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NameSidney D. Gamble
Family NameGamble
Given NameSidney D.
Field of ActivityPress
Date of birth1890
Place of birth Cincinnati, Ohio
Date of death1968
Place of deathNew York
Biographical informationSidney D. Gamble (1890 - 1968) was a pioneer sociologist who worked in China between 1917 and 1932. His researches resulted in the publication of four remarkable studies of Chinese life: Peking: A Social Survey, 1921; How Chinese Families Live in Peiping, 1933; Ting Hsien: A North China Rural Community, 1954; and North China Villages: Social, Political, and Economic Activities Before 1933, 1963. These groundbreaking studies of Chinese life are still used as basic reference material by writers and scholars. In 1918 American social scientist Sidney Gamble and two travelling companions sailed 4,000-miles up the Yangtze River into the heart of China. Dressed in stiff white shirts, bow ties, khaki pants, panama hats and wire-rimmed spectacles, the three foreigners attracted so much attention that they called themselves the "Great American Three-Ring Circus." Gamble, armed with his portable typewriter and bulky Graflex camera, must have been about as inconspicuous as a green-skinned UFO pilot landing on Tiananmen Square. Nevertheless, he managed to take over 1,000 candid photographs documenting native peoples and customs rarely seen by Westerners. In photos from the expedition, Gamble's clothes never looked rumpled and his hair was never unkempt. He carried his camera in a worn leather case with his initials monogrammed on the outside. He looks a real-life Indiana Jones: a nerdy but fearless hero voyaging to exotic locales in pursuit of knowledge and adventure. Gamble devoted his academic career to the sociological study of China, writing five books on the subject. His best known work is Peking: A Social Survey, a meticulously-researched 500-page study that documents everything from population statistics, geography, and architecture, to Chinese social life, customs, and religious observance. At a time when Western scholars had precious little factual or statistical information about China, Gamble and his team of Chinese researchers tracked the expenditures and earnings of 283 families from various socio-economic backgrounds in an attempt to document the diversity of Peking life. Since photography was a life-long hobby of Gamble's, it was natural for him to use his camera to complement his sociological research on China. Although he sometimes used his photographs to illustrate his books, Gamble may not have realized the enduring power and artistic merit of the images he captured on film. From the time of Gamble's death in 1968 until his eldest daughter, Catherine Gamble Curran, rediscovered them in 1984, the entire archive of photographs, negatives and film sat collecting dust in rosewood boxes in a closet on the third floor of the family home in the US.
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