The extraordinary exhibition, Brian Brake: Lens on China and Japan, opens on 25 August, featuring 32 superb photographic images by Brian Brake. Selected from Te Papa’s photography collection, these images are considered by some to be Brake’s strongest work.
Brake’s career largely began in the mid-1950s when he worked as a globe-trotting photojournalist for the renowned Paris photo agency Magnum.
Brian Brake: Lens on China and Japan offers two slices from Brian Brake’s long career; photographs of China he took in the late 1950s, and those of Japan in 1963 and 1964. These gained relatively little attention at the time, but today they firmly rank amongst his very best work.
Brake was one of a small number of Western photographers who gained access to China in the 1950s, and his photographs were eagerly snapped up by international magazines. They mainly focussed on China’s leader Mao Zedong and political parades in Beijing, and while certainly topical and often spectacular, these made up of only a small portion of Brake’s China photographs. He travelled extensively throughout the country, and he took many photographs of everyday scenes. However it seems there was little interest in publishing images of daily life at a time when the USA and China regarded each other with mutual apprehension and hostility.
As well as the 32 prints, the exhibition includes documentary footage and examples of magazines in which Brake’s work appeared.
Brian Brake: Lens on China and Japan gives an unprecedented insight into Brake’s view of these two nations. The exhibition is made possible by the generous gift, from Wai-man Lau, of Brake’s photographic archive to Te Papa, making it available to the nation for future generations.