Horse Training, Inner Mongolia. © Eve Arnold
American photojournalist Eve Arnold was one of the first western photographers to enter communist China, and her images of the country and its people form a new exhibition at Asia House Gallery in London.
Arnold visited China in 1979 at a time when its government was opening up to the outside world and the exhibition, running until January 12 2008, shows a remarkable set of 40 of photos from this trip that have never been the subject of a UK exhibition before.
“In China, 1979 marked a period of easing towards the west,” wrote Arnold. “For the first time after a generation of secrecy, the Chinese government was taking its own people (and the outside world) into its confidence…”
“The Chinese were taking a heavy gamble that they could become a world power by the year 2000. To get people moving, economic incentives were to replace ideology. It was a time of openness that made my work a joy.”
The images are a candid look at a much-misunderstood society and range from militia training in Mongolia and rice gleaning in Hsishuang Panna, to performing artists and noodle making.
Making Noodles. © Eve Arnold
Katriana Hazell, Cultural Director of Asia House said: “In 2008 an international focus will turn with greater attention to China, with the forthcoming Beijing Olympics coupled with the country’s continuing economic and artistic explosion.”
“Eve Arnold’s pictures are some of the abiding images of our age and it is timely to look again at these photographs of China and note how our perceptions of this fascinating country have shifted and evolved in the intervening three decades.”
Arnold was the first female member of legendary photo agency Magnum Photos, joining in 1955. She is perhaps best known for her work with Marilyn Monroe, and has also widely documented her extensive travels around the world.
She was elected Master Photographer by the New York International Centre of Photography in 1995 and has been based in the UK since 1962.