Photograph, 'Assembling glass grapes', black and white, silver gelatin print, by Hedda Morrison, Peking, China, 1933-1946
Morrison uses the natural daylight to highlight the hand-blown glass balls so that they look as ephemeral as soap bubbles. The women, with downcast eyes, hold the grapes as if working. This photograph
required a long exposure and the cooperation of the subjects.
The glass grape factory was established by a Mongolian family called Chang during the Xianfeng reign (1851-1861) of the Manchu-Qing dynasty and still operates today. As a result the family was known as the 'Grape Changs'. The ornaments were purchased by well-to-do Chinese officials, but today they are primarily sold to foreign visitors.
This is one of a large number of photographs that were taken by Hedda Morrison (1908-1991) during her years of residence in Peking (Beijing), China 1933-1946.
Exhibited in 'Peking: 1933-1946 - A photographic impression', Menzies Library, Australian National University, 17-30 June 1967.
Reproduced in Hedda Morrison, 'A photographer in Old Peking', Hong Kong, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1985, p. 185, with the caption: 'Making artificial fruit, an ancient craft derived from glass-blowing which had become largely an export business'.