Hong Kong based Moonchu Foundation acquires early Chinese photography collection

Chinese Photography

A print from the Bennett Collection of Early Chinese History


News last week that an important collection of early Chinese photography, the Terry Bennett Collection of Early Chinese Photography, was acquired by the Hong Kong based Moonchu Foundation. Comprising approximately 10,000 photographs from 1844 to the end of the Qing Dynasty, the collection will now be known as the  The Moonchu Collection of Early Photography of China, plans are underway for an exhibition based on the collection at the Hong Kong Museum of History. It is great to see such a significant historical collection find its way back to its origins and that there are already efforts to make it available to the public. For more information on the acquisition:

Early Chinese photography collection sold – British photographic history.

I hope on my next visit to Hong Kong I will get a chance to see some of the collection at the Museum, some of the highlights include an early mammoth plate view of Hong Kong by C. L. Weed… what a treasure!



Digital Resource Highlight: McGill Remembers


McGill University has created an excellent digital resource on their collection of University War Records. A fascinating archives story in itself, the collection creates digital records of each piece of documentation accumulated during WWII. The materials relate to those associated with McGill who were involved with the war, and provides further insight into the communities affected by conflict at home and abroad. It also is a excellent example of a successful digital initiative that makes available a variety of historical materials.

Principal F. Cyril James established the McGill University War Records office in recognition of McGill men and women in wartime service. In operation between 1942 and 1946 under R.C. Fetherstonhaugh, the office compiled information on the involvement of faculty, students, alumni, and staff engaged in the war effort. Throughout the Second World War, Fetherstonhaugh collected newspaper clippings, correspondence, and photographs, and prepared meticulous index cards to document each individual’s contribution.

The McGill University War Records are comprised of 6,617 index cards and more than 3,000 files containing newspaper clippings, correspondence and photographs. They document the involvement of McGill faculty, students, alumni, and staff in the war effort. In conjunction with the Office of the Principal and Vice-Chancellor, and the Graduates’ Society, the War Records office solicited information from individuals and families to create these files.

via MUA | McGill Remembers.

The Art of Collecting

Collectors come in all shapes and sizes, from the low-budget amateur whose passion for vintage postcards of Niagara Falls keeps her up at night perusing online auction sites (who me?) to the wealthy patron of the arts whose collection started as an investment and resulted in a surprising affinity for the artists they support. Collections then reflect these many inclinations, nuances and personalities of their owners. In all cases, the deep personal connection that exists between Collectors and the objects they collect is strongly evident. Each acquired object has been given an additional lifeline to its many different histories, or in the case of contemporary art, its first trajectory into these private spheres. The practice of collecting creates and expands an intricate web of connections and contexts between makers and consumers that makes collecting much more than just a desire to acquire pretty things.

The personal connection to the collector is often fascinating and can include a subject that the collector is passionate about or in many cases a deeper unstated connection that evokes emotion and meaning and a recognition of the immense value of the artwork for this role. In Camera Lucida, Roland Barthes wrote about the nature of photographs and their ability to ‘puncture’ the gaze – he distinguished two forces that operate in a photograph: the Studium or the photograph’s aspect of broad or obvious interest, such as time frame, architecture, people and other symbolic details, and the Punctum, or the part of the photograph that seizes, literally “pierces” the viewer, breaks through and engages the emotions. It is often this personal revelation that inspires someone to collect and acquire an object that has had an emotional resonance, resulting in unique collections specific to the individual. The narratives these collections create over time discuss both the innate qualities about the collector and the role of collecting in our everyday lives.

Recently I have been working with private collectors in Toronto in managing their art collections and I have also conducted a series of lectures at various photography clubs, including the Photographic Historic Society of Canada, and the Toronto Postcard Club. These clubs provide a wonderful opportunity to meet a variety of photo-enthusiasts who are extremely dedicated to photography and collecting very specific aspects of its past. In working with such a variety of collectors, what I’ve realized is the significant role these objects play in the lives of the collector and creating a rich tapestry of information and connection to both the past and current cultural contexts.  With this comes the desire to acquire as much information as possible about preserving and understanding their photo-collections. This has inspired me to share my knowledge in a series of blog posts. It is my hope that collectors seeking knowledge about ways to preserve, document and share their vibrant collections can acquire some helpful advice through this blog. I am open to questions and dialogue and welcome comments on your own collecting practices. I encourage collectors and hobbyists to ask themselves what drives you to collect, and what meaning does collecting bring to your own lives?

From the website Project B

American Falls in winter, Niagara Falls, New York

In the spirit of winter here in Canada, I thought I’d share this lovely vintage photograph of the Niagara Falls in winter taken by Alexander Henderson in the late 1870s. Currently at the Art Gallery of Ontario, this work is an albumen print, and appears to be in fairly good condition (although there seems to be some physical damage in the form of scratches in the bottom section).

