A sepia-tone image of a street in Opium War-era Peking looks dusty and motionless like an Old West boomtown after a shootout. Guangzhou, not yet a global center for manufacturing, still appears courtly. Seeing one of the images in the Getty Center's "Brush and Shutter: Early Photography in China," you have no doubt that life was more mundane for the people in the frame, but at the same time it's hard to believe we would have anything in common with them. The show, which closes May 1, draws from the Museum's large collection of Felice Beato photographs, supplemented by numerous Chinese artists who had just gained access to cameras. Many of the images are by now unknown photographers, which, despite their clear historical value, makes them seem even less real.
'Brush and Shutter: Early Photography in China' at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, through May 1