1945: Facing the future

Chongqing. Street scene. Misery, mud & rain. 1st December 1945, Booker collection, RB-t889

The caption is the photographer’s. Air Vice-Marshall Arthur Fiddament (1896-1976) took this Kodachrome colour slide in Chongqing, battered war-time capital of the Republic of China, on a whirlwind round the world trip in late 1945. They arrived in Kunming on 29 November from India, and flew out of Shanghai on to Japan on 3 December. Fiddament was investigating transport routes for the Royal Air Force, and with a small team flew around the world covering 34,000 miles in a Lancastrian in 34 days, leaving England on 12 November. All the way round he photographed the postwar world in colour, and often from the air, having acquired his Kodachrome habit during a posting to Washington D.C. The technology was still relatively new — it was introduced in 1935. These are the earliest colour photographs of China that the project team has yet uncovered.

These children, gathered to watch the foreign visitors, had with their parents suffered much during the war, having grown up in one of the most heavily-bombed of Chinese cities. Fiddament flew out of the city that same day.

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