‘IT’S A HEART­BREAK­ING, SAD PLACE’

THE STORY BE­HIND THE PIC­TURES

The World of Chinese - - COVER STORY -

“It was hard to shoot be­cause my sub­jects were guarded, even hos­tile, ev­ery time I raised my cam­era. It’s not hard to un­der­stand. If it were you wear­ing a cheap night­shirt and a pair of plas­tic slip­pers, tak­ing out a cham­ber pot in the morn­ing, would you want your pho­to­graph taken? Even those on the very edge of so­ci­ety have their dig­nity. I am not the most sharply dressed per­son, but once I en­tered the area, ev­ery­one was star­ing at me and my cam­era, know­ing I wasn’t from the place, and prob­a­bly some­one on a nov­elty-seek­ing trip, who wants a peek into their lives.

“This ur­ban vil­lage is be­yond dirty and chaotic. It’s not even the kind of place a de­liv­ery­man or a low-level real es­tate agent would stay. The ten­ants are mi­grant work­ers drift­ing in the me­trop­o­lis, tak­ing on scat­tered small jobs, sell­ing fake drugs, and run­ning ‘black’ eater­ies on sewage­in­fested streets. You wouldn’t want to eat the stuffed pies and fried rice at these places. I was about to shoot a photo of the dishes, but the boss thought I was a jour­nal­ist try­ing to ex­pose them, and gath­ered peo­ple to watch my ev­ery move. I didn’t dare dwell for long.

“It’s a heart­break­ing, sad place. I saw a mi­grant worker, af­ter a day’s work, en­ter a dark work­shop with 2 yuan in hand. He bought a big pan­cake so greasy it looked like it was pulled out of slop. He threw me a look that de­feated all my courage. I couldn’t bring my­self to press the shut­ter.” - YU BIRUI (俞必睿)

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