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Visiting Scholar Lecture Series: the Third Lecture on “The Study of Historical Images”

Author:Feng Yunpeng Date:2018-12-20

On November 14, 2018, a lecture entitled “‘Pain Points’ and ‘Doubtful Points’ in ‘The Study of Historical Images’” was held in Room 1901, West Main, Guanghua Tower, Fudan University. It was the third lecture of the International Center for Studies of Chinese Civilization (ICSCC) Visiting Scholar Lecture Series entitled “The Study of Historical Images”. The lecturer was Professor Li Gongming from the Department of Art History at the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts, and the host was Professor Jin Guangyao from the Department of History at Fudan University, Director of the ICSCC.


In the first part, Professor Li Gongming introduced the enduring meaning of historical moments by using the images of many important historical scenes and their relevant texts. He mainly introduced personal choices in the historical scenes and the method of “using images as historical evidence”. For example, photographers in historical scenes can be divided into three types: folk photographers, official media photographers, and photographers with special missions. They have different perspectives and motives to “provide images as historical evidence”. Besides, it is also important to discuss how to deal with historical images, whether to destroy, hand over, or transfer them to the National Archives or other secret archives including special units of different systems, levels, and kinds. Moreover, we should pay attention to the possibility of bringing undetected historical photos to light again. Finally, we need to examine the process of photographing, and reveal the enduring significance of accidental and instantaneous historical images.

In the second part, Professor Li talked about the “pain points” and “doubtful points” in the study of historical images. He mainly discussed whether images were credible when taken as historical evidence. By analyzing the two examples of “The Execution of Gustave Chaudey” and “The Young Hitler in a Crowded Square”, Professor Li pointed out the meaning of “pain points” in image research, which was the “afterthought” in the interpretation of historical images. It is undoubtedly reasonable and even necessary to explore and understand the “pain points” and “doubtful points” in historical photographs with current cognitive levels and values. In addition, Professor Li focused on visual symbols of ideology in different times, and discussed how to “use images in artistic creation as historical evidence” by using examples of Jiang Zhaohe’s “Refugees” (“Liu Min Tu”) and peasant paintings in Yan’an arts.

After the lecture, Professor Li Gongming also had an in-depth question and answer interaction with the audience. He pointed out that, regarding the study of historical images, that we should activate our visual ability and image sensibility in historical research, striving to combine images and history in the future, and even stick to the principle of “no image, no history”. In the study of historical images, we should pursue the integration of images, history and thought.