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A view from inside the other new China
This project re-examines China’s shifting cultural norms, economic transitions, and socio-political changes from within the context of its marginalized interior regions. Moving beyond the urban-centric/scenic/iconic structures, which dominate the current visual record of China, it considers the cultural dynamism of smaller provincial cities and rural prefectures far removed from China’s coastal metropole. These peripheral spaces, borderlands of China’s rural-to-urban transformation, are a crossroads for individuals finding their own place within a fluctuating and subjective cultural (and indeed physical) landscape. If economic growth has opened new avenues for expression in China so too have resultant ideological deviations affected the way people see themselves and their place in the world. This project looks to provide visual evidence of that reality by focusing on the differentiated actualities of life in an environment of sustained cultural flux.
In China’s interior provinces, where the full benefits of economic growth have yet to be realized, negotiating modernity requires hustling for a place within fresh modes of individualized experience and personal redefinition. This project traces its narrative across the diverse geographies of these liminal regions to witness how divergent notions of sex, desire, image, and identity coalesce to help shape a cultural reality not found in dominant media representations of China. Its images form a visual diary chronicling the interpersonal relationships of people living on the fringes of China’s social sphere and the vulnerability I see reflected in a generation of young people coming of age in a society set on fast-forward.
Rian Dundon (Portland, 1980) is an independent documentary photographer and writer from Monterey, California. His words and images have appeared in The Irish Times Magazine, New America Media, Time, Stern, Out, and Newsweek. Since 2005 Rian has produced several works of photography addressing social issues in China including urbanization, drug addiction, celebrity culture, homosexuality, migrant labor, and HIV/AIDS proliferation. His work has been exhibited at the Angkor Photo Festival, the FotoGrafia Festival, Caochangdi Photo Spring, The Camera Club of New York, and the New York Photo Festival. Rian is currently working on a series of photographs analyzing the impact of incarceration on prisoners in California. He speaks Mandarin Chinese and is a masters candidate in Social Documentation at University of California, Santa Cruz.