Ghosts of China past emerge in anniversary snaps

Wed Sep 30, 2009 4:26am EDT
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By Emma Graham-Harrison

BEIJING (Reuters) - In a black-and-white photo from Tiananmen Square in 1970, the four young faces are serious, the clothes drab and nearly identical, and a copy of chairman Mao Zedong's little red book is clutched in every hand.

Four decades later the same line of women, now in late middle age and clasping new status and identity symbols -- bank books, health insurance documents, a retirement card -- grin out of an image that is a riot of color, only the backdrop unchanged.

The contrast is simple but arresting, part of a celebration and commemoration of 60 years of change in Communist China, by photographer Hei Ming, called "See you again, Tiananmen."

"I wanted to show 60 years of change through the lives of the people, because progress is not about whether a Chinese company can buy a car factory in Britain, it is about ordinary citizens," the award-winning artist told Reuters.

Hei created his tribute to the people of China by painstakingly recreating their snapshots at their country's spiritual heart, decades after the originals were taken.

The subjects posed in the same place, at the same time of day, and same position -- when they could -- as years earlier.

Behind them all looms the former entrance to the Forbidden City, the Gate of Heavenly Peace, identical in all pictures, underlining the differences in dress and traffic that sum up the vast changes and convulsions the country has lived since 1949.

Toddlers from decades earlier now stand beside their stooped mothers. Beaming young friends are suddenly crumpled with age.   Continued...

<p>This combination photo shows four schoolmates posing on Tiananmen Square in Beijing in 1970 (L), and them posing for the photo at the same location in 2009. REUTERS/Handout</p>