‘IT’S A HEARTBREAKING, SAD PLACE’
THE STORY BEHIND THE PICTURES
“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)