2019 marks the 70th Anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, founded on 1 October 1949 by Chairman Mao Zedong. To celebrate this milestone, I am returning to China in January, to seek-out and re-photograph locations that I first captured in the spring of 1980 in Beijing and Shanghai.
I was on board one of the first ever American passenger cruise ships that sailed the China coast. No one on board had been to China, in fact, it was a seldom visited country for Westerners. I found himself arriving at a time of rapid change and excitement, with economic, political and cultural reforms sweeping the country.
I have such great memories of my first visit to China. I think I stood out somewhat with my bright clothes, fair hair and camera. The local people were intrigued, and I couldn’t help but play the clown to gauge reactions. I’d pull faces, poke out my tongue, I even lay in the middle of the street to get noticed. Sometimes I’d get crowds of up to 50 people, wanting to speak English or just satisfy their curiosity about this strange westerner. As people warmed to me, I was able to capture the essence of the time, both in people’s faces and the unique urban landscapes they inhabited.
Colour photography from this time is extremely rare and images of this quality featuring everyday life in Beijing and Shanghai are hardly ever seen. To better share this unique time, I collected my photographs into a book ‘China’s Children’ which I’ve made available via my website and Amazon.
Now after 39 years I’m very excited to return and capture a different time. I’ve been fortunate enough to gain the help local friends in both Beijing and Shanghai to assist me in locating places I visited in 1980.
I think a comparison of images between 1980 and 2019 is going to be a fascinating and I hope a thoughtful project that in some small way will contribute to the 70-year celebrations of the People’s Republic of China.
Author/Photographer - China's Children
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