9 cm x 5 cm
Occupational photographs like this one, showing a woman holding a broom, were designed to show the many facets of daily life in 19th century Chinese society. The best of these photos, like the present example, transcend their intended purpose emerging as fine art. Here, a woman holds a broom diagonally across her torso, the fingers of her right hand holding it loosely, with her thumb resting on the broomstick. Her left hand touches the tip of the broom distractedly, as she stares into the camera. The slight hunch of her back, and rounded shoulders, indicate a life spent engaged in hard manual labor. At the same time, her gaze suggests someone who is unaccustomed to visiting a photographer’s studio. Combined, her gestures and expressions provide a window on her personality that is both universal and timeless.