Late night paranoia at an after-hours eatery and drinking establishment in Jishou City, China 2008.
[ EPF 2011 HONORABLE MENTION ]
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.
A businessman and his karaoke girl in their private room at a karaoke club in Jishou City, China 2006.
Abandoned construction site in Huizhou, China 2010.
Girl from Shandong, Beijing 2009.
Eager fans crowd a jewelry store hoping to catch a glimpse or snap a photo of a popular television actress as she shops at a mall in Guangzhou, China 2009.
Young men smoke inside a cement tube at a construction site in Changsha, China 2008.
University freshmen participate in compulsory military training at Hunan University in Changsha, China 2006. All incoming university students in China must complete a month of basic training exercises before they begin their studies.
Fallen youth at Workers Plaza in Changsha, China 2007.
Residential housing blocks and courtyard in South Changsha, China 2008.
Zhi Ge and his young son at their new apartment in suburban Changsha, China 2010. A Changsha native, Zhi’s experience and understanding of growing up in the city’s center will differ drastically from that of his son’s generation. Changsha, Hunan’s provincial capital, is rapidly expanding into ever-widening circles of suburban development facilitated by improved transportation and steady population growth.
Sister Hong at a dance club in Changsha, China 2010. Changsha is famous for its nightlife and its bars and clubs attract tourists from across China looking to party hard on the cheap.
Two couples double-date at a karaoke club in Jishou City, China 2006.
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.
Firefighters shovel snow at a shopping mall in Changsha, China 2008. During the crippling winter storms of 2008 public resources were heavily allocated towards symbolic gestures of civic aid with little practical effect.
College students sneak through a gate on the tightly secured campus of Jishou University after large anti-corruption street protests turned violent in Jishou City, China 2008.
Dancers perform onstage at the now defunct Night Cat gay bar and cabaret in Changsha, China 2006.
Headmaster Ding: education entrepreneur, karaoke champion, and pool hustler at home in Jishou City, China 2010.
Skateboarders congregate in a drainage ditch along the Xiang River in Changsha, China 2007.
Bored teenagers play a game of “choke-out” in which one person cuts off another’s circulation until they are momentarily rendered unconscious in Changsha, China 2007.
Lovers from Tianjin, Beijing 2007.
Yang Ling the karaoke girl waits for customers in Jishou City, China 2007. Yang Ling left her parents farmstead at age 20 in search of work in nearby Jishou City. After a stint in retail, she found a job at the small karaoke bar where she now works as a hostess. Ling says, “You see, in the countryside a family will always choose to send their sons to school first. With two brothers in my family, education was never even a possibility for me.”
Boat rides sit idle during winter months in Jishou City, China 2006.
Father and daughter watch a migrant stage troupe’s outdoor performance of traditional Peking Opera in Zhangjiajie, China 2005.
Openly gay teenagers embrace at an afternoon picnic in Xiangxi, China 2006.
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.