My old China – Profile of village photographer

Jonathan Watts profiles 76-year-old village photographer Li Tianbing, who got his first camera when he was 12 by selling his mother’s cow in their isolated, mountainous village. “Ever since, Li has been making a unique record of peasant life in one of the poorest parts of the world. Li estimates he has carried his Thorton-Packard 220,000km on his wanderings around 400 villages, some of which take more than a week to reach on foot. Simply going to the nearest town to buy film and processing materials meant a four-day, 200km walk along mountain paths. And walking alone through this still wild part of China can be risky. Li’s close escapes from wolves, snakes and tigers have become the stuff of family legend. But political persecution caused the greatest suffering. ” The full profile is here.

Li’s photos are part of the Shanghai Biennale, after he was “discovered” through the Long March project, which aims to bring contemporary art into China’s countryside. Li is in the Guinness Book of World Records as “the photographer who has worked the greatest number of hours with only natural light.” Li’s photos, and photos of him at work, are here.

October 13, 2004, 2:22 PM
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