What do we know about China?
Not much, except for what China wants us to know. We owe this small portion of knowledge to strong personalities who work to bring down the veil of censorship. Photographer Samuel Bollendorff is one of them.
Fascinated by its history, its size and its power, China intrigues. It also worries. Visit on the wings of the Chinese miracle.
A member of the collective The Public Eye, Photographer Samuel Bollendorff is a photographer of commitment. Known for his works on hospitals, AIDS, prisons, he does not stop putting an image to what is kept silent. His last works concern China and are being exposed at La Maison des Métallos in Paris until June 21st.
Divided into four themes, his exhibition "A Forced March" (RAPID) presents the Chinese miracle from behind the scenes. Opening on an acerbic criticism of the manipulation of local and foreign media, it plunges us into a universe of control and hypocrisy that the photographer shows to be rather ironic. The exhibition continues by various facets of this sordid and frightening reality of which China does not boast. Samuel Bollendorff tells the story of Mingongs, farmers driven by poverty to join the slums and leave their lands. Following this, he went in the heart of what constitutes for them a future kicker: coalmines and toy factories.
Officially, with twenty deaths a day, the Chinese mines are the most murderous in the world. These farmers, at the risk of their lives, became miners of the coal which fuels the Chinese miracle.
Photographer Samuel Bollendorff then takes us to visit the sad factories of Father Christmas. Making the toys of major world brands, the workers that the photographer met work twelve hours a day all week long to earn only two euros per day. Coupled with their painful condition is the fact that they are forced to sleep inside the factory in unhealthy dormitories.
The exhibition continues with the expropriations caused by the construction of dams and the challenges against the construction that result. Severely repressed, these disputes often end in death sentences or forced labor. The origin of this speech is mostly the complaint of compensations related to their dispossession.
The last part of the exhibition is devoted to a small village located only 15km from the fields that will welcome, this summer, the matches of the Olympic Games. With 180 chemical factories (pesticides, paints), this village can boast to have polluted the ground waters up to 400 metres deep. The inhabitants die one after the other from cancer, while children are affected from birth. Maintained with an iron fist, the word of these farmers would never break the silence. Vincent Bollendorff wanted it to be heard. Every photograph of the exhibition is accompanied with rich legends telling the context and the testimonies of these poignant images.
Around the exhibition, taking place on Saturday, June 7th, a forum organized by Amnesty International will be held around the question of Chinese migrant workers, the evolution of the politics led by the authorities of the country and the cooperations led with them.