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China through the stereoscope

A photo essay journey through China in 1901, selected by Lissa Mitchell


<P data-associrn="1426977"></P> <P>Stereographic photographs are a potent mix of early photojournalism and armchair travel. American photographer James Ricalton was one of the genre’s most successful operators. His series of photographs <EM>China Through the Stereoscope</EM>, showed turn-of-the-century Western viewers the rarely-travelled country, its people, culture and political upheavals.</P> <P>In 1908, New Zealand newspaper the <EM>Star</EM> published an article claiming Ricalton to be ‘the most daring photographer in the world’, due to his success and determination in photographing exploding shells in war zones such as the Spanish-American war in the Philippines (1898-99) and the later Russo-Japanese War (1904-5). Ricalton was a prolific traveller recording what he saw with his camera and distributing his images widely. </P> <P>Developed in the nineteenth century, stereoscopic photography was at its peak by the beginning of the twentieth century and was a forerunner to modern 3D imaging. The stereographic photograph was taken by a camera with two lenses, which took images of the same scene from slightly different angles designed to appear as one three dimensional slightly magnified image when viewed through a specially designed viewer.</P> <P><EM>China Through the Stereoscope</EM> was originally published as an individual box set of stereoscopic photographs by American publishers Underwood &amp; Underwood. The firm also sold their own patented stereoscopic viewer for looking at the images. The set came with a detailed written travelogue by Ricalton, whose role was also as a form of tour guide. In first-person narrative, Ricalton advises his audience to go slowly through the images - ‘tourists are often reproached for their nervously hurried and superficial ways of glancing at sights in foreign lands. Travel by means of stereographs encourages leisurely and thoughtful enjoyment of whatever is worth enjoying. You may linger as long as you like in any particularly interesting spot, without fear of being left behind by train or steamboat.’</P> <P>This selection of images from the series was taken by Ricalton when he travelled to Shanghai in the south and overland up to Beijing and its surrounding areas, such as the busy port city of Tianjin.</P> <P>Ricalton’s photographs of China were praised for capturing a country that was undergoing vast change. While Ricalton’s photographs of China were not his most daring they were considered to be his most interesting. At the time, someone looking at the images through the stereoscope viewer would have had an immersive virtual experience imagining that they were truly touring through other parts of the world.</P> <P data-associrn="1426980"></P> <P data-associrn="1426982"></P> <P data-associrn="1426988"></P> <P data-associrn="1426994"></P> <P data-associrn="1426995"></P> <P data-associrn="1426997"></P> <P data-associrn="1426998"></P> <P data-associrn="1427001"></P> <P data-associrn="1427006"></P> <P data-associrn="1427007"></P> <P data-associrn="1427008"></P> <P data-associrn="1427024"></P> <P data-associrn="1427040"></P> <P data-associrn="1427041"></P> <P data-associrn="1427045"></P> <P data-associrn="1427049"></P> <P data-associrn="1427050"></P> <P data-associrn="1427054"></P> <P data-associrn="1427057"></P>
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James Ricalton, Street from one of the Nightwatch Bridges, Canton (Guangzhou), 1900, black and white photograph, gelatin silver print,
Purchased 1999 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds.
Full object info is available on collections.tepapa.govt.nz

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James Ricalton, Examination Hall, rows of cubicles for the triennial Ku-yan examinations, Canton (Guangzhou), 1900, black and white photograph, gelatin silver print,
Purchased 1999 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds.
Full object info is available on collections.tepapa.govt.nz

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James Ricalton, Mission children with an American girl, Canton (Guangzhou), 1900, black and white photograph, gelatin silver print,
Purchased 1999 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds.
Full object info is available on collections.tepapa.govt.nz

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James Ricalton, Looking across Nanjing road to a Tea house, Shanghai, 1901, black and white photograph, gelatin silver print,
Purchased 1999 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds.
Full object info is available on collections.tepapa.govt.nz

