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23 August 1996 —
22 September 1996

Brian Brake:
China The 1950s

Brian Brake, City - Beijing, 1957 (installation view).
Brian Brake, Girl tending bobbins in a synthetic-fibre factory - Beijing, 1959 (installation view).
Brian Brake, Girls at the 10th Anniversary Celebration - Beijing, 1959 (installation view).
Brian Brake, Men - Beijing, 1959 (installation view).
Brian Brake, Northern Precinct of the Imperial Palace - Beijing, 1957 (installation view).
Brian Brake, The 10th Anniversary Celebration - Beijing, 1959 (installation view).
Brian Brake, The 10th Anniversary Parade, Beijing, 1959 (installation view).
Brian Brake, The Arrival of the East-German Delegation - Beijing, 1959 (installation view).


Brian Brake is indisputably the greatest New Zealand photographer ever.

He is our only ever member of Magnum Photographers, the international photographers collective, undertaking photographic essays in China, India, Southeast Asia, The Communist Block, Africa in his work for Time and Life magazines, National Geographic, Epoca, Paris Match, Der Stem, London Illustrated, Horizon-Heritage, Realities, Swiss Camera amongst others. He joined Magnum in 1955, at Henri Cartier Bresson’s invitation.

In 1957 Brake was one of three Magnum Photographers to enter China to photograph extensively through the country for the international press. Brake travelled widely, following the Burma Road from Kunming to the Burmese border. In 1959 Brake took a break from his work on the ‘Monsoon’ series in India to return to China for the tenth anniversary celebrations - he was the only western photographer in Peking for this function. His photographs of this and Khrushchev’s visit to China made the front pages of Life Magazine (as well as a number of newspapers internally). And finally the China works were presented as a major essay on Peking for National Geographic.

This exhibition China the 1950s, includes sixty works organised into 5 areas: Chairman Mao, Rural China, City Life, The Imperial Palace, Celebrating Communism. They are a unique record of China at this time, vividly depicting the lives of the people and the country they live in. There is no entry fee to the exhibition, which runs until Sunday 22 September 1996.

This exhibition was organised by the Museum of New Zealand, for exhibition in New Zealand, Australia and Asia. The photographs have been made available by the Brian Brake Estate. The exhibition will be interpreted in a series of guided tours the gallery is offering free of charge:


→ China pictures a tribute to photographer, Sunday Star Times, 25-08-1996
→ 'Lucky Brake' spent lifetime looking through lens, New Zealand Herald, 1996


→ Brian Brake: China the 1950s, 1996, exhibition card
→ Brian Brake; China the 1950s, 1996, poster

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