ONE HUNDRED AND TEN YEAR OLD CHINA PHOTO ARCHIVE. A collection of more than two hundred rare original photo glass plate negatives, depicting previously unpublished photos taken in China from 1900 to 1909, was recently acquired by international art consultant, Monte James. The collection was acquired from the photographers’ family in the United States.
The collection includes a wide range of images from Eastern China including Beijing, Shandong, Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Guangdong province. In addition to important temples, well known historical landmarks, portraits, and landscapes, this collection includes what some believe are some of the earliest photos taken inside the Forbidden City.
In 1900, then twenty year old musician, August Plemenik, left his home in Austria to travel to China to play oboe with the European orchestra entertaining the foreign community in Beijing at the time. In addition to being a professional musician, Plemenick was also a talented amateur photographer. During his years in China he learned several dialects of the Chinese language and traveled extensively accompanied by his sturdy Rietzschel camera, a dozen different lenses, and a tripod.
August Plemenick left China and settled in the U.S. in the wake of World War I. He became an American citizen and began his long career as first oboe player for the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. Plemenick brought his China photo negatives to the U.S. and after his passing in 1963; Plemenick’s negatives have been kept and stored by a family member until now.
Plemenick’s life and travels in China more than one hundred years ago are documented by these extraordinary photos. As each box of glass plates were exposed, he dispatched them to the Lumiere agency in Peking or Shanghai for processing. Regarding any original prints made during Plemenick’s time in China, nothing is known. A number of prints were made from the glass negatives for a group photo exhibition in New York in the 1970’s but there was no catalogue and little or no record of the show.
The majority of the collection of more than two hundred China photos by August Plemenick remain almost entirely unpublished to today. However, the glass negatives have survived in nearly perfect condition. Western and Chinese professionals in art, photography and history who have viewed samples of the work in this collection have expressed amazement. As a photographer Plemenick achieved extraordinary clarity and detail using such an early form of the photo media, while as an artist his personal feeling and affinity for the subjects are revealed in every photo.
M. James has worked with scholars to identify the subjects of these antique photos. and with a master darkroom photo printer of the old school of photography, we have produced a small edition of original darkroom prints for collectors. These editions are ten only of each photo. The negatives are fragile and have been retired. No Digital prints are for sale. Each print measures 25 x 30 cm. including border and is printed on Ilford multigrade paper using only the finest printing materials.
The market for turn of the century original China photos is establish and well documented. Photos of China from this era are rare and we are happy to bring these previously unpublished photos to new and established collectors at well below market price.
The collection is managed and represented exclusively by M James Fine Art. Photo images copyright protected by Monte James and dba m james fine art.