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骆伯年:三种研究路径

Luo Bonian: Three Approaches

董晓安

2015年9月

最近发掘的的关于骆伯年的摄影档案对于中国民国时期的艺术与社会研究而言是一笔无价的资源。总的来说,1911年生于浙江杭州一户县衙官吏家庭的骆伯年是一个平凡之人。然而他的风光、人像摄影以及静物摄影,都为印证抗日战争前和抗日战争期间(1937-1945)那段特定时期的中国社会留下了珍贵的瞬间。1932年,骆伯年在完成了大学学业、成为银行家之后,购买了一台照相机,之后迅速加入了一个与国内社团、期刊、杂志和展览紧密相连的、小型但是成长中的国际性业余摄影团体。通过这份档案,我们得以了解到当时的一些重大事件,包括涉及摄影与传统绘画的关系、国内外摄影团体的关系、以及国内社会中以业余主义为目标的重要性。如果没有骆伯年的重孙——金酉鸣(他本身也是一名银行家以及摄影爱好者)的努力,这份工作根本无法得以完成。他保存了骆伯年作品的原作、负片、影集以及期刊,并将它们开放给像我一样的研究人员。 在这篇简短的论文中,我希望能突出通过这些资料启发的调查研究中的几个方向,以此希望研究同仁们可以从材料中有所收获并继续探索。

骆伯年的档案中包括了近三百多件关于那个时代的中画幅原作、银盐照片和数量更多的负片底片 。其他的摄影物品,例如中英文手册和期刊等,也属于档案的一部分。如此数量的藏品档案来自中国二十世纪初的一个摄影师是极为罕见的,其时绝大多数的摄影材料都被认为资产阶级的,并于1949年之后销毁或藏匿了。骆伯年在1951年起暂停了摄影活动。据金酉鸣回忆,骆伯年的摄影藏品之所以在文革中得以幸存,全因1951年时,经过一番努力后的骆伯年终被调回家乡杭州。1处于公众视线之外,且作为一名相对远离暴力与政治阴谋的退休人员,骆伯年才得以将他的原作和底片藏匿在家里的盒子与影集中。

骆伯年对于这些照片担忧是可以理解的。骆伯年的摄影题材似乎是相对温和的,但却将他与古代中国和西方中的艺术传统连系在了一起,这在文革期间是种禁忌。骆伯年大部分的摄影作品围绕着大自然:梅花、杨柳、莲花与竹子,也包括描绘杭州西湖中碧波扁舟、亭台楼阁的场景。这些都是典型文人雅士的艺术品味且印证了骆伯年传统的儒学教育。实际上,家族轶闻也暗示骆家曾拥有大量包括了唐寅、张大千和齐白石作品在内的国画及书法的收藏,之后相继遗失于文革时期。2

成长于这些艺术珍作之中,士大夫的价值取向毫无疑问地塑造了青年骆伯年的世界观,然而它们是如何表现在他的摄影作品中的呢?如果我们从图像学研究的层面来分析这些照片,我们可以发现如象征传统儒家君子的岁寒不凋的竹子或是以孤寂的渔夫对隐居文人的象征(图一、图二)。骆伯年,字为“筠”(意为竹),生于科举考试废除后的第六年,也是辛亥革命、清朝被推翻的同年。无望继承父亲仕途的骆伯年,是否特意选择这种隐晦的方式来表达失意,或是对动荡时期的隐忍?他是否自我认同为“遗民”——那些改朝换代之时而被边缘化的文人?或者他的作品主题只为当时摄影爱好者的审美标准?对骆伯年作品的更全面的图像学分析会为我们指出,他与传统中国绘画中隐喻的关系,以及更宽泛地来说,一个有教养的精英在帝制中国覆灭后岁月中的思维心态。

