Art imitates art


Programme for a Customs musical evening, Nanking, 1902, Hedgeland collection, He01-077, © SOAS

One of the images (on the right) in Historical Photographs of China, features the same compositional idea as Angus McBean’s photograph (below) of the theatre designer and producer William Chappell (1907-1994) – juggling heads.  This brought to mind Geoff Dyer’s The Ongoing Moment in which Dyer ducks and dives, dodges and burns, through the history of photography: the book is structured around the observation that the great (mostly American) photographers that he discusses, often photographed the same things (Barber shops, benches, hands, roads and signs, for example).   It is an entertaining conceit, but flawed of course in that he selects the few images that fit this thematic approach – images that are of the same things – and ignores the hundreds and thousands that are not.

The Angus McBean photograph is held in the Theatre Collection, University of Bristol, and is reproduced here with the kind permission of the Harvard Theatre Collection, Harvard University.  Other fine McBean (and John Vickers) portraits from the John Vickers Collection are due to be exhibited in Faces of Theatre, as part of University of Bristol’s InsideArts festival.


William Chappell juggling actors. Publicity photograph for ‘The Globe Review’, Lyric Hammersmith, London, 1952. Photograph by Angus McBean. Theatre Collection, University of Bristol. © Harvard Theatre Collection, Harvard University.


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