Roadside fortune teller, Peking – Photo of the day
Published by Kathy Hackett on July 20, 2011 in Photo of the day.
Roadside fortune teller, Peking
Photographer Hedda Morrison, (1908-1991), was born Hedda Hammer in Stuttgart, Germany. She acquired her first camera, a Box Brownie, at the age of 11. In 1931, after completing studies at the State Institute for Photography in Munich and working in the studio of photographer Adolf Lazi (1884-1955), she answered an advertisement in a photography journal for a job in Peking.
In Peking Morrison managed Hartung’s photographic studio from 1933-1938. After her contract expired she continued to work freelance from a small darkroom in her home in Nanchang Street. The young photographer travelled around the city, usually by bicycle, often photographing its inhabitants. Many of these photographs are part of the Hedda Morrison Photographic Collection Some have also been posted on Photo of the Day.
In her book, A Photographer in Old Peking, Hedda Morrison wrote of this photograph:
Peking people never tired of having their fortunes told and such forecasts were often an important guide to current action. From the container in the foreground the client would shake out a sliver of bamboo, on which were inscribed certain characters. From a study of these and reference to booklets arranged around the centre-piece, decorated with the Eight Trigrams that provide the symbolic foundation for divination, the fortune-teller would advise his client as to what the future held for him.
It is possible that Hedda Morrison’s interest in fortune-telling extended beyond her photographic subject matter. Among the personal papers with when she died in 1991 were two horoscopes and two graphologists’ reports. She had preserved these items for some 60 years, carrying them from Germany through Asia and, finally, to Australia.
Post by Kathy Hackett, Photo Librarian
Photography by Hedda Morrison
Powerhouse Museum Collection 92/1414-219
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