[Exhibition closed temporarily]Distant Worlds: Shanghai and Hong Kong in the 1930s

Distant Worlds: Shanghai and Hong Kong in the 1930s

Photographs by Henry ‘Harry’ Curtis


亨利“哈里” • 柯蒂斯摄影作品

6 May - 16 August 2018 

Exhibition closed temporarily.

This is the first time Henry ‘Harry’ Curtis’s photographs have been shown since they were taken over eighty years ago in Shanghai and Hong Kong.  Though he was an amateur photographer, Harry’s images’ bring vividly to life the people and the places he explored as a young man.  Through the camera lens, we share his early adventures and are transported to a past time and Distant Worlds.

The majority of photographs selected for the exhibition come from a series that we believe were of particular interest to Harry with the prints produced during his lifetime. The vintage photographs were produced by him and reflect his professional background as a radiographer.  Through his work in hospitals, he had easy access to darkrooms where he was regularly developing X-ray films.

本次展出是亨利“哈里” • 柯蒂斯80多年前在上海和香港摄影作品的首展。虽然是业余摄影师,哈里将他青年时期所到之处,所见之人生动地展现在自己的摄影中。这也使我们通过他的镜头穿越时间和空间,身临其境。

本次展出的图片大多来自哈里情有独钟,在其生前制作完成的照片。这些老照片的制作反映出他的放射治疗师专业背景— 利用在医院工作之便,用冲洗X光片的暗房冲洗照片。


Harry’s photographs reflect openness and a curiosity about what he saw and who he met.  He found the local people’s lives of genuine interest.  Perhaps, this ease and familiarity with his subjects came from growing up in a working class neighborhood in London.  He wasn’t surprised or alienated by the harsh living conditions, whether his subjects were involved in cooking, cleaning or other daily activities. He was interested in recording their lives without judging their status and this distinguishes his photographs giving them an enduring appeal.

Without family and close friends around him for the first time, photography gave Harry a way of communicating with the local people when he did not speak their language.  Looking at these photographs today they show an optimism that would soon be over shadowed by events leading up to WWII.

Harry Curtis’s photographs allow us to travel with him to experience Shanghai and Hong Kong in the 1930s.  Unlike many others foreigners living in this cities at this time, Harry showed a deep interest in his surroundings and the lives of the local inhabitants.  His photographs avoid clichés and connect us to the richness and diversity of these Distant Worlds.




哈里• 柯蒂斯的照片让我们穿越时光隧道,和他一起回到上世纪 30年代的上海和香港。不同于当时普通外国侨民,哈里对当地人文表现出浓厚兴趣。他拍摄的照片脱去浮华把我们带入那遥远年代中上海和香港两座城市的缤纷和多彩。

We would like to acknowledge Co-Curator Vanessa Shia for her research, writing and help with the selection of photographs and design of the exhibition. Her research about this period benefited greatly from access to the online resources available at the Shanghai  Municipal Archives. I would also like to thank author Peter Hack for his willingness to look at the photographs to help us identify locations in Shanghai.

The Harry Curtis Collection was donated to the Chinese Museum by his daughter in 1997.  We are grateful for her generosity in donating the photographs and negatives, and for supporting the research and production of this exhibition.  

在此感谢联合策展人Vanessa Shia为本次展出所做的调研、写作、图片挑选和设计。上海市档案馆的网上信息为本展提供了宝贵资料。同时,在此感谢作家彼得 •海克为我们识别照片在上海的拍摄地点。