Identification of Porcelain Photo in the Chinese Context: Material Culture, Technical History and Creative Application

Project: Research project

Project Details


The proposed research project will examine an under-researched area: the material culture and technical history of porcelain photographs (photographic portraits printed on porcelain and/or ceramics) in the Chinese context.

Porcelain photo making is an obsolete, historic photographic process that combines gum dichromate printing and image transfer, dusting-on technique and vitrification to mark a photographic image permanently on porcelain and/or ceramic plates. It is often used to make black-and-white photographic portraits. Porcelain photos permeate rituals of life and death in the Chinese context, ranging from portraits of the deceased on gravestones in public cemeteries, domestic altars and ancestral shrines, to images of philanthropists in halls of fame in town halls, public monuments and clansmen association venues.

This research will examine the emergence and efflorescence of porcelain photos in the Chinese context since the mid-1950s, and discuss the recent decline in craftsmanship due to the succession of digital imaging technology. The research will be conducted in three stages. First, field research will be conducted in Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Jingdezhen to examine the historical development and migration of skills and artisans from the mid-20th century to today. Second, photographic activity test (PAT), image stability test and photographic process identification will be conducted to describe the key attributes and define the cultural, material and technical uniqueness of porcelain photo making to formally and systematically classify porcelain photos in the history and discourse of the photograph. Finally, studio-based and research-informed practices will be established to demonstrate the feasibility and creative potential of porcelain photos in a cross-media environment.

This research will generate first-hand empirical and contextual knowledge with creative applications. The outcomes will be published in an open-access peer- reviewed scholarly journal on the history of photograph and material culture, and as artwork in a public exhibition. Visual documentation will be disseminated via social media and a web-based research portal. The research outputs will speak to academia, the visual arts community and the general public to demonstrate the plurality of practice-led research in the visual arts.
Effective start/end date1/09/1728/02/21


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