Photography

[GALLET Family]

Damascus - Persia - China.

(Belgium, The Author, 1925-1928)

Two albums oblong folio, full black buckram.

Collection of 310 original silver print photographs, various formats, mounted in two albums and captioned in white pencil (1925-1928).

Damascus: 5 photographs – Persia: 74 photographs (including 35 from the different legations) – China: 231 photographs.

Most of the photographs were taken on the spot by a member of the Belgian Legation; a few (about 29) in the Persian part are numbered, which indicates that they were being sold at the time by local photographers.

The collection is very interesting on a historical, archaeological, and artistic level. It offers a vivid pictorial record of life in these countries at the beginning of the twentieth century.

At the end of the 19th century, the wasteful attitude of Persian rulers left their country in debt. With their British and Russian creditors, they were, therefore, looking for foreign help to reform their administration, which was also plagued by corruption. With Britain and Russia eyeing Persia, each was wary of other imperialist powers that could compete with them. This is how Belgium, a neutral country supposedly free from any expansionist aims, was approached. For their part, the Belgians were seeking to extend their economic influence not only in Africa but also in Asia. Present in the country from 1898, Belgian civil servants first worked on the development of customs and then, thanks to their efficiency, were called upon to take care of other sectors such as post, treasury, land register, supplies, and health. Their presence was not without friction: the property tax reform they were implementing attracted the wrath of large landowners. Combined with the growing distrust of the British and then the defection of the Russians, this opposition forced members of the Belgian delegation to leave their functions from 1915 in the wake of the Constitutional Revolution (1905-1911). However, not everyone left; some even saw their families join them. The last Belgian auxiliaries did not leave Persia until the outbreak of the Second World War.

The part devoted to China is particularly interesting and presents, in addition to archaeological sites, street scenes, portraits of known or anonymous personalities, actors or dancers, various events (including some excessively cruel – scenes of the public execution of a convicted person), members of the consular corps and their activities.

In fine, scarce images of the famous murderous attack perpetrated by a faction of the Imperial Japanese Army in 1928 against the Manchurian dictator Zhang Zuolin (1873-1928), the self-proclaimed head of state of the Republic of China (1927 -1928).

In very good condition, the boards of the albums are faintly worn.