Neither East Nor West – The Lafayette Collection: Asia in the Age of Monochrome

05 Apr 2007 – 30 Aug 2007

The exhibition explores the fascinating world of photography of the Lafayette Studio, London in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. From the extensive Lafayette photo collection of Victoria & Albert Museum, IAMM will feature 45 photographs of Asian rulers as well as other influential figures from this region. Photos of Europeans who were relevant to Asia’s development are also part of the exhibition.

The sitters in the Lafayette photographs keep their identity while participating in a newly emerged global environment. The IAMM exhibition will explore the elements in these portraits that show adherence to tradition in a changing world. Even where people appear to have adopted European style, they still retain some references to their own culture in their choice of jewellery, weapons, headdress, shoes or fabrics.

By examining the way these individuals dressed, it is clear that influences travelled in all directions. Europeans were as taken with elaborate Asian style as Asians were with European sartorial simplicity. The international nature of these different ruling classes is clearly apparent. Not only did they use the same photographic studio; they also attended the same events and often dressed in the same way.

The late 19th and early 20th centuries may have been oppressively ‘Victorian’ for many, but for the elite this was a time of openness and international understanding. The Lafayette Studio is a symbol of this dual role: a force that brought people from many parts of the world together for their mutual benefit. This force also led to an ultimately non-confrontational approach to independence, especially evident in Malaysia. One section of the exhibition will be dedicated to Merdeka, in all its photographic glory.

Neither East nor West comes from a poem by Rudyard Kipling where it shows that differences in geography, race and class are of no consequence when individuals of different backgrounds work together.

The publication for the exhibition is currently available at the Museum Shop, for more info please click here.

Lafayette
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