CHINA 1984 | On the Edge of Modernization

Project by : Alexander Vertikoff - CHINA1984




money raised

33 days

to go

Launched: 29 Apr 2017

Funding ends: 28 Jun 2017

CHINA 1984


This Project is to preserve several thousand unique, historic, and culturally significant color negatives shot in the People’s Republic of China

In 1984 and 1985, when some of these locations were not yet open to most foreigners, I spent many months photographing the ebb and flow of life in Guangzhou, Hainan Island, Beijing, Wuhan, Guilin, and other places in the People’s Republic of China. During that time my wife and I were married in a traditional Cantonese ceremony in Guangzhou.

My images are not meant to be a comprehensive documentation of life in the PRC, but an honest, intimate and personal portrait of newfound friends and intriguing sights shot during a period of innocence, mutual curiosity, and openness just prior to an overwhelming cultural convergence.

"These are images of China on the Edge of Modernization".

Working with fellow artists, local scholars, the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts, the Hubei Institute of Fine Arts, and other organizations in Shanghai, Wuhan, and Shenzhen I used many of these images in what became the first traveling exhibits of their kind by a foreign artist in the People's Republic of China. Shown in Guangzhou, Wuhan, and Shanghai in 1985, 1986, 1987, and 1992 they provided a unique opportunity for me to share my art with local artists and citizens; and for them to share their reactions to how a foreign artist sees their world. Much of what I learned from those interactions have been an integral part of my photography for over 30 years. All of the images from the exhibits remain part of the permanent collections the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts and the Hubei Art Center.

Yang Xiaoyan, in an article entitled "Defining--The Eye of an Artist," reviewed the 1985 exhibits in Yangcheng Wanbao, the biggest evening paper in China with a circulation of 1.6 million at the time.  

"The scenes which are so familiar to us are new to him.  We do not notice them because they are so common to us, part of our daily life;  we do not stop to consider them as 'definitions' of our cultural environment.  Vertikoff is a foreigner, an intruder in a sense, and takes us by surprise:  'What?  Is this place really X?  It seems so different in his picture'.  This demonstrates that we can appreciate his idea of defining from the unique perspective of an artist.  The camera is objective, but the significance lies in Vertikoff's attempts to define, which is not an easy thing to do.  Vertikoff's artistic works are successful definitions of our cultural environment".  Yang Xiaoyan 5/26/1985

To create the original color negatives and exhibition prints, I used a film known for its substantial amount of visible grain that could be manipulated to create images in an evocative pictorial way. Before degradation diminishes the vital elements of this film it must be saved, protected, and cataloged.  By backing this project you are helping me continue the lengthy process of carefully converting these important images to state-of-the-art digital files capable of reproducing all of the color and texture of the originals. The rewards offer you a chance to own a limited edition fine art print from the collection that I will personally print for you.  Please help me reach my goal so that all of these images can be preserved

"The changes that began occurring in China after 1984 were not predictable. The people and places that I connected with back then were universally kind and open. That is why these images feel so authentic, honest, and real. Three decades later it is time to share them, and many more, with the post-1984 generation in China as well as everyone else."  Alexander Vertikoff


TIMELINE.  I have already begun reviewing over 4,000 negatives. Careful and thorough preservation by scanning, identifying, captioning and cataloging the images will take over 6 months.  If I am able to reach my funding goal, or to exceed it, I will be able to speed this work up as long as it does not compromise the quality of the scans.  Curated collections of the finished images will then be viewable on a virtual archive as well as exhibited as fine art prints around the world.

BUDGET. How the money will be spent.

  •    US$ 30,000  FringeBacker Goal
  •  - US$  2,250  Various Crowdfunding Fees
  •  - US$  5,200  Domestic and International Shipping of Rewards
  •  - US$  1,000  Purchase of special color stable paper and ink to make the prints for the rewards.
  •  - US$ 21,550  Creative and Production costs (This covers about 4 or 5 months of full-time work to scan then analyze over 120 contact sheets, edit down, review, and catalog over 4,500 negatives to find the very best, create correct scans of each chosen negative, customize processing to best reproduce the original color negative as a digital image, research the locations then and now to create accurate captions, fulfill the rewards for my backers, and keep food on my table).

Double click CHINA1984 to see a partial preview of the images set to be in the book. 

ALEXANDER VERTIKOFF is one of the leading photographers in the United States. For over forty years his award winning images have been on hundreds of covers and articles in magazines such as Architectural Digest, and the New York Times, as well as on the cover of every issue of American Bungalow magazine (27 years). He has been the principal architectural and promotional photographer for the J. Paul Getty Trust’s Villa and Center, the Gamble House, The Driehaus Museum, Pebble Beach Company, the Skirball Cultural Center, and others.




(Images courtesy of, Abe Books)

-The Gamble House, Buildilng Paradise in California (USC School of Architecture and City Files Press 2015).

-The Monroe Building: A Chicago Masterpiece Rediscovered (CityFiles Press 2014).

-Arts & Crafts Furniture From the Collection of the Two Red Roses Foundation (Two Red Roses Foundation 2014)

-Hearst Ranch: Family, Land, and Legacy (Abrams 2013)

-Greene & Greene: Developing A California Architecture (Gibbs Smith 2011).

-Edgar Miller and the Handmade Home (City Files Press 2009).

-At Home in the Heartland (Peregrine Smith, 2007). 

-The Architecture of Entertainment: L.A. in the twenties (Peregrine Smith, 2006).

-Craftsman Style (Abrams 2004).

-Bungalow Nation (Abrams 2003).

-Stickley Style: Arts Crafts Homes in the Craftsman Tradition (Simon & Schuster 1999).

-Greene & Greene: Masterworks (Chronicle 1998). 

-The Los Angeles Biltmore (Archetype Press 1998).

-Hidden L. A. (Peregrine Smith 1998.

-Weird Rooms (Pomegranate 1996). 

-American Bungalow Style (Simon & Schuster 1996).

Please visit to learn more about my photography and my clients.


Alexander Vertikoff - CHINA1984
Project by
Alexander Vertikoff - CHINA1984


A custom signed and numbered 11x17 inch color stable fine art print.  You choose the one you want from my web site.

Image size is approximately 10.5x16 inches on an 11x17 inch sheet of archival fine art paper.  

Carefully packed in a sturdy tube and shipped to you within 60 days of receiving your payment and image choice.

International delivery +US$25
0 Backers


A custom signed and numbered 13x19 inch color stable fine art print.  You choose the one you want from my web site.

Image size is approximately 12x18 inches on an 13x19 inch sheet of archival fine art paper.  

Carefully packed in a sturdy tube and shipped to you within 60 days of receiving your payment and image choice.

International delivery +US$25
1 Backer