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I Take Portraits Of Farmers
浏览次数:832次 更新时间:2020-12-02

By Pang Xiaowei



For years, I have taken photos of over 2,000 people who are well known in various territories( National Museum of China has collected nearly 1,500 negatives of the portraits I took) such as filmmakers, Olympic champions, TV show hosts, painters, singers, Beijing opera actors, masters played at National Centre for the Performing Arts of China, national and international celebrities, famous people of international economic field, a hundred veterans who are a hundred years old, and eminent monks.

 

In 2020, I dropped all the original shooting plans. Since the beginning of lunar New Year, I have been walking around the broad rural area and taking photos for Chinese Farmers.






On the first day of Chinese lunar New Year, I took a high-speed train to Yantai city, Shandong province. I was heading to Longkou city to take photos of the farmers. I had lived in the rural area of Long from ten to twenty years old, and I grow up there. I am familiar with its mountains, water, grass, trees; I am familiar with the villagers and how they farmed throughout the year. I am used to their accent, and I know their personalities. I thought the Chinese Farmers project should start there!

 

However, accidents happen. After I went into the village, set the camera, and finished taking photos of the first farmer, my shooting was shut down! Towns started to be closed, and no outsider could enter. A sudden crisis pressed the pause button on people’s routine work and life national wide! All of a sudden, villages were closed, and no one on the street. I had to pack the shooting equipment I just unpacked and returned to Beijing.

 

There was nobody in the compartment on the high-speed train to Beijing, and I couldn’t see anyone through the window. It was the Spring Festival holiday, and people were supposed to be busy visiting families and friends. How come everyone disappeared in an instant? Where did they go? The road was quiet in a flash, so were the villages supposed to be bustle during New Year. Beijing was quiet, and China was quiet.

 

So much silence, silence can be scary sometimes!

 

I had never seen anything like this in my lifetime. I can’t really describe how I felt. I am always fond of quietness and fewer people; however, this sudden quietness had caught me off guard; I was overwhelmed at that moment. I asked myself what had happened? How did the world become that in a flash?

 

It seemed that the Chinese Farmer project had to take a pause! I didn’t know when I could start again. I hoped this virus could pass as soon as possible and restart my project as quickly as possible!


 




Though I couldn’t shoot for Chinese farmers, I didn’t stop working( I remember I said a sentence softly that only I could hear, “ I don’t care how long I can live, but I care how I live my life! ”). I went back to finish the Beijing part’s shooting of the Beijing And New York project. ( This project is to honor the 40th anniversary of China-US diplomatic relations. We planned to hold an exhibition to display the iconic buildings of Beijing and New York City. I finished taking photos of New York during May last year. But due to the current situation of these two countries, this project is on hold indefinitely. I will finish taking photos according to the plan, and I believe this exhibition will be held one day! )

 

Beijing was like an empty city. I have lived in Beijing for decades and have never seen such a scene. All right, I would take advantage of this time and take perfect photos of Beijing! During that time, I almost took photos of Beijing’s every historical and modern building.

 

In March, the outbreak in Wuhan was contained; some places’ work and production were resumed in an orderly manner. I had accumulated tons of photos that needed post-production, so I stayed in Nanjing for days to work( I have been producing photos in Nanjing for years).








However, when I returned to Beijing, I was informed that I had to be quarantined at home for fourteen days.

 

Without working for fourteen days were too cruel for a workaholic like me. But people who returned to Beijing from other provinces must be quarantined for fourteen days; otherwise, they will be prosecuted for their legal liability. I had to accept the quarantine order. After signing the guarantee at the neighborhood committee's quarter, I went straight to the food market and supermarket to purchase enough food and necessities for my wife and me to use for two weeks instead of going home. ( Many of our friends mailed us many foods and essentials too.) After I arrived home, we closed the door and prepared for the upcoming two weeks of quarantine.

