Lund, Sweden – January 26, 2020
Happy new year, long time no hear.
But I only write to you when I have something to tell. And today I am very proud to tell you that my portfolio from China 1983 has finally been published.
You’ll find many photos in the portfolio and a lot of background. It offers a unique peep into a China that no longer exists.
Today’s China has done what nobody else has, namely lifted 600 million people out of poverty in about 30 years and become a unique, well-functioning welfare state where, in 2-3 years, there will simply be no more poor people.
Technically, a lot of work has gone into these works because, back then, they were shot with a simple DSLR camera and Kodachrome slide film; slides were what you used to be able to share. And Kodachrome is about the most difficult of all to convert to today’s digital format.
I have made no attempt to make them look like today’s photography. Thus, the special colour tone and scratches. To me, technical perfection is uninteresting compared with the story, the sentiments, the people and what they tell about China in those days.
I dedicate this portfolio to my dear friend and mentor, Viggo Rivad (1922-2016).
A selection of these works can be found in Oberg PhotoGraphics’ shop. It’s easy and safe to order online.
You should contact me if you are interested in an image in the portfolio that you do not find in the shop: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone me at +46 (0)738 525200 – and we shall find a solution.
A few of these new “old” works also sit in the SPAR – Silk Peace Art Road – Installation that was shown last year at the Venice Biennale and will travel, be shown and used as a backdrop for inter-cultural dialogues along the new Silk Roads – the Belt And Road Initiative countries which is the world’s largest co-operative project involving 80+ countries – in years to come.
Gunnar Westberg, MD, Gothenburg in Sweden, wrote:
“It was a nostalgic experience for me to see these photos, of great documentary and, in many cases, artistic value.
You have, again, done a great job, Jan!
Nostalgic, as the images brought back so many memories.
My first visit to China was in 1966, by train both ways, to Beijing, Shanghai, Wuhan, Nanking, Hangchow, Kanton. I have a couple of hundred slides and a hundred of B/W pictures somewhere in a box in the cellar. People say many in China want to see these pictures, the younger people have no idea.
And 1966 was just when the Cultural Revolution started. It was in the air, an anxiety. I have a diary, some pictures could probably be given time and place.
I left Beijing crying: This wonderful city is likely to be destroyed by nuclear weapons.
Now we know that the risk was indeed great, especially in the eighties.
My next two visits, short, around 2005, to Beijing only, showed that Beijing had indeed almost disappeared, but not because of war, but peaceful development.
My fourth trip was in 2016, again ty train, both ways. (Siberian countryside had changed very little). Beijing, several other cities, and Tibet. Train to Lhasa! I took no pictures. Others in the party did.
How can a country change so much, so deeply, in such a short time?
Yes, China has made progress without comparison. The price has been high in some areas, especially the One Child Policy.
So many people are today afraid of the increasing influence of China. And what China does in e.g. Africa brings injustice and environmental destruction. But compared to the old colonial powers…
For the world, what China does to stop climate change, or to increase it, is of enormous importance. That’s where my fear is.
Well, maybe I should be happy that I will not live to see this. A recent study discusses the likely conflicts over water from the Himalayan glaciers, conflicts involving farming from Pakistan to Vietnam. Dams will be built. Water will be denied farmers downstream.
And there are nuclear weapons.
How did Lao Tze end his letters?
Salaam, Shalom, Mir, Peace!
And to all men a good will.”