There is a saying that being a photographer is an occupation that captures an era with a camera. As a photojournalist, Li Ge has witnessed and recorded countless significant changes in China since the 1990’s. In this exclusive interview, Li will share his experience as a photographer and his perspective on the reform and opening-up and the people in this policy.
Born and raised in Beijing, Li was a young boy when he first noticed the subtle changes brought about by the reform and opening-up policy, that some people with different accents started small businesses in the hutong Li lived in and in that era. “Doing business” was a phrase people avoided talking about since it was considered shameful or even a crime.
Now bearing the titles of director of the photography department of People’s Daily and chairman of the China Photographers Association, Li started his career at People’s Daily after he graduated in 1991. He was thrilled to be given a camera which was quite precious at that time. He calls himself “young and immature” that he would feel very proud when he took a bus with the camera on him. But in recent years, Li felt a sense of crisis that he no longer had a lot of advantages being a professional journalist in the era of citizen journalism.
The development of science and technology, the progress of society and the soaring economy has improved people’s lives, Li says. Some senior photographers once took a set of photos of China called “The Kingdom of Bicycles”. But now, high-speed trains have become one of China’s new symbols.
With decades of experience, Li calls photography a type of mental exercise that carries a certain weight. The “breathing” interpersonal communication that “comes with temperature” is what Li desires. He is still very moved when reminiscing about the old days when strangers would talk countless hours on a slow-moving train.
In reviewing the last 40 years of reform and opening-up, Li noted that many Chinese people reflect on the changes in their lives and how to live a more diverse life and a life with depth.
(Produced by Liang Peiyu, Tian Kai and Qiao Wai)