LITTLE NORTH ROAD | CHINA | 2009-2014
Little North Road explores the people and activities found on a pedestrian bridge in an ethnically diverse quarter of Guangzhou, China. This bridge functions as a symbolic gateway for populations entering into China from the Global South, including numerous numbers of people from various corners of the African continent who have come to Guangzhou in search of opportunity and to trade in the goods produced in the Pearl River Delta. On this pedestrian bridge, I encountered two Chinese itinerant portrait photographers–Wu Yong Fu and Zeng Xian Fang–who were making a living offering their services to passersby, primarily Africans, who wanted a souvenir of their time in Guangzhou. Without intending to, the two photographers were creating a record of the various groups entering into Guangzhou during this unique period. In collaboration with Wu and Zeng, an archive of some 25,000 images has been created. The project as a whole includes these collected portraits as well as my own photographs and video which provides context for the work of Wu and Zeng and explores the broader social dynamics of the bridge and surrounding area.
It had been my assumption that this flow of people was an inevitable part of China’s future, a reverse current of China’s recent engagement abroad. This, however, no longer seems certain. Due to various political and economic shifts, the number of foreigners, particularly those from Africa, has decreased substantially, and due to police presence, entrepreneurial activity on the bridge has diminished. In certain respects, the life on the bridge, can be seen as an index, reflecting not only China’s changes but also Beijing’s shifting attitude towards these migrant populations and the communities and economies that they engender. The thousands of images made by these two photographers are among what may come to represent the remaining documents of a moment that has already passed.
Little North Road website: LITTLENORTHROAD.ORG