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Title

Carving lacquer


Artist

Hedda Morrison

Germany, Australia

1908 - 1991


About

Hedda Morrison’s photographic explorations of life both in China (1933–46) prior to the establishment of the People’s Republic, and later in Sarawak (1947–67) now a state of Malaysia, resulted in the creation of a vast personal archive (30 000 negatives) of great historic, social and cultural significance.

Produced while living in Peking, ‘Carving lacquer’ is one of a large number of photographs documenting Chinese workshop activities and the making of local craft objects. Taken from a frontal angle, and utilising available light from the window, this posed study of two artisans working, their faces averted with a figure peering in on the scene from outside, was a strategy that Morrison utilised to achieve a greater sense of naturalism. Influenced by the practices of prominent modernists, such as Albert Renger-Patzsch and August Sander, her profile of the handicraft, enclosed by the camera frame and rendered with clarity, directs attention to the specifics of the cinnabar lacquer carving process: the materials, tools, artists and the studio environment. In this sense, her photographic style, while characterised as picturesque, simultaneously privileges an identifiable representation of the subject and in so doing demonstrates a commitment to realism. It is through this attention to detail, process and people, combined with an interest in documentation of the ‘exotic’, that the intrinsic beauty of the unfamiliar and the everyday are revealed.

Conscious of the ever-changing ways of the world, Morrison, in her words, ‘tried to record faithfully in photographs whatever was typical of people, and which might not be there to photograph at all for very much longer’.1

1. Morrison H 1962, 'Life in a longhouse', Borneo Literature Bureau, Kuching p 5

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007


Details


Place where the work was made

China


Dates

1940s
printed 1980s


Media category

Photograph


Materials used

gelatin silver photograph


Dimensions

23.5 x 29.3 cm


Signature & date

Signed in ink l.r 'Hedda Morrison'


Credit

Gift of Dr James Masselos 1994


Location

Not on display


Accession number

346.1994


Artist information

Hedda Morrison

Works in the collection

1


Place

Where the work was made
China

Referenced in 1 publication

Bibliography


Martyn Jolly, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'International photo-documentary', pg.151-167, Sydney, 2007, 164 (illus.).