Tom Hutchins – Seen In China 1956

Tom Hutchins – Seen In China 1956

Photographs by Tom Hutchins

Edited by John B. Turner

This is a selection from the exhibition Tom Hutchins – Seen In China 1956 presented by John B. Turner at the Pingyao International Photography Festival in September 2016.

PhotoForum co-published the catalogue of the same name as PhotoForum #86.

All of the photographs are copyright of Tom Hutchins Images Ltd., New Zealand.

In 1956, the New Zealand photographer Tom Hutchins traveled to the People's Republic of China on a freelance assignment, earning a rare opportunity to document what was then one of the world's most isolated countries. Following his return home, Hutchins attempted to publish a book of his work — but was unsuccessful. He then put the trip behind him. Hutchins stored the vast majority of his images underneath his house, and seldom mentioned his China work in subsequent decades. Years later, the photographer and photo historian John B. Turner located the invaluable trove and began the painstaking work of preserving Hutchins' photographs of China.

The photos reveal a country that, in 1956, was enjoying a rare moment of calm and optimism — the combination of World War II, Japanese occupation, and civil war that upended China in the 1940s had ended, and the convulsions caused by the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution had not yet begun. Included among the images are portraits of China's top leadership: Chairman Mao Zedong and his longtime premier, Zhou Enlai. But Hutchins' most moving work profiles ordinary men and women, including a rare glimpse of ethnic minority populations living in China's remote west.

Interview with John B. Turner 25 Remarkable Images Provide Rare Glimpse of 1956 China August 15th, 2016 by Matt Schiavenza for Asia Society blog.