Portraits of Rural Chinese Families Posing with Everything They Own

Earlier this year, we featured a project by photographer Sannah Kvist that showed portraits of urban young people posing next to a pile of all their worldly possessions. Jiadang (Family Stuff) by Chinese photographer Huang Qingjun is similar in concept, but very different in content. He has spent nearly a decade traveling around to various rural communities in China, asking families to take everything they owned and carefully arrange them outdoors for a picture.

Instead of the many relative luxuries we saw in Kvist’s project — guitars and camera collections, for example — most of what you see in Huang’s images are necessities (though we do see TVs and one satellite). The project offers a glimpse into the lives of those people living away from the big cities, where wealth and luxury have been exploding in recent years.

Huang tells the BBC,

Most people thought what I was proposing was not normal. When I explained I wanted to set up a photo, that it would involve taking everything out of their house and setting it up outside, that took quite a lot of explaining. But almost all of them, when they realised what I was trying to do, they understood the point. One advantage of travelling to remote, poor areas was that people didn’t have many possessions. They’re not like people from the city, who have so much stuff that if you asked them to do it they’d reply it was too much effort.

Now that the 10-year-anniversary of the project’s inception is coming up, Huang is thinking about expanding its horizons. He’s considering creating portraits of higher classes — perhaps even a portrait of China’s richest man: billionaire Jack Ma. Collecting all of Ma’s possessions into one place might be a tricky task, though.

Image credits: Photographs by Huang Qingjun

  • 9inchnail

    That weird moment when your camera costs more than all the personal effects of the people you photograph combined.

  • Leandro Diogenes

    Aaaaand… there are Tv’s in almost every photo! Nice photos BTW

  • rtfe

    Charles Foster Kane laughs and laughs

  • helobuff

    Cerainly puts a new spective on american consumerism!

  • phototodo

    There is a TV in every shot. But no beds?

  • Michael Zhang

    Ah, you’re right. Didn’t notice some of them

  • brandon

    american consumerism? what? no, these poor souls are stuck in a communist wasteland, and i wish it wasn’t so.

  • Guest

    Lol they’re poor because they’re poor. He went to rural shantytown villages.

    What does communism have to do with it? What about the Midwest boonies? What about urban poverty in the states? Living in a city doesn’t instantly make you wealthy, you’d be surprised by how many people go to sleep hungry at night, just blocks away from grocery stores and fast food joints. Probably blocks away from you. Sucks to inherit dirt in a consumerist culture.

    At least in the rural boonies, poor people aren’t exposed to flagrant displays of excess and inequality. A lot of people lead a simple, though challenging, life. Don’t make the mistake in assuming all rural “communist” villagers are despondent because they don’t have iPhones.

  • Guest

    You could turn the “wishing it wasn’t so” into something tangible for the hundreds of thousands of poor and homeless here in the states.

  • Peter Croft

    Heh heh. In July this year, I had my house recarpeted. I was required to make the floors 100% clear for the carpet layer, so I had to move *everything* out onto my back patio, in the open, for the day. Not 90%, 100% from the time he arrived at 8:30am.

    Unfortunately, the layer turned out to be a snarling, abusive gorilla who took objection to me almost the moment he entered my house. Because I still had a few items to move (I’m 65 and not that mobile) he threatened that he wouldn’t finish the job in a day, and that’s exactly what he did – he left at 3pm with the job unfinished and me with my furniture still outside.

    This was a Friday. July is mid-winter in Australia. Luckily, the weather was beautiful, but my furniture and belongings had to remain outside for the whole weekend until midday Monday!

    Naturally, I have photos and they look not dissimilar to these shots. I have many more possessions, of course. (i’d post them, but I can’t right now.)

    I’ve complained bitterly in writing, of course, but they phoned me yesterday, right on my deadline and said, No, there will be no compensation, get lost. Hmmm. Nice company, eh? Carpet Call is the name, Perth is the city. Stay clear of them.

    They ain’t heard the end of this. I think I’ll pass on some Chinese clients and other nasty revenge ideas. I have only just begun …

  • quickpick

    intriguing idea! and they must be much more happier than majority of us “westerners” hogging piles of new meaningless possessions continuosly, and who are never satisfied because the “high” of most purchases only lasts for such a little while..

    .. and of course the Jack Ma version will show his possessions only on paper, or better yet, on computer screen as an MS Excel spreadsheet.. :D

  • raimund


  • John R

    The 5th one down fam5.jpg, isn’t that from Star Wars/?

  • Tzctplus -

    That you don’t know. It is quite patronizing this knee jerk reaction, quite widespread with well meaning but unknowing westerners.

  • Tzctplus -

    Well spotted, I was going to post just that. It comes to show how important is for modern people to feel connected to the rest of the world.

  • Tzctplus -

    Many of them would sleep in mats (nothing to do with poverty before anybody says so, it is just customary in many places).

  • Tzctplus -

    Yeah sure. Like what?
    The system is broken and you want to fix it tinkering a bit in the edges?

  • 9inchnail

    I bet you they would buy the same useless crap we do if they could afford it. They might be happier with what they have then we generally are, but they’d be corrupted in a second if they ever got their hands on some money. Look at the new elite in China, they live just as decadently as western rich people.

  • Jeff

    OK, your accent is kind of weird, but if I understand what you’re saying, you want me to take everything I own and throw it out in the front yard? Yea, I can do that.

  • Cristina

    Not a new spective on american consumerism, but a new spective on western way of life.

  • John

    I find this photo series offensive. What is the mandate to go around bothering poor people and making their lives even more difficult? What benefits can this project make to the subjects besides causing them inconvenience and shame? Yes of course there are poor people in China but whats the point in exposing the extent of their individual poverty. I usually enjoy the photo series on Petapixel but this one has left a very sour taste in my mouth …

  • Travelr64

    Doesn’t have so much to do with communism either. Take a visit to south America. Much the same in democratic nations down there, and I’ve seen worse in African democracies also.

  • Shay

    Did anyone else notice that only one picture features an actual bed? (#6 down)

  • Sanjesh Lal

    Awesome!! loved it

  • falkor

    “Because I still had a few items to move (I’m 65 and not that mobile)”

    So basically what you’re saying is you in fact did not keep up your end of the deal, and you’re mad at the company? Maybe if you were unable to move everything out in a timely fashion, you should have hired movers. It is not the carpet layers job to work around your things, or to help you move them.

    Do you think you’re the first person that said “Oh I’m old and need a little bit extra time”… They have to deal with that stuff every day I’m sure.

  • Barry Mole

    Kind of sad. The elites (photog) making fun of the little people.