodic survey of Chinese historical architecture in the interior.
A second interesting aspect of this collection is the visual record of local customs, crafts and festivals, which again to the best of my knowledge constitutes the first such record of daily life in Henan province.
A third category of importance is the systematic documentation of the construction process of this particular railway line.
The very last photograph wlll be of interest to those (like myself) studying the environmental history of China: it shows the walls of the city of Kaifeng (then the capital of Henan!) assaulted and overrun in fact by large sand dunes.
The exhibition was on display at the Centre Culturel Francais in Beijing in the summer of 2007.
All photographs were taken with the Olympus E-330; they are presented here postprocessed and resized - due to copyright issues they are not available for downloading.
Thomas H. Hahn
Ithaca & Beijing
© Thomas H. Hahn Docu-Images