Let me Take a Photo of Everything You Own
September 24, 2012 6:21 AM   Subscribe

Photographer Travels China, Taking Pictures of Families and All Their Possessions Huang Qingjun has spent nearly a decade travelling to remote parts of China to persuade people who have sometimes never been photographed to carry outside all their household possessions and pose for him. The results offer glimpses of the utilitarian lives of millions of ordinary Chinese who, at first glance, appear not to have been swept up by the same modernisation that has seen hundreds of millions of others leave for the cities.

Next year marks the 10th anniversary of the first photograph, and Huang plans to mark it by returning to the places he visited - or those that are still recognisable - to see what has changed.
posted by modernnomad (16 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
This reminds me a lot of the work of Peter Menzel and his collaborators. They did What the World Eats (same idea as this photog, but just food) as well as Material World: a global family portrait (which as far as I can tell, is the same idea as Huang but done around the world in the 90s).

These kind of grand photo projects are a great way of illustrating what people value and, through contrast, what it really means to be middle class (of whatever culture).
posted by librarylis at 6:53 AM on September 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

It's an awesome idea but, having just moved myself, I can't help but cringe and think "good lord what a pain in the ass that must have been."
posted by Mooseli at 6:53 AM on September 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

Here's a site featuring his work not displayed with the BBC article.
posted by tilde at 6:56 AM on September 24, 2012

I really like the concept behind this project (and sure hope the journalist helped those families move all their stuff!).

It's really weird to notice that almost every photo could be summarized as "Old stuff and a TV"

Also, was that first photo taken on Tattooine?
posted by schmod at 7:12 AM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

I LOVE Material World and its ilk. It's the perfect coffee table book -- interesting for any visitor of any age, at any time, and actually worth paging through bit by bit.
posted by Madamina at 7:21 AM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, was that first photo taken on Tattooine?

I think that might be Inner Mongolia.
posted by astapasta24 at 7:22 AM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

He's really an insurance salesman, isn't he?
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 7:43 AM on September 24, 2012

Man, I'm slipping. I was thinking, "'Travels China' has got to be a fake name."
posted by cmoj at 7:53 AM on September 24, 2012

Four Big Things:
Phrase dating from 1950s for most sought-after goods for newly married couples: sewing machine, bicycle, watch, radio

Japan had a similar concept in the 1950s, but the phrase used was 三種の神器 (very loosely translated, the "three ethereal appliances"), and the products were a black and white TV set, a refrigerator, and a washing machine.

Same idea, totally different consumerist culture in terms of basic necessities.
posted by Gordion Knott at 8:53 AM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wow, everyone has a TV.
posted by lkc at 9:46 AM on September 24, 2012

Wow, everyone has a TV.

I don't even have a TV. I feel very poor right now.

(Love these kinds of projects. I probably wouldn't have noticed the lack of books had it not been pointed out in a caption.)
posted by peacrow at 10:29 AM on September 24, 2012

Reminds me of that Pink Floyd album cover where they unpack all the band's gear onto the street.

The Floyd didn't have any books either.
posted by colie at 10:51 AM on September 24, 2012

I've seen nomadic families in the middle of Mongolia with solar panels hooked up to car batteries to power their Tvs.
posted by Bunglegirl at 11:46 AM on September 24, 2012

I believe this is an incredible eye-opening work that will be of immense historical significance. It certainly illustrates the extreme change that's been going on over one generation--two at most. I've known older folks that lived with outdoor plumbing, oil lamps, and traveling by horseback. Over their lifespan, they went from that to indoor plumbing, hot water on demand, electricity, automobiles, planes, vaccines, penicillin, telephones, TV, computers, nuclear warfare. Human beings are so incredibly adaptable. Still, I can't conceive of what it must be like to live in a yurt with no indoor plumbing yet to have a television.
posted by BlueHorse at 1:39 PM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would think the familes might come to resent him for taking all their posessions.
posted by mwhybark at 5:21 PM on September 24, 2012

We took a trip to Mongolia, in the middle of nowhere. We stayed in yurts at a campsite owned by a Mongolian family, who lived a little ways from the camp. One day, the door to one of their yurts was open and we decided to walk by to see what the inside of a real Mongolian home looked like. Inside were two kids playing Wii.
posted by hawkeye at 7:36 PM on September 24, 2012

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