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November 12, 2011

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Photos bring memories back to life

ALTHOUGH now in her 70s, Hong Luoxia clearly remembers the day as a 17-year-old, excited at receiving her first ballet costume, she had her picture taken by a Jewish photographer in Shanghai.

"I was a high school student dressed in my first ballet costume. I was walking past by the studio, so decided to capture this beautiful moment," 74-year-old Hong said yesterday.

The "ballet girl" picture was taken by Sam Sanzetti, a studio photographer in Shanghai from the 1920s to the 1950s.

Hong is known as the "ballet girl" featured in a group of old photos taken by Sanzetti.

Her graceful pose has been frozen in the photo for more than 50 years, but Hong said she felt transported to the past when she saw the photo again.

The Israeli Consulate has traced four Shanghai people featured in some of the 200 pictures taken by Sanzetti after posting the pictures on a microblog.

Hong did not pursue ballet stardom, but became an architectural designer after graduating from the city's Tongji University and went to Beijing to work with her husband until she retired.

Meanwhile, 58-year-old Sun Xun helped his 85-year-old mother to see a photo she recognized as one in which one-year-old Sun sits in the arms of his mother You Meiying.

You recalled: "It was a happy day because it was Sun's first birthday, so his father and I took him to the studio to take a family picture."

Her husband died last year.

An engagement photo of 82-year-old retired university teacher Cao Lizhen and her husband was displayed in the window of the studio. They had the photo taken there in their 20s and the couple are now preparing to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary.

"When we dated each other, we always liked to see the beautiful photos displayed in the window of the studio, so we had our engagement photos taken there," said Cao.

The couple said they regretted the studio closing as they wanted their wedding pictures to be taken there.

Sanzetti, said to be one of the best photographers in China at the time, had four studios in 1922, including a flagship studio on the old Nanjing Road dedicated to portraits of city people. He ran the studio until 1957 when he returned to Israel.

Hong said she remembered Sanzetti could speak fluent Chinese and took time to photograph her in different poses.

She said yesterday: "It was a classic studio, different with other photo shops in Shanghai at that time, while the price was only slightly higher than others."

Sanzetti's Shanghai portraits were rediscovered after his death in 1986. His stepson, who lives in Israel, has asked for help identifying his subjects and finding their children so copies can be presented to them.

Oren Rozenblat, deputy consul general of Israel in Shanghai, said: "His stepson said Sanzetti loved his time in Shanghai and hoped the photos could come back to the city."

Sanzetti married a Chinese woman and had a stepdaughter when he was in Shanghai but went alone to Israel.

The consulate plans to hold an exhibition of the pictures of the local people along with the stories behind them when more people are identified, said Rozenblat.


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