-- Written by Hans (Johnny) Schneider
My interest in Photography goes back to my childhood in the Berlin of the 1930s when someone gave me an AGFA box camera using 6 x 9 cm black and white 120 film rolls. My weekly allowance was $0.25 Deutsche Mark so I had to badger for more money. With a primitive developer box, I could process my films without need for a darkroom and learned soon to develop and copy.
Fast forward and several generations of cameras later, my wife, Christina, and I arrived in Beijing in 1963 on a sunny but cold March morning after a long flight from Moscow through Siberia on Aeroflot. I carried a Rolleiflex for black and white and Christina a Contax for colour. While black and white film was easily available in Beijing, Kodakchrome was not.
As an invited ‘specialist’ I could import many things, Jardine, Matheson & Co in Hong Kong became my favourite suppliers. In the aftermath of the China-Soviet break after Krushev’s speech denouncing Stalin, we filled in when the 2-3000 Soviet ‘specialists’ left almost overnight. Located on the way to the Summer Palace and Beijing University, the Friendship Hotel (Youyi Binguan, still in existence today) was a large walled compound, with a main and several other buildings, tennis court, gym, swimming pool, shops, clinic, theatre, several restaurants and its own car pool. In the spring of 1963, it was then host to a motley crowd of writers, translators, journalists, radio announcers, etc. from some 30-40 countries, plus a few foreigners who remained in China after the II World War. My wife ended up teaching Spanish to the students at the Diplomatic College, I became the editor and translator of ‘China Illustrated’ and occasionally assisted Anna-Louise Strong ‘Letters from Beijing’ and Mme Soong Ching-ling (Vice-President of the People's Republic of China) with 'China Reconstructs’.
We soon moved around freely in Beijing. Although living in a gated compound with guards at the entrance, once we went out, by car or later with our bicycles, we were on our own. In general, in Beijing itself, I saw very few signs that said ‘No Photographs’, only on some excursions to the countryside when passing military installations.
For processing, all Kodakchrome went to Hong Kong. Black and white film initially went to a local photo shop untill I asked for the guest house’s manager to give us a room with running water to be used as a photo lab. With other photo enthusiasts, we imported a small Durst Enlarger, bought locally a dryer, trays, chemicals and other material and processed our photos.
My photo collection laid dormant for many years when we lived in Chile, to settle in Australia in 1973. Only a few years ago, I started to recover what material I could find. All film negatives and some colour photos were digitized with a Canon 9000F scanner and a selection edited with Photoshop, mainly to deblur, remove dirt, correct distortion and improve exposure, without major alterations to the original image.
As we were working full time, photos were taken mainly on weekends or holidays. In Beijing, mainly in and around the Imperial Palace, Tiananmen Square, Wangfujing (Morrison St.), Liulichang and on visits to the Observatory, Great Wall, road to the Summer Palace (Yiheyuan) and Beijing’s markets. The crowds on Tiananmen Square, then an imposing empty space not uglified by more recent additions, were shot on 1/5/1963 (May Day)- and 1/10/1963 (China’s National Day).
At the end of our one-year stay, we travelled by train from Beijing to Guangzhou, with stops in Nanjing, Shanghai, Hangzhou and Suzhou. The few photographs here are part of a larger archive, still in the process of being processed.
- 1925, birth in Berlin
- 1939, 4th Yr High School student, emigrated to Chile. Worked in a Radio repair shop, Photographic laboratory, Sports store, to return to study in 1960 at the Chilean State University, Faculty of Humanities, graduated in 1967 ( Geography) .
- 1963-64, in China as translator/editor for 'China Pictorial' (Spanish edition), occasionally for 'Letters from Beijing" by Anne-Louise Strong and "China Reconstructs" by Mme. Soong Ching-ling.
- 1967-68, French Government scholarship to study at Bordeaux for a Doctoral degree, graduated in 1970.
- 1973-74, Visiting Lecturer, University of New England, Armidale.
- 11 September 1973, Military coup in Chile - no return to position at Chilean State U.
- 1975-87, Lecturer/Snr.Lecturer, Dept. of Geography, UNSW,
- 1979, Commission from the UN University (Tokyo) for a Desertification study in Mexico
- 1988-97, Hon Prof.Associate, DURP (Urban and Regional Studies), U.of Sydney
- 1980-2010, Computer handyman - repair & maintenance, dBASE programmer, Director, EPIC (Economic & Planning Impact Consultants), Computing Services for SHELTA, Australia.
More information: www.flickr.com/photos/johnnys623