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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Francis C.K. Wu

Other: Cheong Kin Ing 
Other: Dr. Francis Wu 
Other: Francis Wu 
Dates:  1911, 21 May - 1989
Born:  China, Canton
Notable Hong Kong Pictorialist.

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for Francis C.K. Wu
(Courtesy of Christian Peterson)

Dr. Francis Wu was the most well-known Hong Kong pictorialist in the United States after World War II. He ran a commercial studio but was heavily involved in amateur circles both in China and the United States. He was honored with fellowships by both the Photographic Society of America (FPSA) and the Royal Photographic Society (FRPS). Wu was born in Canton, China, on May 21, 1911, but moved as a child with his family to Honolulu, where he grew up. He became interested in photography as a nine-year old, using a folding Kodak camera. In Hawaii, he met the American photographer and teacher Nicholas Haz, who encouraged him to pursue the medium as a serious pastime. In 1931, Wu moved to Hong Kong to attend Lingnan University, where he organized a student camera club. After college, he worked in his father’s food business, in both Canton and Hong Kong.
In 1937, however, Wu decided to become a professional photographer and established himself in Hong Kong. He associated with the Photographic Society of Hong Kong, eventually serving on its council and as president. During the Japanese occupation of World War II, he gave up photography to avoid attention and eked out a living as a broker. After the war, he resumed his profession and organized the first Hong Kong salon of pictorial photography. By the early 1950s, the Francis Wu Studio was a leading Asian concern, based in the heart of the city and employing twenty individuals. It performed all manner of professional work, including portrait, industrial, fashion, aerial, and journalistic photography. Wu was a cofounder and editor of the monthly magazine Chinese Photography, which first appeared in January 1950. Printed bilingually in Chinese and English, it claimed 10,000 subscribers by its second year.
Wu garnered significant camera club attention in the United States in the early 1950s, when he toured the country and was written up in magazines. Jack Wright profiled him in the March 1951 issue of American Photography, stating that "Dr. Wu’s studio is a photographic center for hundreds in that part of China who are interested in photography." Wu attended the national convention of the Photographic Society of America in New York in August 1952, the same month its magazine, thePSA Journal, devoted a five-page article to him. He presented an invitational display of his work and lectured on "Pictorial Photography from the Chinese Viewpoint." Then, he traveled to the Midwest and West, visiting photographic manufacturers to gather technical information and giving talks to camera clubs.
Wu’s first salon success was in London, probably in the early 1930s. Subsequently, his work was accepted by juries in Houston, Memphis, Minneapolis, Montreal, New York, Ottawa, Paris, Rochester, St. Louis, and elsewhere. In 1953, eighty-four salons hung over 200 of his prints, ranking him as the world’s third most exhibited pictorialist. He produced primarily Chinese landscapes and Chinese character studies; the latter often featured female nudes with stereotypical props and clothing, rendered in both monochrome and color.
In addition to frequent reproductions in the photographic press, Wu published a handful of monographs of his work, between 1951 and 1991. One, titled Chinese Beauties Through the Camera Lens of Francis and Daisy Wu was a collaboration with his wife, who made a name for herself as a photographer, beginning in the 1950s. 
Christian A. Peterson Pictorial Photography at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (Christian A. Peterson: Privately printed, 2012) 
This biography is courtesy and copyright of Christian Peterson and is included here with permission. 
Date last updated: 1 June 2013. 
We welcome institutions and scholars willing to test the sharing of biographies for the benefit of the photo-history community. The biography above is a part of this trial.
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