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Sha Fei Conference

04/22 - 04/23/2016

The Photographer Who Shaped Modern China

Eugene WANG,  Department of History of Art and Architecture, Harvard University
James GAO,  History Department, University of Maryland
Christopher PHILLIPS, International Center of Photography
Sarah E. FRASER, Institute of East Asian Art History, Heidelberg University
Lin DU, Regional Studies East Asia Program, Harvard University
Elizabeth PERRY, Department of Government, Harvard University
Arunabh GHOSH, History Department, Harvard University
Jie LI, Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University
Catherine YEH, Department of Modern Languages and Comparative Literature, Boston University
Rudolph WAGNER, Senior Professor, cluster "Asia and Europe", Heidelberg University
Zheng GU, Fudan University
Tao CAI, Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts
Chu GAO, China Academy of Art
Sushi SI, Center of Sha Fei studies

Historical memory of modern China is inextricably linked to the works of Sha Fei (1912-1950). Sha’s photographs encapsulate the collective visual memory of the first half of the twentieth-century Chinese leftist and revolutionary history. These include the iconic photos of the writer Lu Xun (1881-1936), the Chinese army waging a battle on the Great Wall, and Henry Norman Bethune (1890-1939), the Canadian anti-fascist physician who provided service for the Eighth Route Army in World War II in China.

Sha left behind an extensive trove of photographs. Many of these have been used as visual aid to illustrate modern Chinese history. While the official storylines may subsume these photographs, an immersion in Sha’s photographic world strains many of the facile assumptions one may hold with regard to the unexamined storylines perpetuated in the media both in China and the West. Sha’s photographs are antidotes to hasty overgeneralizations and ideological simplification. They offer insights and experience of a complex time and world unmediated by hardened narrative closures, schematic formulae, and clichés.


The conference offered groundbreaking discoveries and discussions of the language of photography. The videos of the conference, the interview with speakers will be uploaded to our website for free public learning.

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