Found Art: Past Lives

Bill Morse's collection of historical prints from China.


Sixteen years ago, fine-art photographer and Cambridge resident Bill Morse came across a box of 2,000 large-format negatives in his parents’ Glastonbury, Connecticut, attic. The photos had been taken by William Leete, his grandfather, over the 40-year period he’d spent as a missionary and teacher in China. Although Leete died when Morse was a baby, the letters and photographs he left behind tell a rich tale. This 1913 image shows the remains of the Old Summer Palace outside of Beijing, where Leete was stationed at the time. Built in the early 18th century, the palace was destroyed by British troops in 1860 during the Second Opium War. “What I’ve learned from working with his pictures is that I have my grandfather’s eye for asymmetry,” says Morse, who has a high-end printing shop in the South End. “And that’s a wonderful thing to know.”

Restored vintage chinese prints in various sizes, $600–$1,500; WM. Morse Editions, 450 Harrison Ave., Studio 227, Boston,