This summer the CSUN Oviatt Library is hosting an art exhibit displaying 35 photographs taken almost 65 years ago that have remained undeveloped and unseen by the world until just recently.
Every day hundreds of students walk by the exhibit. Unaware of its presence, students search for an open cubby that they will utilize in order to study and sleep in for the next few hours or so. Rarely, does a student walk by and notice the faces of China that stare at them as they stride by.
All 35 photographs were captured in Tientsin, China, during the years of 1945 and 1946 by Harold Giedt, a retired counseling professor at Cal State Northridge University. At the time, Giedt was serving as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps where he was sent with other marines to repatriate Japanese military and civilians after Japan’s surrender in WW II.
During his down time, Giedt roamed the streets of Tientsin, snapping photographs of individuals performing daily routines. Most of the photographs, captured in black and white, expose a poignant aspect that can be found in almost every photograph: different individuals smiling wide during a time of war and poverty.
In many of the photographs displayed, “Old China Hands,” a term referring to those from other countries who lived and worked in China during the 1940’s, are photographed by Giedt performing routines such as chopping wood, making food, collecting firewood, or gathering water for their family.
Many of the individuals performing these daily tasks displayed in the photographs can be shocking as many of them are just children under the age of 10, yet they deliver a sense of comfort as the children look into your eyes, letting you know that they are comforted by the camera held by Giedt.
All of Giedt’s photographs come to life as he captures the faces of China up close and personal, making it easy for the viewer to observe certain facial features and personality traits.
Kailee James, a junior majoring in English, agrees that photographs reveal more than usual.
“You can see the emotion in their faces,” said James. “You can see more than just a facial expression, you see feelings.”
In a photograph captioned with the words “Before Kleenex,” a little boy stares at the camera with innocence and sadness as mucus drips from his nose. In another photograph, a young girl walks with a large bag of wood hunched over her back, almost the size of her entire height, and smiles comfortably as if she is carrying a lightweight load.
One student managed to notice the exhibit as he roamed into the hallway only to find an open area in which he could talk on his cell phone without disturbing others.
“I like this one a lot,” said Jesse Sosa, a history graduate working on his M.A., as he pointed at the first photograph containing two American Marines in a crowd of children.
When asked why the photograph attracted his curiosity, Sosa simply stated “I like war movies and I saw the Marines in the picture.” Sosa had no intentions of looking at the photographs until they had caught his attention.
“You rarely see pictures of China or Japan during WW II, you only see pictures of Europe and Russia,” said Sosa as he continued to walk the hallway, viewing the remaining 34 pictures with interest.
Out of the 35 photographs displayed, only four are in color, while the other 31 pictures remain in black and white. The “Faces of Tientsin” exhibit will remain on the second floor of the Oviatt Library until August 1, 2007, where students can view the exhibit during regular library hours.