Canadian (born in China), 1911–2005
Evacuating Nuns, Shanghai, 1949
silver print on paper
19.5 x 25.3 cm
Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery; Acquired with The Photography Endowment of The Winnipeg Art Gallery Foundation Inc.
Of Indian descent, photographer Sam Tata was born in Shanghai and immigrated to Canada in 1956. In the 1930s he began taking pictures of his hometown, documenting everyday life. In the 1940s he moved to India where he met and worked with internationally acclaimed photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, whose influence further shaped the “observant style” later associated with Tata’s work. In 1949 Tata returned to Shanghai where he captured the events associated with the Chinese Civil War and the establishment of the People’s Republic of China by Mao Zedong (Tse-tung) (1893–1976) in 1949. When the Chinese Communist Party came to power, foreigners were instructed to leave Shanghai immediately. This image of Catholic nuns walking up a gangplank leading to an evacuation ship comes from this period of change and unrest.