China A Photographer’s View – Roy Robertson FRPS Hon


Roy Robertson spoke to STAPS members on his visits to China, providing a photographer’s view of the country. His visits were initially through invitations when he held the post of President and Vice President of the Royal Photographic Society to attend and art exhibition, including photography and the world fair. Being part of a Royal Society in China was almost as important as being part of the monarchy and afforded Roy a level of hospitality and opportunity not afforded to the general tourist. A government limo being one and given almost celebrity status where ever he went. His talked covered an insight to the Chinese cultural, not easy with his lack of knowledge of the language and their lack of English. The exhibitions he attended were extremely popular. One necessitated fore the general public a 10-hour queue for a show that was only open for 11 hours! Trying to eat stewed jelly fish with chop-sticks was another tricky learning experience. In covering the different trips to Shanghai, Guangzhou and Beijing, Roy’s photographs displayed the contrast of the nation China has become. From the exposure to western influence. Many of the worlds best known fast food chains incorporated into mock-up Chinese surroundings. Space being a premium in cities with populations larger than Scotland, it was fascinating to view how parks and places of recreation are built under massive overhead roadways. Colour and light play such an important role, especially at night, the grey and overpowering smog of the day inhibiting the sun. Many of his images reflecting the difference between the two. Roy was able to visit townships outside the normal tourist route, providing a deeper insight into life away from the intensity of the cities. Like stepping back to another time, where rural practices had not changed. China is coming to terms with a growing middle class with a higher disposable income and tourism is very much on the rise, not only for foreigners, but the indigenous population as well. The increase in wealth was demonstrated when Roy was invited to view a collection of photographic works housed in an industrial complex. Established by a businessman who had made his wealth producing small figurines. Roy was presented with a volume of books on this photographer’s five trips to the Antarctic! Roy as a guest in the country was afforded the opportunity to visit the Great Wall, not the usual tourist stop site. But another location offering a greater vista of this formidable man-made creation. Another trip to the National Centre of Performing Arts showcased the architectural ingenuity and design with an entrance walk way under a floodlit pond. No visit to China is complete without seeing Tiananmen square, the Forbidden City and best of all, the iconic Terracotta Warriors. Roy entertained the members with his images and recollections of this vast country.