图一

图一

图二

图二

对于骆伯年作品的风格化分析,使我们用全然不同的视角看待他的摄影。除了关于大自然的影像,骆伯年也创作了与众不同的静物及拼贴作品。静物作品通常描绘的是巧妙布置的桌布、水果和机械零件,然而骆伯年最著名的一些作品则探索关于抽象。例如,曾于1934年《中华摄影杂志》发表过的《汲翁》,拍摄了一个水晶女人雕像面对着粗重的锯齿形线条 (图三)。更为难得的是一系列无题、未发表的拼贴,它们利用建筑或有机的中相同的条形细节,整理成以中心点对称的方形组合 。这组静物在风格上如同德国现代主义艺术家阿尔伯特·伦格-帕契(Albert Renger-Patzsch)或洛特·戈尔德施特恩·富克斯 (Lotte Goldstern-Fuchs)对于光与影进行的研究,拼贴作品则是与玛格丽特·沃特金斯对纺织物的摄影设计呈现了惊人的相似。骆伯年可能曾在如在上海出售的德国摄影年鉴《德国图片》,或者沃特金斯编著的《美国画意摄影》等国际出版物中看到过以上所有作品。3这些照片在另一方面展现了骆伯年对于曝光、底片分层、底片冲洗和拼贴的实验,印证了骆伯年对于摄影的兴趣已经从简单记录大自然,进入到对于非表现的探索和对于媒介本身的表现过程。关于这些新现代主义技术传入中国还需要更多的研究。像骆伯年这样的业余摄影师能获得什么样的国际期刊、杂志或者其他资源?它们是如何帮助塑造当时中国的本体论状态?像骆伯年这样的业余摄影师能获得什么样的国际期刊、杂志或者其他资源?它们是如何帮助塑造当时中国的摄影图像的本体论状态?对出版物中照片风格化的对比,及对相应文本的详细解读,将会为我们带来解答这个问题的更好方法。

图三

图三

对于骆伯年的第三种研究途径是对中国社会下业余摄影师的社会经济状态的关注。1927年,摄影师及诗人刘半农发表了一本专著,论述了作为一种自我表现形式的高级摄影艺术。4同年的另一篇文献中,刘半农为那些不以商业、交际或者政治利益为目标,而是“纯粹为自己”的业余爱好者们进行辩护。5这些文字在北京和上海的摄影社团中广为流传,并帮助提升业余摄影师的作品至“纯艺术”。20年代晚期,他们的出版物,伴随业余摄影团体、期刊和展览的发展,体现了对资产阶级品味和价值观的转化,甚至可能是一种经济流动性的增长。尽管骆伯年不是上海摄影社会中的积极分子,但他将自己视为更高级别摄影团体中的一员,他定期向《飞鹰》、《中华摄影杂志》、《现象》和《柯达杂志》这样的期刊投稿。在1937年,他和银行的两名同事在上海与杭州两地组织了小型的摄影作品展。著名的文学编辑与作家——郁达夫为展览题字——“联谊影展”,幸存的照片中大都附有参与者的题词或评语。根据对骆伯年照片中题词的分析,我们可以重建这个团体中的关系网络和权利结构。谁是陈箓、曹熙宇和赵宗鼎?他们又如何向我们讲述关于阶级、休闲活动和像交换礼物、书法题字这样的高级社交行为? 它们是如何与过往,与文人对业余画家理想化的浪漫理念相连?以及这个业余摄影团体与其他如戏剧、诗人团体有何相似与不同?对于这些业余摄影师的社会与经济状况的关注,可以使我们对于民国时期及之后的阶级观念和品位产生更富洞见的理解。

作为一名摄影师,骆伯年并不是一名先锋艺术家,但这正是他的摄影作品如此重要的原因。通过不同的镜头来看骆伯年的照片——在图像学层面上、在风格层面上,抑或社会经济学层面上,都会引发我们对于民国时期的生活与社会提出更多问题。通过多种方法论阐明的这些问题,我希望我已能够突出强调了部分二十世纪中国业余摄影的研究中的重大事件并为之后的保存与研究工作提供了一枚案例。

