Marina Svensson is the Director of the Centre for East and South-East Asian Studies, Lund University. Her research focuses on a range of different topics related to contemporary Chinese society, including Chinese law, investigative journalism, and China’s digital society.
From late October to early December 2018 the Third Ningbo International Photography Week was held at Dongqian Lake in Zhejiang Province. Under the theme Village Images, the exhibition documented rural transformations and processes of urbanisation from a variety of perspectives.
Photography has always been a powerful tool to depict the lives of workers in China. Whereas during the Mao period political control over image production in China created a visual hegemony that glorified socialism and class struggle, more recent digital developments have enabled ordinary Chinese citizens and workers to document their lives and circulate these images online.
Unlike previous disasters in China, the Sichuan earthquake was extensively documented in images and film, leaving behind an archive of national trauma unparalleled in Chinese contemporary history. This essay examines 16 documentary films produced by 10 filmmakers in the wake of the disaster. These visual testimonies help preserve individual memories of a traumatic event that to a large extent is unaccounted for in the official media and cultural productions.
Parents and bystanders were among the first to provide footage of the Sichuan earthquake, shakily recorded on their mobile phones and camcorders. In contrast to earlier natural disasters, such as the Tangshan earthquake in 1976, the Sichuan earthquake has been extensively documented in images and on film. To date, at least 10 filmmakers have produced 16 independent documentary films on the earthquake and its aftermath. Many filmmakers ended up tracing the ways in which people coped with their experiences during months and even years following the disaster.
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