Historic photos rescued after 50 years in the Time-Life vaults
29 October 2003
The 1948 photograph at right, taken by Life photographer Jack Birns, depicts Chinese Nationalist soldiers using their bayonets to search a mule cart for Communist infiltrators. Though Birns published more pieces in Life than anyone else covering China during 1948-49, a substantial number of his photos were filed away unseen because they offended Time-Life publisher Henry Luce’s anti-Communist sensibilities. Published for the first time in Assignment Shanghai: Photographs on the Eve of Revolution (University of California Press, 2003), this collection, edited by Carolyn Wakeman and Ken Light, offers an uncensored view of the country’s impoverishment and the destitution of its people.
The book is one title in the Series in Contemporary Photography assembled by the Graduate School of Journalism. Wakeman is an associate professor who directs the school’s Asia-Pacific Program; Light curates the school’s Center for Photography. The book’s foreword was contributed by J-School Dean Orville Schell.