Lang Jingshan – A Pioneer of Chinese Photography

Lang Jingshan
Photo of Lang Jingshan, Chinese photographer

The influence of Lang Jingshan (郎静山) on Chinese photography is indisputable. Lang (his family name) was born in China in 1892, and was first influenced by his military father who had an interest in both art and photography. While attending middle school in Shanghai, Lang received his only formal instruction in photography from his art teacher at age 12.

During the 1920s, Lang became one of China’s first photojournalists, working for newspapers and magazines covering news and events, shooting fashion spreads and advertisements, and publishing art photography and pictorials in magazines.

Yanbo Yaoting (1963)
Yanbo Yaoting – photo by Chinese photographer Lang Jingshan.

When the China Photography Association was founded in 1928, Lang who was one of the first participants, began experimenting with more artistic work including nudes – which was a first in China. “Meditation”, which he shot in 1928, is considered the earliest surviving Chinese artistic nude photograph. This was followed by the publication of the ‘Album of Nude Photographs’ in 1930 – the first of it’s kind in China.

Meditation
Meditation – photo by Chinese photographer Lang Jingshan

After briefly experimenting with a modernist style, Lang developed a style he called “composite photography” (jijin sheying 集锦摄影), whereby he printed different parts of various negatives on the same sheet of paper, resulting in seamless landscapes, still lifes, and portraits following the composition and style of traditional Chinese ink painting.

Left: actress Li Hua; Right: Chiin-san Long. Photos by Lang Jingshan.
Left: actress Li Hua; Right: Chiin-san Long. Photos by Lang Jingshan.

After the communist takeover of mainland China, Lang followed the nationalist government to Taiwan where he continued to create ground-breaking photographic works. He also spent 42 years as the director of the re-established China Photography Association in Taiwan. Throughout the remainder of his life, Lang committed himself to teaching and promoting the idea of a Chinese style of photography until his demise in April 1995.