Underexposed China

Categories: Ramblings

Chinese boy working the coal mine image from groundbreaking photo exhibit.IHT: Photographic first: A sharper look at China

“The show is the first major presentation of contemporary candid photography in China, and the first time a museum here has collected photography on such a large scale.
… the photos are of Chinese looking at Chinese as they eat, sleep, love, commute, mourn, argue, work, give birth, play, relieve themselves, hire prostitutes, apply makeup, visit fortune tellers, recover from drug addiction, exercise, die.
… censored photos can be seen in the excellent catalogue, available for purchase at the museum or on-line at timezone8.com. They include Bao Lihu’s 2000 photo of four naked men bending over and being intimately inspected by a drug rehabilitation center guard for contraband, and Wang Chongyan’s 2001 shot of a prisoner soon to be executed. A leash is tied around the convict’s neck and he is urinating in a dirty toilet as the guard who holds his leash looks on. Given the sensitive nature of these photos – and the sensitivities of Chinese leaders – it is not surprising that they were cut. What is perhaps more surprising is that so many similarly sensitive photos were not.
The show includes photos that are embarrassing, even damning. There are pictures of Communist cadres punching old men and of orphaned children tied to chairs in a government welfare institute; of Catholics holding Mass in what is clearly an underground church and of blank-faced passers-by staring at an abandoned baby girl on a sidewalk; of poor peasants fighting to sell their blood, and of a 13-year-old boy mourning before the tomb of his parents, who died of AIDS.”

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