  1. 金酉鸣:《忆我的曾外祖父骆伯年》,2015,作者提供。
  2. 金酉鸣:《骆伯年年表》,2015,作者提供。
  3. 当时在上海有少量的店售卖国际摄影杂志及照相器材。骆伯年曾在1932年至1935年居住于此。在他的档案中保留有A.S. Watson & Co.(一家颇受欢迎的可以冲洗负片及销售相关用品的药剂店) 的收据。德国图片杂志由一家上海本地名为Kelly & Walsh的出版社进行分销,很有可能骆伯年因此接触到这些材料。
  4. 刘半农:《半农谈影》,载《中国近代摄影艺术美学文选》1988年,天津人民美术出版社出版,新华书店天津发行所发行,第176-202页。
  5. 刘半农:《北京光社年鉴序》,载《中国近代摄影艺术美学文轩》,天津人民美术出版社出版,新华书店天津发行所发行,第203-206页。

Stephanie H. Tung

September 2015

The recently recovered archive of Luo Bonian’s photographs is an invaluable resource for research into the art and society of Republican era China. By all definitions, Luo was an ordinary man, born into a prosperous family of Hangzhou government officials in 1911. Yet his photographs of landscapes, portraits, and still lives provide a rare glimpse into a particular sector of Chinese society in the years leading up to and during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). Trained as a banker, Luo purchased a camera after graduating from college in 1932, and quickly joined a small, but growing community of cosmopolitan amateur photographers linked by societies, journals, magazines, and exhibitions in China. Through this archive, we are able to learn about some of the issues at stake at the time, including the status of photography in relation to traditional painting, the connections between international and Chinese photographic communities, and the significance of amateurism as an ideal in Chinese society. Much of this work would not have been possible without the efforts of Luo Bonian’s great-grandson Jin Youming – a banker and amateur photographer in his own right – who preserved Luo’s collection of prints, negatives, albums, and journals and made them accessible to researchers like myself. In this short essay, I hope to highlight a few directions of inquiry inspired by the archive, in hopes that fellow researchers may continue to learn from and explore this material.

For context, Luo Bonian’s archive consists of nearly three hundred medium-format vintage, silver gelatin prints and an even greater number of negatives from the era. Other photographic paraphernalia, such as manuals and journals in Chinese and English, also form part of the archive. A collection of this size by an individual photographer from early twentieth century China is exceedingly rare, as most photographic materials were considered bourgeois and destroyed or hidden after 1949. Luo Bonian himself stopped taking photographs in 1951. According to Jin Youming, Luo’s collection of photographic material survived the Cultural Revolution only because Luo asked to be transferred back to his hometown in Hangzhou after a long stint away in 1951. Out of the spotlight and relatively insulated from the violence and political intrigue as a retiree, Luo was able to keep his prints and negatives hidden away in boxes and albums in his home.

Luo Bonian’s anxiety about the photographs is understandable. The subjects of Luo’s photographs seem relatively benign, but link him to artistic traditions in both ancient China and the West that were taboo during the Cultural Revolution. The majority of Luo’s photographs are of the natural world: plum blossoms, willows, lotus flowers, and bamboo, as well as scenes of small reed boats on the water and pavilions and pagodas set against Hangzhou’s famed West Lake. They are all staple subjects of literati art and attest to Luo’s classical Confucian education. Indeed, family anecdotes indicate that the Luo household had a substantial collection of paintings and calligraphy, including works by Tang Yin, Zhang Daqian, and Qi Baishi, which were subsequently lost in the Cultural Revolution.

Growing up amidst these treasures, the values of the literati scholar-official surely shaped a young Luo Bonian’s worldview, yet how did they manifest in his photographs? If we examine the images iconographically, we find traditional representations of Confucian gentlemen in the upright bamboo that survives winter or the trope of the lone fisherman as unemployed recluse scholar (Fig. 1 & 2). Luo Bonian – whose courtesy name “Jun” meant “bamboo” – was born six years after the abolition of the civil service examinations, in the same year as the Xinhai Revolution that toppled the Qing Dynasty. With little hope of following his father’s footsteps as a government official, could Luo’s choice of subject matter be a subtle way of expressing frustration, or perhaps endurance in light of uncertain times? Did he identify with the “yimin,” or “leftover subjects,” as generations of marginalized literati caught between two dynasties did before him? Or were the subjects of his work simply standard for photography enthusiasts at the time? A more thorough analysis of the iconography of Luo’s pictures will tell us about his relationship to the tropes of traditional Chinese painting, and more broadly, the mindset of an elite, educated man in the years immediately after the fall of imperial China.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Fig. 2

