When the Swedish professor and amateur photographer, Osvald Siren, traveled to China sometime during the early 1920s to capture the images that eventually were assembled to form the multi-volume album "The Imperial Palaces of Peiking", it could only have been with the mind of an intrepid scholar and the heart of a dedicated sinologist. The results of his optimistic project, however, when published and disseminated in France and Britain, had the inadvertent side-effect of undermining, at least in the mind of the West, the power and authority of the then recently ousted imperial throne and the
Japanese invaders with whom they were allied in the struggle to regain control. To display the interior, the holy of holies, of a compound with political and religious significance for an entire nation, and which was completely restricted from public view, would be intrusive in, and of, itself. But the nature of the photographic medium, with its perceived monopoly on scientific truth and its ability, as Walter Benjamin theorized, to "destroy the aura of the original," compounds the dissemination of Siren's images into a subtle, but effective, coup d'etat.

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