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James Ricalton, At the steamer landing just before the sailing, Ningpo (Ningbo), China, 1900, black and white photograph, gelatin silver print,
Purchased 1999 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds.
Full object info is available on collections.tepapa.govt.nz

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James Ricalton, Bridge over the Yong River, Ningpo (Ningbo), 1900, black and white photograph, gelatin silver print,
Purchased 1999 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds.
Full object info is available on collections.tepapa.govt.nz

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James Ricalton, The Dragon guarding the front of Qing'an Guild Hall, Ningpo (Ningbo), 1900, black and white photograph, gelatin silver print,
Purchased 1999 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds.
Full object info is available on collections.tepapa.govt.nz

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James Ricalton, Girl's making embroidery at South Gate Presbyterian Mission School, Shanghai, 1900, black and white photograph, gelatin silver print,
Purchased 1999 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds.
Full object info is available on collections.tepapa.govt.nz

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James Ricalton, Tiger Hill Pagoda, the 'Leaning Tower' of Soo-chow (Suzhou) 1300 years old, 1900, black and white photograph, gelatin silver print,
Purchased 1999 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds.
Full object info is available on collections.tepapa.govt.nz

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James Ricalton, Official of inland China, Naval Mandarin (Admiral River Fleet), with wife and daughter, Kinkow (Jingzhou), 1900, black and white photograph, gelatin silver print,
Purchased 1999 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds.
Full object info is available on collections.tepapa.govt.nz

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James Ricalton, Huge stone figures on the avenue leading to the 'Tombs of the Kings', Nankin (Nanjing), 1900, black and white photograph, gelatin silver print,
Purchased 1999 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds.
Full object info is available on collections.tepapa.govt.nz

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James Ricalton, Chefoo (Yantai), from Signal Tower, looking East, 1900, black and white photograph, gelatin silver print,
Purchased 1999 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds.
Full object info is available on collections.tepapa.govt.nz

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James Ricalton, Wheelbarrow transportation, China's best and cheapest freighters, at the boat landing, Teintsin (Tianjin), 1900, black and white photograph, gelatin silver print,
Purchased 1999 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds.
Full object info is available on collections.tepapa.govt.nz

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James Ricalton, Count Von Waldersee, escorted by Officers of the Allied Armies, towards Sacred Gate (Wumen), Peking (Beijing), 1900, black and white photograph, gelatin silver print,
Purchased 1999 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds.
Full object info is available on collections.tepapa.govt.nz

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James Ricalton, Within the Forbidden City, home of the Empress Dowager, Harmony Gate from elevated walk near canal, Peking (Beijing), 1900, black and white photograph, gelatin silver print,
Purchased 1999 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds.
Full object info is available on collections.tepapa.govt.nz

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James Ricalton, Sacred to the 'Son of Heaven', Grand Throne in the Emperor's Palace, Forbidden City, Peking (Beijing), 1900, black and white photograph, gelatin silver print,
Purchased 1999 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds.
Full object info is available on collections.tepapa.govt.nz

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James Ricalton, Lama Priests at the Tung-ho Kung, the Great Lama Temple, Peking (Beijing), 1900, black and white photograph, gelatin silver print,
Purchased 1999 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds.
Full object info is available on collections.tepapa.govt.nz

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James Ricalton, Group of women in the courtyard of a Chinese house, Peking (Beijing), 1900, black and white photograph, gelatin silver print,
Purchased 1999 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds.
Full object info is available on collections.tepapa.govt.nz

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James Ricalton, Magnificent marble bridge at the Imperial Summer Palace, near Peking (Beijing), 1900, black and white photograph, gelatin silver print,
Purchased 1999 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds.
Full object info is available on collections.tepapa.govt.nz

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James Ricalton, The Empress Dowager's Counsellors, Peking (Beijing), 1900, black and white photograph, gelatin silver print,
Purchased 1999 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds.
Full object info is available on collections.tepapa.govt.nz