The Land of Smiles
It was a very special trip and, for me, a unique experience where I had the opportunity to express in images what I felt when visiting an uncontaminated place from the frenzies of the free Western market.
This people fascinated me a lot, who, after years of turbolent and dense events had kept their pride and human dignity. A people who showed his face without false modesty, but kind, dignified (I have never seen begging) and that showed a certain curiosity towards Westerners.
It seems incredible, but wandering through the alleys of Beijing and Shanghai even in the poorest and most miserable areas, I never felt threatened or in danger.
The only handicap was that a Westerner was immediately recognized and so I was regularly invited by the police to leave that alley or that particular street. Most likely they had been ordered to control the western “tourists” who are a bit too curious.
Incredible was also the way of dressing, many still wore the classic “estate mao”, trousers and wide military-style jacket in green or blue, with the classic hat with the red star. Women, men and children were all the same. Bicycles invaded the space: the only “private” vehicle in circulation, by the thousands, seemed to be immersed in “Bicycle Thieves”.
The journey wound through the Chinese Wall to Hong Kong touching Shijazhuang, Jinan, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Shanghai, Fuzhou, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, a journey that lasted almost two months on crumbling buses and trains, through incredible landscapes of rice fields and plantations some tea.
The images taken and collected by me do not want to be a documentary or a report, but a story of emotions experienced in observing this fascinating land and its always smiling people.
Technical note: I chose black and white because it is unique in enhancing and strengthening emotions, observing this unknown world, through the viewfinder of a Nikon f2a.
I have used Ilford Hp 5 films of 400 asa carried at 200 asa and developed in D76 in 7 minutes ½, in this way we obtain an optimal and particular yield in the gray scale and a particular “grain” in its conformation. Favorite lens: the 55mm macro and the 105, particular in the “crushing” on the characters taken.
Many have asked me if I have returned to the places I have visited.
I’ve never been back and I would not go back again.
I know that everything has changed: Beijing and Shanghai have their skyscrapers, the traffic, the smog and the people have changed, westernized, they wear jackets and ties and we lock ourselves up in offices. Of course progress must have its own part and it is right that the people also have their share of “well-being” and “comfort”.
Although much of the Chinese culture has remained unchanged, the fascination of a humble world but precisely for this incredibly true and alive, even in suffering, has been lost.
In these images the memory of a people and their experience is forever fixed in my heart, along with the exciting emotions and carefree moments of a journey lived with my father.
I am sure that the Chinese themselves, if not in the memory of the elders, have never seen a China like the one represented in these images.
Dedicated to all those who have had the strength and the will to redeem themselves, to emerge, to rebel and demand individual freedom, the possibility of building a future in respect of humanity, and of life itself.