Generations

Still moving forward and getting caught up here. I mentioned last time that I had some things coming up over the next few months. The first is a 10-page documentary feature in China Photography Magazine entitled “Generations”. More than 6 years in the making, Generations follows 5 different families located across China. In a string of candid interviews we learn something about each family’s history, their hopes and dreams for the future, lessons learned from the past and how it all shifts over time. Among the milestones covered were four births, 3 funerals, one college graduation, four high school graduations, one cross-country move, two failed business ventures and another that was a huge success.

Ms. Wen (below) is featured prominently as the Matriarch of her family. I first met the now 83 year old while walking in Old Liuzhou with photographer Stephen Patterson a couple of years ago. I took this photo that day and came back later with a framed print for the family. We hit it off and I’ve been back now at least a dozen times. I’ve met Ms. Wen’s two sons and her daughter along with their respective spouses and her six grandchildren. She worked in the water company for a while in her twenties but quit working after her third child was born. She said it was very bold at the time, because everyone was expected to work the job they were given back then. Wen made ends meet for over thirty years raising small amounts of vegetables in a neighborhood plot and then selling them on this very street. I asked a number of times over the first few months about her husband but never got a straight answer so I stopped prying. I assumed he had died. Eventually the old gal felt comfortable enough to tell us that her husband basically disappeared one day in the fall of 1977, never to be heard from again. “It wasn’t like now,” she explained in a hushed tone, “People left all the time and there was no way to find them if they didn’t want to be found. No internet or things like now.” I was surprised she was internet savvy. Turned out she doesn’t have a computer but does have the Chinese instant messenger client QQ on her phone and chats with one or more of her grandkids almost daily. The family is waiting for the old home to be demolished and replaced by yet another hi-rise apartment building. The compensation isn’t exorbitant but will include an apartment in the new building and enough cash to get the remaining grandchildren through college. In the meantime, she’ll move in with her youngest son until the new building is complete.

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Wen Ping 

The interviews in Generations were conducted almost entirely in Chinese with help from my wife Li Li and her former student Chen Wei, then edited and written in English by me before being translated back into Chinese by Song Lu Jia for China Photography. The issue will be published in July and I’ll share some excerpts here once it hits newsstands. All the photos are in black & white – in sharp contrast to Ms. Wen’s red slippers in the image above.

World Cup fever is well underway here in China. The internet speed has come to a grinding halt during the first few games as seemingly all of Liuzhou is watching them on their computers and not their televisions. Why I don’t know, because all the games are being shown in Hi-Def on cable. My neighbors were inexplicably pulling for Cameroon to beat Mexico earlier tonight and now they seem about evenly split as The Dutch just pulled even with Spain right before halftime. Big noise in the building with every score or near score and it’s 4 in the morning as I write this.

India is three days away. In the end I got my visa sorted out just fine and now the big heat awaits. Seriously big heat. It was 48C in Delhi earlier this week. That’s 118F for my pals in America. The forecast for the coming week is somewhat better with highs around 40C – 104F, so there’s that. I imagine my next post will come from India, provided neither my camera nor laptop melt. The APF Workshop in Varanasi is almost sold out and we should have a blast despite the heat.

4:10AM and another eruption from the neighbors as Holland just pulled ahead of Spain 2 – 1. It’s gonna’ be a tough month for sleep.

Until next time – Peace!

ADDENDUM: The Netherlands 5 – Spain 1. Definitely a pro-Holland crowd amongst the neighbors. I’m hoping for a low scoring game between Chile and Australia.

2 Responses to “Generations”

  1. Johey24 (Jay) says:

    LOL … the same here in Shanghai …. and as always, a fantastic photo. Love the little touch of the yellow shopping bag ;-))

  2. Sue says:

    What a lovely story! :)

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