Photographer Michael Wolf began his career as a photojournalist in Hong Kong working for a German magazine. In the early 2000s, he turned to non-editorial photography with an unusual project called Bastard Chairs. Wolf had noticed that all over China, there were makeshift chairs that had been put together using whatever materials the owners could get their hands on. He began documenting these strange pieces of furniture, showing the creative ideas people in China had for sitting down.
Over the past month, there have been violent anti-Japanese protests across China over disputed islands between the two nations. Japanese businesses and manufacturing plants have been besieged, leading companies like Canon and Panasonic to suspend their operations and evacuate their premises.
In the midst of all this chaos, a tricky problem presents itself: how does a Chinese photographer go about documenting the rioting? As you know, Japan is the motherland of most major digital camera companies, while China doesn’t have much of a role in this industry besides manufacturing the cameras at the request of those corporations. The answer: flags and tape.
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.
There’s a huge wave of anti-Japanese sentiment sweeping across China, with violent protests popping up all over the country in response to the ongoing dispute over islands in the East China Sea. Amidst the public anger, Japanese brands are taking a hit… literally.
The New York Times has a fascinating interview with Li Zhensheng, a photojournalist who worked at a local newspaper in China during the Cultural Revolution. In addition to the “positive” propaganda photos he shot for his paper, he also captured “negative” photos that he kept hidden until decades later.
Most events I went to there were positive pictures and negative pictures. Some slogans were actually not all that positive but as long the crowd’s mouths were open and fists pumping air — that looks positive in the photographs. And I’d leave some film for “negative,” “useless” pictures. We were given film each month according to a ratio: for every picture published, we earned eight frames. I would process all my own film. And I did all my own enlargements.
[...] I knew I had lots of “negative” frames, so I would quickly dry them and clip them off, to not let other people see them. The only fear I had was the others would complain that I was wasting public resources, shooting pictures that the newspaper couldn’t use — and I would leave the positive ones hanging to dry.
I would put the “negative” negatives into brown envelopes in a secret compartment in my desk. In the spring of 1968, I sensed that I would be [searched] soon, I took batches of the negatives home every day after work. I sawed a hole in the parquet floor at home under desk and hid them there.
Li says he spent a week sawing the hole in his floorboards slowly, bit by bit, while his wife kept watch at their window. His secret photo collection is now one of the best records we have of what actually occurred in China decades ago.
A Panoramic View of China’s Cultural Revolution [NYTimes]
It’s nearly impossible to find a photograph in China taken before 1970 — most images were destroyed or removed to other countries during Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution.
A professor at Bristol University in the UK is running a project in search of these lost images, the BBC reports:
Such photographs are exceptionally rare in China. The turbulent history of the 20th Century meant that many archives were destroyed by war, invasion and revolution. Mao Zedong’s government regarded the past as a “black” time, to be erased in favour of the New China. The Cultural Revolution of the late 1960s finished the job.
“If you were at all savvy,” says (Professor Robert) Bickers, “you realised early on that you had to destroy your own private family records, before the Red Guards came and found evidence of your bourgeois, counter-revolutionary past, when you might have drunk coffee in a café bar, à la mode.”
Hong Kong model Angelababy lost her contract with Panasonic after leaking a photo of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF5 on Instagram in March of this year. And now: a legal mess that could cost millions.
China News reports that Panasonic is seeking a refund of their contract, worth 9,910,014 yuan (about $1,559,181.51 USD) plus another million yuan ($157,334 USD) in damages for the leak: a serious trade secret violation that Panasonic also said would affect their marketing plans and strategies. The ad agency in charge of the Panasonic campaign, McCann Shanghai, countersued Panasonic, saying the terminated contract is unlawful and the terms of their contract were met.
Image credit: Photograph by Crossroads Foundation Photos
It’s strange to think that cartography laws could somehow affect the functionality of your camera overseas, but a recent article on Ogle Earth points out that just such a thing has been going on with GPS-enabled cameras as far back as 2010. The whole “investigation” into the matter began with the release of the Panasonic TS4 earlier this year. For some reason the press release cautioned that the GPS in the camera “may not work in China or in the border regions of countries neighboring China.”
But after doing some digging they discovered that these restrictions are not limited to the TS4, nor are they even limited to Panasonic. In fact, many major manufacturers go to great lengths to conceal or toss away the location data captured by GPS-enabled cameras when you’re taking photos in the People’s Republic of China. Read more…
Chinese government officials never seem to learn. If you’ve been following us for a while, you may remember the Chinese government’s Photoshop fail from last year, where three officials were supposedly inspecting a road, but instead looked more like they were floating above it. And on May 9th five more government inspectors were immortalized floating around, this time inspecting a park.
A strange bit of news coming out of China: couples are opting to have their wedding photos faked using Photoshop due to rising photography costs.
Rising cost of a wedding photo-shoot is forcing some Chinese couples to get their wedding albums prepared with the help of morphing offered by various online photography-related agencies. With the help of computer software like Photoshop, a couple’s ordinary photo can be added with wedding dresses, flowers or even a tropical island setting to create faux wedding images.
While the cost of a professional shoot in China can run upwards of $950, having your wedding photo album faked by online Photoshopping businesses only costs $50.
Chinese couples opting for faked wedding albums [Yahoo News]
Image credit: chinese wedding by chokola and Hawaii by Sarah_Ackerman