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Long Chin-San

Long Chin-San (1892-1995), from Lanxi, Zhejiang Province.


During 1930s, Long Chin-San came into the public sight as among “China’s Earliest Photojournalists”. In the world circles of photography, he was known for the unique “composite picture” technique he created by overlapping the Chinese painting techniques and photography darkroom exposure, and is considered the first one to apply traditional Chinese painting principles to photography in history. He loves photography for life and up till now, more than 1,000 works have been exhibited in the world of salon photography, illustrating his remarkable achievement. He is also named one of the World’s Top Ten Photography Experts by Photographic Society of New York, America(PSA).


Long summarized his creative approach towards photography: “the reason why I create composite photos is that I hope to create intrinsic beauty with photographic skills that could best capture and deliver the reality when infused with the traditional painting theories, benevolence and practical values.” Resting your eyes upon Long’s photograph, you may discover outwardly the composition itself is beautifully arranged with natural dynamics, through which Long sometimes depicts the magnificence and majesty of Chinese landscape, sometimes the serenity and pleasantness in the air; Inwardly you feel this vivid spirit running through the paper and lingers, and the vibrance that fills the whole picture—it reaches you. Technical wise, Long applied “Well-planned Location” and “Venerated Imitation” from Six Principles of Chinese painting to photography, creating ancient painting-like photographs which are full of interest and charm. It demonstrates his exquisite darkroom production skills and even amazed the French who invented photography. What goes far beyond technique, is Long’s everlasting pursuit for “Rhythmic Vitality”. In Six Principles of Chinese Painting, “Rhythmic Vitality” refers to the spirit and vitality in the painting. And this vivid “vitality”, can be discovered in Long’s work through beginning to end.


Long’s “Composite Picture” technique, succeeded in applying the concept of “Chinese in essence, Western in practice” into the creation process of art and managed to keep the balance. Just as Yi Jun-zuo writes: “ Western Photography at its best can capture the surface image but not the inner spirit; traditional Chinese’s painting at its best can reveal the inner beauty, but not the outer reality. Only Long Chin-San with his art can combine both aspects into one.” And indeed it is.