Fig. 2

A stylistic analysis of Luo Bonian’s works sheds light on an altogether different aspect of his photography. Aside from the images of the natural world, Luo also made highly unusual still lives and collages. Most of the still lives depict artfully arranged tableware, fruit, and machine parts, however some of Luo’s most famous images venture into the abstract. For example, Ji Weng or “Drawing Water from a Well,” published in Chinese Photography Magazine in 1934, depicts a crystal statuette of a woman set against bold, zigzag patterns (Fig. 3). Even more unusual is a series of untitled, unpublished collages featuring identical slices of architectural or organic details arranged around a central pivot to form symmetric, square compositions (Fig. 4). The still lives appear to be investigations of light and shadow in the style of German modernists like Albert Renger-Patzsch or Lotte Goldstern-Fuchs (Fig. 5), while the collages bear a striking resemblance to Margaret Watkin’s photographic designs for textile (Fig. 6). Luo could have seen all of these works in international publications like Das Deutsche Lichtbild, a German photography annual sold in Shanghai, or Pictorial Photographers of America, edited by Watkins. The reverse sides of these prints reveal experiments with exposure, layering of negatives, negative printing, and cut collage, which demonstrate that Luo’s interest in photography ventured beyond simply recording the natural world into explorations of the non-representational and performative processes of medium itself. More research needs to be conducted on the transmission of these new modernist techniques into China. What international journals, magazines, and other resources were available to amateur photographers like Luo Bonian? How did they help shape the ontological status of the photographic image in China during this period? Stylistic comparisons of photographs found in the publications, in addition to close readings of the accompanying texts, will provide us with a better means of tackling this question.

Fig. 2

Fig. 2

A third approach to Luo Bonian’s works is to focus on the socioeconomic status of the amateur photographer in Chinese society. Just a few years earlier, in 1927, the photographer and poet Liu Bannong published a treatise on the supremacy of art photography as a form of self-expression. In another article that same year, he defended the actions of the amateur as one who does something “purely for oneself,” rather than for any commercial, social, or even political interests. These texts circulated widely in the Beijing and Shanghai photographic communities and served to elevate the work of the amateur photographer to that of “fine art.” Their publication, along with the development of amateur photography societies, journals, and exhibitions in the late 1920s, point to a shift in bourgeois tastes and values, and perhaps even an increase in economic mobility. While Luo Bonian was not an active member of the Shanghai photo clubs, he did see himself as part of the greater photographic community, regularly submitting work to journals such as Fei Ying, Chinese Photography Magazine, Xian Xiang, and Kodak Magazine. In 1937, he and two colleagues from the bank organized a small exhibition of photographic works in either Shanghai or Hangzhou. The well-known literary editor and writer Yu Dafu wrote the calligraphy for the exhibition, titled Lianyi Yingzhan or the “Friendship Photography Exhibition,” and many surviving prints carry poetic inscriptions and remarks from the participants. By examining the inscriptions on Luo’s photographs, we can recreate the network of relationships and hierarchies that existed within this peer group. Who were Chen Lu, Cao Xiyu, and Zhao Zongding, and what can they tell us about class, leisure, and pro-social practices like gift exchange and calligraphic inscriptions? How did they relate to past, romantic notions of the amateur painter idealized by the literati? And how was the amateur photography community similar or different from other amateur societies of say, opera or poetry? Focusing on the social and economic circumstances of these amateur photographers would yield productive insights into concepts of class and taste during the Republican era and beyond.

As a photographer, Luo Bonian was by no means an avant-garde artist. But that’s precisely why his collection of photographs is important. Looking at Luo’s photographs through different lenses – iconographically, stylistically, or socio-economically – allows us to ask so many questions about life and society during the Republican era. I hope that, by elucidating some of these questions through various methodologies, I’ve been able to highlight some of the larger stakes in studying the amateur photography of early twentieth century China and make a case for its continued preservation and study.

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