 

Could I really put the Chinese Farmers project on hold for two weeks? This is a huge project and includes 22 provinces, 5 autonomous regions, 4 municipalities directly under the central government, agriculture, forestry, animal husbandry, side occupation, fishery, and 56 nationalities. By then, it was already in the middle of March 2020, and the schedule was to finish taking photographs before the end of October 2020, then start post-production of the photos in November, and exhibit the Chinese Farmers portraits national wide in December(by the end of poverty alleviation). The time was tight, and the official photographing had not started yet.






 



Every day was precious, and sitting at home, I could feel the time pressing. (The plan was I starting from the northeast village in China, because I had to photograph the snow in the north, but it was already March, was there still snow in the Northeast?) I had to convince my boss to let me out of Beijing! Finally, after explaining the situation with relevant departments and adding the fact that I just returned to Beijing, my superior agreed to let me leave Beijing and work. (There seemed to be a policy that if you leave Beijing within 24 hours after you returned to Beijing, you wouldn't need to be quarantined.)

 

Ah! I was set free. I was thrilled that I could take photos now.

 

I bought a high-speed train ticket to Hangzhou immediately because I had to take my fellow workers in Hangzhou Studio to photograph Chinese Farmers officially.





 


When this project was just an idea in my head, I had planned to go to Mohe City, Heilongjiang Province, first when there was snow in winter. To make the exhibition good in the future, I had to take pictures of the unique sceneries national wide, such as the snow in Heilongjiang's winter; the coconut forest in Hainan island's summer; the grapes in Turpan, Xinjiang's autumn; the fishermen of Hezhe Nationality by Ussuri River. I wanted to go to northernmost, southernmost, westernmost, and easternmost villages and see the villagers' lifestyle. I wanted the audiences to see the differences in the people from vicarious places.

 

Chinese Arctic Village at northernmost China was the first place I wanted to go, but due to COVID-19, that place was still in lockdown. In March, spring had already arrived, I was anxious every day, afraid that the snow would melt, and hoped the infection could be contained, and Mohe would lift the lockdown.

 

We could not do anything, so my coworker and I started to photograph farmers around Hangzhou in Zhejiang. Within a few days, we took pictures of girls picking Longjing tea leaves in the West Lake; captains who wore felt black hat in Shaoxing, where is the home town of Lu Xun; businessmen in Wuzhen; girls in the hometown of Xi Shi; countrywomen in the hometown of poet Ai Qing; a cousin of composer Shi Guangnan; villagers wore She nationality's clothes in Lushui. Even though we were photographing in the south, we still cared about when would Chinese Arctic Village let visitors enter.

 

On March 31st, 2020, we took a plane to the north.

 

April 1st, we finally arrived at Mohe Train Station, and after a long time of registration and inquiries, we finally entered the Chinese Arctic Village with the help of a friend. According to the locals, we were the first group of people who arrived after the lockdown was lifted, and we were lucky; if we were one day earlier, we needed to be quarantined for fourteen days before we could start working. In the Chinese Arctic Village, we took photos of snows like the mountain and frozen Songhua River. Our efforts paid off.

 

After we left the Chinese Arctic Village, we took photos non stop and could not delay half a day. But the Goddess of Luck smiled on us; we missed Jilin, Dalian, and Beijing's recurrence of COVID-19 and the flood in southern provinces by leaving early and enter later.

 

Now we had been to 20 provinces, 2 autonomous regions, 3 municipalities directly under the central government( only 6 out of 31 must-go places had left).



 






We had been to the northernmost, easternmost, and southernmost (only arrived at Sanya) villages. We had taken pictures of over 700 farmers, 23 nationalities. We travel 50,000 kilometers and used nearly 2,000 rolls of 120 films.

 

This project's definition is that it is fieldwork that traverses nine million square kilometers and a document of modern farmers' actual living status.

 

We are on a plane to Lhasa, Tibet, from Lijiang, Yunan, right now.

 

Our journey continues, so is photographing. We will keep working hard.

 

Pang Xiaowei

11:55 a.m. August 24th, 2020




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