Photographic print, black and white, 'Woman having her hair braided', gelatin silver print, photograph by Hedda Morrison, Hong Kong, 1946-1947. A street beautician braids a customer's hair. The customer is seated on a wooden packing crate and holds a cloth strap which keeps her hair firmly in place during the briading process. Both women wear woven cotton trousers and upper garments ('sam foo') and wooden sandals ('mook kek') that are typical of dress commonly worn in Hong Kong and southern China. The walls of the street shops are plastered with streetbills ('kai chiu') advertising the services of Western and Chinese doctors, an afternoon tabloid containing lurid stories, and 'Reunification Noodles' bearing the flag of the Nationalist Part (Kuomintang), and 'Winning Noodles' reflecting the political atmosphere and hopes of the 1946-47 period before China descended into civil war.
This photograph was taken by Hedda Morrison during a period of six months in Hong Kong, from 21 September 1946 to March 1947, following her marriage to Alastair Morrison and their departure from China. It complements the large archive of Hedda Morrison photographs, personal memorabilia and collected objects in the Museum's collection, which includes very few photographs taken in Hong Kong. This photograph is of particular interest because it was taken at a time of conflict between the Nationalist and Communist parties in China, the history of which is suggested by the products that are displayed for sale in the shop windows, emblazoned with the Nationalist Party flag. The photograph bears a paper label of the reverse identifying it as a photograph supplied by Camera Press Ltd., London, which was Hedda Morrison's distribution agent in the early 1950s. It is a fine example of Hedda Morrison's commercial work, of which there are very few examples in the Museum's collection. This is one of 555 images that Hedda Morrison took during her six month sojourn in Hong Kong 1946-47, the negatives for which are in the collection of the Harvard-Yenching Library, USA. This is one of a small number of Hedda Morrison's photographs of Hong Kong in the museum's collection and a fine example showing her interest in street life, a theme that she documented very comprehensively in Peking. Its primary significance in terms of the Museum's collection is as an example of her links with commercial photography. The photograph bears stamps and a paper label on the reverse which indicate that it was one of the photographs that Hedda sent to her agent, Camera Press, in London. Camera Press was Hedda's agent after she moved to Sarawak. Ian Morrison, Alastair's brother, who was a good photographer, had a relationship with Camera Press and the idea to approach them came from him. Hedda's thematic photograph albums, that are now in the collection of the Harvard-Yenching Library, were left in Peking when Hedda and Alastair departed in 1946. In 1948 they returned to Peking before the city fell to the Communist forces, retrieved their belongings and took them to Sarawak where Alastair took up a job with the British Colonial Service. It was after this time that Hedda sent a number of her albums to the Camera Press in London with the idea that people would select what they wanted. According to Alastair the albums were not well looked after at the Camera Press and were returned. Hedda would then provide them with sets of photographs. Camera Press was not as large an organisation as Magnum or Big Star, which were some of the other photographic agencies operating at that time. (Conversation with Alastair Morrison, 14 June 2005 ). Hedda and Alastair were married in Peking in July 1946 and travelled to Hong Kong in September. Alastair was appointed Adjutant of the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps in the period of reconstruction during the war years. He was demobilised during a period of leave in England and later took up a position in the Colonial Administrative Service in Sarawak, where Hedda and Alastair moved to take up residence in 1947.
This photograph was taken by Hedda Morrison during her six month period of residence in Hong Kong from late 1946 to early 1947. Hedda Morrison arrived in Hong Kong on 21 September 1946 by ship from Tianjin, China. She had lived in Peking since 1933. In Hong Kong she joined her husband Alastair Morrison who was serving as an officer in the British Army. They departed Hong Kong in March 1947 bound for England. Hedda Morrison supplied the Camera Press with negatives and enlargements. Given the presence of this negative in the Hedda Morrison archive of China and Hong Kong negatives held in the collection of the Harvard-Yenching Library, USA, it would appear that this print was made by Hedda Morrison and sent to the Camera Press in London. The stamps and labels on the reverse indicate that it was sent by the Camera Press to a prospective newspaper or journal.
This print appears to have been made by Hedda Morrison and sent to the Camera Press in London. The stamps and labels on the reverse indicate that it was sent by the Camera Press to a prospective publication. The photograph was purchased by the vendor at the Christies auction '20th century photographs and photography books', Christies South Kensington, London, 1998, Lot 186.
The reverse of the photograph has green stamps '1071' and 'Archief-Exemplar, Gelieve le retourner....[indistinct] ABC prints, A'am...[indistinct]. Telephone ....[indistinct]'. Below is a paper label typed with 'Hong Kong: Close to the rush and hum of a great modern Eastern port. Chinese domestic and traditional life goes on. Woman having her hair braided. CAMERA PRESS (HEDDA MORRISON) LONDON. 667A-10'. In the lower right corner there is a red ink stamp 'Copyright. CAMERA PRESS Ltd, RUSSELL COURT, CORAM STREET, LONDON, WC1. Terminus 4488 & 9893'.