Don't Follow Me, I'm Lost
‘Wandering in Chinese cities nowadays is magical. The accelerated metabolic rate of urban development has collaged the Chinese cities with fragments across decades. To me, as a photographer, it has become impossible to take a shot of today’s China without capturing contrast. But what does it really mean?
The apparent contrast in the photograph with a lone house in the midst of rubbles and shadows of skyscraper failed to tell the story that the building owner had collected multimillion dollars as compensation for the demolition and moved to Hong Kong. The ones who became homeless were the migrant workers who could only afford a room in such a building. The running-away crowd was chased by the policemen as they were selling black market train tickets for higher profit. But no one knows that most of them were migrant workers who just lost their jobs in the nearby factories. The shabby room with a bunk bed appeared almost uninhabitable, but in fact it was the last refuge for the migrant worker’s children. A month after the picture was taken, the five-member family moved into a twenty square-meters room that could only fit one bunk bed that was shared by them all.
Facing the complexity of today’s stories, the photography appears inadequate. Can I grasp the sense of today’s “Chinese-ness” through a composite portraiture of my own society? Maybe beyond documentary or visual evidence, photography should not give answers but raise more questions. Perhaps this is an impossible ambition. Looking at the pictures I have taken so far, I hate to realize that I am still dealing with illusions and fantasies. Therefore I have to and must pursue my journey, and go deeper and further until I am totally lost. The lonesome security guard who sat under a dilapidated wall and turned away from my lens appeared as vulnerable as a kid; the running kid who looked toughly right into my eyes. Who is more fragile? Why did the splendid urbanscapes from the five-star hotel room made me feel no less poignant than the lonely building in the rubbles?
The mass praying in the morning of Chinese New Year at the Buddhist monastery is probably the only allowed spontaneous social mass gathering in China. In the context of increasing consumerism, have we become more spiritual or are we too frightened by the unpredictable future?
In a hot summer afternoon, I walked into a luxury house. A stunningly beautiful girl was standing in front of a window facing the ocean. She turned her head and stared at me. It was a complete silence. But I heard her clearly: Don’t Follow Me, I’m Lost. In her eyes I saw the exact same staring that I have encountered countless times in my four years of wandering.’
« Unintended Homecoming shares some parallel paths of Don’t Follow Me, I’m Lost, yet has continued my wandering across China.
It is an experiment and an open journey to gasp the life experience of others’ and of myself before they are diluted in my memory. Rather than a journey of discovery, it uncovers layers of a society, which makes me feel both familiar and alien. I am hoping one day the images could turn the camera back on me, facing myself inward.
I would see myself in these situations and be able to reconstruct my own identity as a Chinese and to understand the country in which I am rooted. »