Jul 19, 2012|
This photograph hangs in the bathroom in my courtyard house in Beijing. It’s very interesting because lots of people don’t get the idea behind it. Lots of Chinese officials came to my house, went to the loo, came out, and had this smile on their face. Because, politically, here is the emperor [Deng Xiaoping], and Zhou Ziyang and Hu Yaobang were both his loyal successors, but he purged them both [dismissed them from their high ranking posts] in 1989.
Photographs like this, today, when the Chinese look at them, they really crack up. The Chinese love like this in the park because they don’t have private space. Literally, in one room, there are four or five family members. And sometimes in the park there are queues of people waiting, hoping [the other] couples will finish their conversation and move on. [When I took this picture,] I was actually with Peter Scott—he’s the chairman of the World Wildlife Fund. They were all discussing this adorable baby panda, and I said, “I’ve had enough of this panda,” and I looked back into the woods and saw them [the couple].
Wang Fuchun came to see me. He belonged to the railway ministry and took a lot of photographs of people on the train. I looked through his file for him. I looked at his stuff and asked, “where’s your other stuff?” Back home in Harbin. I said, “OK, I’ll go with you to Harbin.” After that, I edited all his stuff—about a hundred images—and I placed one with Time magazine in 1996. It was a cover story, because ’66 was the start of the Cultural Revolution, and 1996 was the 30th anniversary.
This is a work by young fashion photographer Chen Man. She was doing a lot of studio work and a lot of Photoshop. I said, “Chen Man, for my book, I don’t want any of those pictures. I want you to go out to the streets.” The result was that she shot this. It is fashion, but it’s got that feel that’s not studio—no Photoshop or beautiful lighting.
I wanted to make sure the book came out before the [2008 Olympics] grand ceremony. They had this torch relay—they went up to Mt. Everest and Nokia made a special phone for them to be able to take pictures. They took pictures and sent them back to me. I had already started the printing process, but as soon as I got the pictures, I said, “hold it! Hold the printing.” And I added the photo in.