Solange Brand (18 March 1946, Paris, France) is an independent photographer who captured the start of the Chinese Cultural Revolution on rare color photographs which found a renewed audience in China and abroad from 2002, when a slideshow of her work was exhibitied at Pingyao Festival.
In December 1968, at 22 years of age, she made a childhood dream come true by visiting Angkor, gathering an impressive collection of Agfacolor slides shot at various Khmer temples -- digitized in 2023 with the support of Angkor Database --, an artistic and documentary prowess since she stayed less than a week on site. "I was practically alone in the temples then", she recalled for us; "after China's turmoil, it felt just like paradise, the people, the trees, water and stones."
Joining the French newspaper Le Monde right after her return from Asia in Asia, then the monthly magazine Le Monde Diplomatique in 1980, she became its Art Director since her retirement in 2004. In 2005, Solange Brand published Pékin 1966, petites histoires de la Revolution culturelle (Kate Fletcher and Editions de l'Oeil Electrique, Paris), followed by Japanese (Pékin 1966, with additionnal text by Kazuyoshi Shimozawa and Masaaki Tsuchiya, Benseï Publishing, Tokyo, 2012 (bensey.co.jp)) and Chinese (中国记忆，1966：一位法国摄影师镜头下的彩色中国, China Memory 1966, Shanxi People’s Publishing House, Beijing, 2015) editions. The book is reviewed on Baidu Online Encyclopedia (in Chinese).
Solange was only 19 when she volunteered to join the just recently opened French Embassy to the Republic of China as a secretary. "It was my initial experience at making photography", she recalled in an interview with Photography of China: "My father gave me his old camera when I left. For a couple of months I experimented it, and as soon as I gathered enough savings, I purchased a Pentax in Hong Kong... then came the discovery of the magic of photography. This probably explains - together with my young age - why my photos look "candid". I was completely self-taught and learnt things outside the field. I never received any artistic training but certainly had a rather innate sense of composition. I took the majority of the photographs during the first years. Many dated back to 1966 because this year saw the launching of the revolutionary movement, when public parades mobilized hundred of thousands young Red Guards down the streets. In 1967, the situation turned chaotic, more violent and there were less if none public parade. [...] I remember how I felt the need to capture the events I was witnessing - with no other idea that to keep track of them for myself. No intention, as well, of telling a story or proving anything. I was unaware that this mass movement would become a major episode in the history of China."