Text and photos by Zhang Xiao (张晓).
Those photos of mine were taken in Chongqing where I was working and living for four years. I had been asked to take photographs for a local newspaper. I usually took two cameras every day: One digital camera to take the photos of the local news, and one film camera to take photos for my own interest. As a photographer I weaved through the city everyday and that was how I locked those images into that little time machine. At first I was simply shooting the scene and the people I was interested in and never thought to make those photos into a serialized work. As time went on I’d taken a lot of pictures. After 3 years, I had taken over 1000 films of this city, until I quit my job and left Chongqing.
In China, every year hundreds of millions of people find work in other places. Like them I am also a drifter in a land not my own. Chongqing is located in China’s South West, and my home is two thousand kilometers away in Yan Tai, Shan Dong Province. I can only return home once a year during the Spring Festival. In China during the Spring Festival, hundreds of millions of people return home during a very short time, so the whole family can be reunited. They come from everywhere, North to South, East to West. People often lose their way during this process, losing the feeling of a real home. Lacking a sense of belonging, perhaps this is a symptom of being Chinese during this time.
There are great changes every day in China since it began opening up 30 years ago. The cities are like big construction sites speeding their construction pace to catch up with the rest of the world. Chongqing the largest independently administered municipal district in China is located at the head of Three Gorges dam. By the effects of Three Gorge project, many old towns with a 1000 year history have disappeared into the river rising. At the same time, as an economic center in the upper reaches of Yangtze River, Chongqing also has got the maximum benefit from Three Gorge project on economic affairs. Under the double influence of Three Gorge project, Chongqing has become one of the most representative cities in the process of the development of modernization of China. However the greatness of mankind derives from thought.
Them, the citizens, the workers… Each one of them has their own ordinary life, working 9 to 5, taking vacations, feeding their kids… They’ve been watching their homeland undergo a great change in the last 30 years. Now they have to face the old traditions and customs and the effects on their lifestyles’ of the rapid development of the economy. No matter good or not there’s a struggle in their hearts between the old traditions and culture, and their life will not like before any more.
This question continuously gets brought up: Was that someone you know in those photos? To tell the truth, they were all strangers even they were just people that passed close by me. Because of we are the ones of the same era. I could see more of my reflection from them when brushing against those people or through deep eye contact. They are always there in my life.
Now, it appears that many scenes are doomed to meet me. Formerly, I always regret endlessness missing a scene; even affect my mood for the whole day. Now, I am a man who let nature take its course, including life and shoot. I prefer observing the world in my own way than intervening in or arranging characters in my pictures, I do not want to disturb them. But at that moment, I always can observe their difference. That’s all my seek.
There is no doubt that the atmosphere of a city will impact people who living there and each and every move of them are closely linked the city. I have deep love for Chongqing. From the view of geography environment, Chongqing is a unique city in China. There are few flat roads in the city which built on mountains. So Chongqing named “mountains city”. Meanwhile, there are two rivers pass through the city. in winter, heavy fog rise from these rivers, which make the city sexy. I enjoy walking along the river in the morning with dolorous fog. Mountains, rivers, and fog make up special atmosphere of this city together. But under the Chinese monochromes, there is a modern big industry city. The traditional and modern reflect most incisive here.
As a press-photographer, my profession gives me a lot of help for my goods. First, the job gives me a chance of on the way, and I can meet various people who come from different levels and different experience which enrich my experience. At the same time, I can meet many interest and strange things and scenes.
Some photos are directly job-related that captured what has happened on the spot. The No.5 photo captured an accident. A truck went on a skid and rolled over before chemicals started leaking. Fire fighters were attempting to salvage passengers and the wrecked vehicle, whose yellow chemical protective suits caught my eyes making the fire fighting look more like a live performances. The No.8 photo covered an interesting story. A country guy managed to build an aero boat. He was about to take off with news reporters and neighbors standing nearby to witness this “miracle” to be happening. At that moment, whether it would be rocketing up or not wasn’t concerning people that much.
My photos unveil a fantasy world. I am so obsessed about people in the photos who behave like walking in the dream and braving out the rigors of reality. I rarely had a chance to have a conversation with them but eye contact. More often a quick click of the shutter and a dazzling flash awoke them before they could even notice my presence. By the time they realized a photo of them had got captured, I was somewhere else.
Life is tough. As Chinese economy is rocking through the roof, people start suffering from high level of stress and anxiety about possible job losses. In the never land, people would not be suffering until they got brought back to the reality. I would be happy to live with them in the never land, but not every story has a happy ending. People in the photos illustrate the breaking up of the modern Chinese social development and picture our reflection.