Great Changes Through the Lens

February 18, 2019
By Pan Yiqiao, Sun XiaoyuEditor: Ye Shan, Lei Yang

During the 1980s, two overseas photographers traveled to China. They have visited many regions of China during the past 40 years. They have used their cameras to record Chinese lives and development, in all segments of society. At the same time, they have witnessed the great changes that have occurred in China since implementation of the reform and opening-up policy.

Barbara Crane: Impressed by 'Lovely People'


Great Changes Through the Lens
Great Changes Through the Lens
Great Changes Through the Lens


Crane was born in Chicago, the United States, in 1928. She is an outstanding photographer, and she is an honorary professor with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

"My first trip to China was to attend a big photography show in Shanghai in 1985. My first impression of China was the lovely people," Crane recalled. She has been to many places, both urban and rural areas, in China. Back in the 1980s, Crane used her camera to record Chinese, from all segments of society.

After China implemented its policy of reform and opening to the world in 1978, a group of overseas photographers visited China, and they recorded classic social images. "People were so generous. In return, I gave them photos taken by my Polaroid SX 70 camera. In the 1970s, pictures were rarely seen in China," Crane said. "I believe in peace. I learned so much during my trips to various places in China. I have shot a huge number of photographs." Crane says she hopes to have her photos published in albums to show the precious images of China.

Bruce Connolly: Evolution Is 'Amazing'


Great Changes Through the Lens
Great Changes Through the Lens
Great Changes Through the Lens


Connolly, a photographer from Scotland, the United Kingdom, has settled down in Beijing. Many people have asked him how many places he has visited in China. "Literally, let's say almost the whole of China, over the past 31 years. Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, Gansu, and way through Xinjiang, Tibet, Qinghai, and right there through Sichuan, Chongqing, Yunnan, Guangxi, Guizhou, Guangdong, Hainan … It goes on and on and on," Connolly said.

Connolly visited China for the first time in 1987. He said many foreigners visited China because the country still used steam engines, which were fabulous for photography. "But over the years, I have witnessed great changes (leading to) the evolution of the railway system in China. Today, we have the gaotie (high-speed train), like the Fuxing. When you walk into a modern railway station in Beijing, and when you compare it with the situation in old days, you will realize the old stations were crowded, and it was difficult to get tickets. But now, you get open an air-conditioned modern train and can arrive in Shanghai (from Beijing) within five hours. It's amazing!"

Connolly adds China can be very proud of its railway system. "Through improving the diesels, Chinese have removed all of the problems they had in the past to have one of the world's best railway systems," he says.

Back in 1987, Chinese were living a lifestyle very different from that of the West. "Things were not technological. Not many people had telephones or cars, and they did not go on holidays. But look at the changes we have today, like what I have witnessed. I am using smart technology. I travel and I can do everything here on my smart phone. I can book my hotels in Guizhou or Yunan. I can book my train tickets. I can check the weather in Guangzhou. I can contact people by using WeChat ... All the new technologies have really made life so easy." Connolly said it has been a great experience to have lived in China for 31 years, as it has allowed him to personally witness the changes that have happened in people's lives.

Nowadays, Connolly enjoys afternoon tea, or coffee, in the Bookworm Café (in Sanlitun, in eastern Beijing's Chaoyang District). He said it is possible, and convenient, to do almost anything in China if you have a mobile phone.

Connolly spends much of his spare time strolling around, and taking photos of the beautiful scenes along his way. Of course, he likes to share those photos on his WeChat Moments. "It's a joy of my life to do that," he said.

(Source: Women of China English Monthly December 2018 issue)

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