The future of the art market? Why I now own a Damien Hirst

Xylosidase by Damien Hirst

Xylosidase by Damien Hirst

We now live in a digital era. While artists have always been at the forefront of new media, and incorporating contemporary ideas into their practices, the art world and more specifically art markets are slow to respond. Well new media artists are now receiving critical acclaim and digital works are increasingly making an impact in the art world (as they should!), but how about the actual art market itself? Enter the website s[edition], a revolutionary way to collect and trade art. While purchasing art online is nothing new, this website functions as an online market for purely digital art, and features limited edition works by acclaimed artists such as Damien Hirst, Shepard Fairey, Tracey Emin, and Bill Viola to name a few. These digital works are created by the artists specifically for sale in the s[edition] marketplace, with some pieces going for as little as $8 and some as much as $800. A revolutionary idea indeed! A work by Damien Hirst going for $12 can be owned by anyone, providing an unprecedented level of access to these artists that is usually the domain of the elite. Is this the future of the art market?

There seems to be many flaws with the idea, after all if the work is to remain purely digital then what is it that you are actually purchasing? This is where the idea becomes quite novel. Each work you purchase is added to your virtual vault, where you can download and upload to any digital device. Your artwork also comes with a digital certificate of authenticity signed by the artist and stating all of the details of your purchase including the edition. This becomes important later after the edition has sold out and you can then sell and trade for higher prices, all within the virtual trading market of the online platform. With virtual worlds and marketplaces becoming immensely popular, this is an idea that could easily take off.

At first I was skeptical, but even I have to admit the design and approach is well executed. The immediacy of the transaction and subsequent ownership of a piece of artwork by a renowned artist such as Bill Viola or Fairey, combined with the stylish and user-friendly approach makes buying a piece of digital art a rewarding experience. I now own three works, a Hirst, a Fairey and a Collishaw, all of which can be instantly accessed on my digital device and shared with friends.

The concept brings important questions to light, what qualifies as authentic and unique in the age of digital technology and does the lack of materiality affect your desire to collect and pay for art?

Photographer Spotlight: Alfred Eisenstaedt

As Dagmar rose to fame on Broadway Open House,...

Image via Wikipedia

While conducting an inventory of the AGO‘s Eisenstaedt prints the other day, I was reminded about how much I enjoy his photography and the influence he had in American popular culture through his iconic Life Magazine images. The first time I really began to appreciate Eisenstaedt’s body of work was at the AGO’s Ansel Adams/ Alfred Eisenstaedt show, held in 2006-2007. Although I was quite familiar with Adams’ images (really who isn’t?), I had only a passing knowledge of Eisenstaedt’s. The exhibition brought out some excellent prints such as his work in the Alpine retreat St. Moritz in the early 1930s, as well as other interesting examples of his inter-war photographs of life in Germany during the 1930s – a foreshadowed period of European history.

Alfred Eisenstaedt was born in Germany in 1898, and moved to Berlin with his family in 1906, and served in the military during WWI where he was injured. Shortly after he became a photojournalist and by 1929 he had enough success to become a full-time photographer. He captured key events in Germany during the early 1930s, including a meeting between Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini in Italy, 1933. By 1935, Germany had become a hostile place for the jewish photographer, and like many other in the arts communities of Germany, Eisenstaedt emigrated to the United States, settling in New York. He became part of an artistic community of immigrants from Eastern Europe that escaped from the growing hostility in Germany to the United States. From 1936 to 1972, Eisenstaedt worked as a photographer for Life magazine. His photos of news events and celebrities, such as Dagmar, Sophia Loren and Ernest Hemingway, appeared on 90 Life covers.

The Art Gallery of Ontario has an extensive collection of Eisenstaedt prints, spanning a broad section of his career. Here are some iconic images sourced from the incredible Google Life Archive that I still enjoy, even after seeing them so many times!

From the St. Moritz series in 1932:

In August, 1945, Eisenstaedt created his most famous photograph, what would become an iconic American image, an American sailor kissing a young woman in Times Square upon his return from the war. I found the frame sequence for this famous image at the Google Life Photo Archive, a great resource for American cultural history.

Three frames from photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt's famed set of the sailor kissing the nurse and other images of the Times Square VJ-Day celebrations.


Welcome to Foto pHix! This blog is intended to share my knowledge and passion for the broad subject of cultural heritage, the arts and more specifically that of photography. I recently completed my Masters in Photographic Preservation and Collections Management at Ryerson University in Toronto, Ontario, and I enjoy learning about the many uses of photography as a contemporary form of communication as well as its cultural history. I would like this blog to be a platform to discuss current exhibitions, artists, as well as ongoing research into the subject of photography, including its many histories & cultural contexts. As with most blogs, it is a work in progress, and that is what is so great about blogs – there is no final goal, it is in the journey and community – so feel free to join in the discussion!

Along with working at the Art Gallery of Ontario, I have my own consultation practice specializing in the care and management of photographic collections and I also occasionally focus on developing my own photography, which I have been practicing since I was given my first 35 mm film camera at the age of 13. To learn more about my consultation services or my photography, check out the links below.

Consultation for the Care & Management of Photo Collections: http://juliennepascoe.com/

My Photo Blog: http://the-occasionalphotographer.com/

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