Photographer Huang Qingjun has spent the past ten years travelling to remote parts of China persuading people to have their photographs taken along with all their household possession. The result offer glimpses into the utilitarian lives of millions of ordinary Chinese that appear not to have been swept up by the same modernisation that has seen hundreds of millions of others leave for the cities.
“I wanted to shoot the families outside of their homes with the items they lived with, so people could see the fast development and changing lifestyles Chinese families were experiencing both inside and outside of their homes”, says Mr. Huang, a tall 40-year-old from Heilongjiang Province on the border with Russia.
Mr Huang’s ongoing project entitled Jiadang (Belongings) has taken him to 14 of China’s 33 provinces, giving him an unusually broad perspective of how the country is changing. He is optimistic about the process, and where it will lead.
Speaking to the BBC, Mr Huang said: “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.”
Some of the projects took a couple of days, others several months as he waited for one couple to move house. One family in Beijing had their home slated for demolition to make way for tower blocks or offices. It took between 3 and 4 months to arrange this shot. In contrast, one Mongolian family portrait took only 2 hours to prepare.
Next year will mark the 10th anniversary of the project, and Huang plans to return to the areas and families that he had photographed to see what had changed.